AdWords and your dealership

A couple weeks ago, I spoke with the Internet Director for a huge dealer group whose website/SEM provider had told him NOT TO BUY his dealership name on Google. I was stunned. I thought that everyone by now understands that dealers absolutely MUST be buying their dealership’s name (and any/all variants of their name). But because this prominent provider was horribly misinforming such a big, sophisticated customer, I felt compelled to lay out the data for everyone.

The typical argument for NOT buying your dealership name is: “You’ll get that traffic anyway, because your dealership is already first in the organic listings”. In fact, your dealership will almost certainly be first in organic listings for any search for your dealership’s name. However, the rest of the argument is flawed. Nearly all of the paid search traffic that your branded terms generate is INCREMENTAL traffic and does NOT cannibalize your organic traffic.

Let me provide a different criteria for figuring out whether or not you should be buying your dealer’s name on Google. You should be buying your dealer’s name IF it gives you a higher ROI than other ways you are spending your marketing budget — chances are, it is.

There are 3 main reasons that buying your own dealer’s name on Adwords gives you a strong ROI:

  1. Assuming the person or company managing your Adwords is competent, the clicks you will be buying for your ad are fairly cheap, because (A) you will have by far the best quality score of any landing page on the internet, which is why your site already shows up first in organic listings for that search, and (B) you will have the most targeted ad copy of anyone bidding on those terms (since Google’s terms of service prevent anyone else bidding on your brand name from using your name in their ad copy).
  2. The conversion rate for any traffic that is coming from your branded keyword ad will be much higher than any other keyword set you might buy, since the consumers searching for your dealership are trying to find YOUR specific dealership. This has a double benefit for your marketing ROI – the cost is low and the return is high.
  3. When your ad shows up for searches on your dealership’s name, it includes site links, call extensions, etc. It will not only get the top placement, but it will cover a lot of the area above the fold, AND it can provide multiple links/phone numbers for the consumer to reach you.

One last benefit (that isn’t part of your dealership’s ROI equation) is that buying your brand name pushes your competitors out of that spot and forces them to spend more money to get traffic from your brand (and may stop them from bidding on it at all).

The Analytics

Dealers buying their branded keywords on Google not only prevents their competitors from stealing their business, but they also get highly qualified and very inexpensive traffic. The only remaining question is, “Are these leads and traffic incremental, or simply leads they would have received anyway?”

This question was actually easier to answer in 2011, before Google began anonymizing organic search terms for most organic traffic. It was fairly simple to measure organic and paid search traffic from the same branded keyword set. Here were the results:

  • No more than 15% of the paid search traffic from branded terms was cannibalizing existing organic search traffic.
  • In some cases, branded organic search volumes didn’t decline at all during the trial periods.
  • Our dealers were getting 5-6 clicks (or more) from consumers who had NOT been clicking the organic listings when we weren’t buying the branded terms.
  • 85%+ of this traffic was incremental, as were the resulting leads for our dealers.

We conducted another study in 2015 to determine the average cost per lead of a branded key term campaign:

  • Average branded search term for our Adwords clients costs between $1.00 and $1.50.
  • These terms deliver a lead around 15% of the time, so even in the worst case scenario (spending $1.50 for a 15% conversion rate), dealers are spending $10 to generate a lead.
  • Dealers were spending at most 20% of their ad budget on “organic clicks” (traffic they would have generated for $0 via organic search).
  • SO—Dealers buying branded search terms are generating leads for roughly $10/lead and AT MOST 20% of this spend is on leads they would have gotten via Organic Traffic – yielding a fully burdened cost of $12/lead for Branded Keyword Adwords spend.

Considering the average cost per acquisition for a dealer is around $600, how many dealers are going to turn down that kind of ROI on ANY other form of marketing?


Buying your branded terms is important and it should be something in your arsenal of marketing tactics. In fact, if you do nothing else with Adwords, buying your own dealership name will deliver enormous value. If your SEM provider is still pushing back on that idea, ask them why? Delivering as many phone calls and leads for your budget is the goal, so make sure that they can provide you with Google Analytics reporting data to justify your spend. If you’d like to learn more about how DealerOn can help you get the most out of your SEM budget, please email and one of our experts can help you.

Post Script

Google themselves have done similar studies to the ones DealerOn has done for our clients. Their results were precisely in line with our findings – roughly 88% of the paid search clicks on branded search terms provided incremental traffic to the organic search traffic that businesses were receiving when they weren’t buying their branded terms.