Dealership PPC Campaigns

Almost every auto dealer that tries running a search engine marketing campaign (PPC) on their own ends up making a mistake or two.  Heck, even the PPC veterans make a mistake from time to time.  While occasionally trying something that ends up not being as effective as thought is understandable, some errors happen far too often.

Here is a list of common search engine marketing mistakes:

Sending your car dealer PPC traffic to Homepage:  People use search engines to find something specific; sending them to a generic homepage won’t help them find what they searched for.  Instead, use landing pages specific to keywords to solve this.  There are even car dealer websites that use dynamic landing pages as part of their PPC efforts so that the landing page is always contextually relevant to the users search intent.

Bidding on Only One Keyword: Not all searchers are going to use the same keyword to find your dealership.  Research to find the most common forms and words searched.  Your car dealership’s website analytics may help with this.

Using the Same Ad Copy for All Keywords: Just like sending all traffic to the same homepage, you don’t want everyone who searches to see the same ad text.  Fit the ad copy to the keyword it is tied to.  Even better than that, use dynamic keyword replacement to ensure that as many keywords as possible are bolded in your ad—this is a basic PPC tip that has proven to dramatically increase click-through rates.

Optimizing Page For Conversion: Landing pages are great for this since their only purpose is to provide relevant content and convert visitors into leads.  Make sure you have plenty of contact forms and calls to action.  Again, having a dynamic landing page solution ensures that your page is relevant to a visitor—this is necessary to maximize your conversion rates.

Bidding on the wrong Keywords:  Do some keyword research before you begin bidding on keywords.  There is no use spending money on keywords that don’t convert.  If you don’t have a list of keywords that convert well, take ample time in a very controlled and measurable process to determine which ones work and which don’t, so you don’t end up wasting lots of money.

It may be worthwhile for your car dealership to have your PPC ad campaign managed by a search engine marketing vendor.  They shouldn’t be committing any of the above mistakes, which will give your auto dealer website a better chance of having a PPC campaign with a high ROI.

Dealer Website Conversion Factors

The conversion rate of a dealership’s website is the most commonly used metric to measure the success of a website’s success at generating leads.  Conversion rates are usually expressed as the percentage of traffic that submits a lead to your website.  Obviously, the higher the conversion rate, the better it is for your auto dealership.

Most analytics tools calculate conversion rate information, but they don’t tell you how to work on increasing your conversion rate.  Here are a few things you should do to increase your conversion rates:

The Look:  This depends, mainly, on your website provider.  Sites that are too busy, too colorful, or just unappealing to viewer’s eyes will prompt a quick click off of the page.  Make sure that your website looks clean, nice, and un-offensive.

The Content: It’s important that your website contains valuable information.  For auto dealers, this typically means that your inventory descriptions are worthwhile and complete.  It could also mean that you have a blog that offers information that car buyers can actually use.  Don’t just stuff keywords into your dealership site; make sure the content is worth reading.

Ability to Navigate: This often goes hand in hand with website design.  If a visitor can’t easily determine how to find the information they are looking for, they’ll click to another dealer website.  Make sure your navigation bar is clear and that the most important sub-pages can be reached with just one click from your home page.

Technical Issues:  Your website should be built so that the majority of web users can view all components.  If someone has to download a program to view something, chances are they’ll click off.  The same goes for pages that don’t load quickly enough, or not at all.

Make sure that your dealership website has valuable content, looks appealing, loads properly and is easy to use.  Work with your auto dealer website provider to ensure that your site is properly set up to increase your conversion rates.

On Thursday, I’ll write about how to use your marketing efforts to increase your website conversion rate.

Google Local Search

Google has done a great job making their search results better and more effective for the car buyers that use their search engine, especially when it comes to local search.  As it stands now, those who search Google for a term like “Ford dealership” or “used Nissan dealer” will see local results for these terms, even if a city isn’t included in the actual search term.

While this greatly helps searchers, and even your dealership, it isn’t helpful if you are attempting to research your competing dealership websites.  For example, if you want to see what PPC ads are appearing when you search for your competitor’s dealership name or where your dealership website ranks for those who search in the next town over, you may not be able to see what someone in that neighboring city would see.

That’s why the website SearchMuffin is great.  This site allows you to choose the city you’d like to see Google search results for, allowing your dealership to see what local searchers see when they search in Google.  You can use this information to see how well your dealership ranks in neighboring cities, as well as which PPC ads appear for those same searches.

Your dealership can use this data to tweak your website search engine optimization (SEO) to help your dealer website to rank higher in the search results of neighboring cities.  Don’t let your competing dealerships rule the search engine results without your dealership knowing about it–this could mean a loss in potential car sales.

Dealership Banner Advertising

Marketing, both online and traditional, is only effective if the intended audience actually pays attention to your message.  It’s also important that your marketing be effective at persuading consumers to purchase from your dealership.  If your marketing efforts aren’t seen by consumers and have an effect on them, you might as well be throwing that money away.

Internet banner advertising is ignored by 46% of the participants in a Harris Interactive study.  This means that almost half of web users that see your dealership’s Internet banner ads are blocking them out and not paying attention to your message.  That’s a pretty terrible penetration rate.

In case that wasn’t enough of a blow, the same study reported that only 1% of participants believed Internet banner ads to be the most helpful when making buying decisions.  Barely anyone turns to (or trusts) banner ads when looking for information related to purchasing.

According to this study, Internet banner ads are largely ignored and not effective in persuading consumers to buy from your auto dealership.

Instead of throwing this part of your marketing budget away, it makes much mores sense to reallocate it to marketing techniques that actually earn your dealership sales.  Search engine optimization (SEO) and even pay-per-click (PPC) advertising will be found helpful by your target audience and are much less likely to be ignored than banner ads.  Take a deeper look at the effectiveness and ROI of all of your marketing campaigns, and only fund those that are earning your dealership real sales.

Generating Referrals and Effective Followup

Everyone wants referrals, but a lot of salespeople are reluctant to ask for them.  It can be off-putting to some customers, and there seems to be a sense that if a referral comes without having to ask for it, it is more “deserved.”  There is nothing wrong with asking for a referral from customers that are satisfied after doing business with your dealership.  Here are some creative ways to make asking for the business of your customer’s friends, family, and colleagues:

Expectation:  After the sale of a car, tell each customer that you expect they’ll be satisfied with the process, and will check back with them in 30, 60, or 90 days to ask them if they know of anyone else who needs a new vehicle with a hassle-free experience and superb follow-up.  Of course, fit this to your dealership, and make sure that you actually do follow through with this promise.

Giveaway:  A lot of dealerships already send coupons, promotions, or discounts to their existing customer base through email.  Add some text instructing those customers to feel free to forward the email newsletter (including the discount) to anyone that might need it.  Your customers will refer their loved ones to your dealership while looking like the good-guys by saving them money.

Refunds:  Although this is essentially buying referrals, doing it in a round-about way makes it a little more interesting.  Tell satisfied customers that you will offer a certain percentage off of their next bill (service, parts, purchase, etc) for each referral they send to the dealership.  This allows you to track who is sending the most new customers to your dealership (they’ll have to tell you who sent them in order for the referrer to receive the discount), and they’ll be more likely to get their vehicle serviced with your dealership, bringing in additional money.

Asking for referrals from satisfied customers doesn’t have to be painful.  Try asking in a different manner (link to older post), or put a creative spin on rewarding those who refer customers to your dealership.