Google Bid Simulator

Given the complexity involved with running a dealership’s pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign, Google is trying to make the self-management of PPC campaigns as easy as possible with the introduction of their bid simulator.

Existing Google AdWords users will be able to use the new bid simulator to see the potential difference in clicks compared to a higher or lower maximum cost-per-click (CPC).  To use it, click on the “Keywords” tab in your AdWords account, and then click on the bid simulator icon (it looks like a mini-graph) in the “Max. CPC” column.

The bid simulator uses data from the past seven days, and shows your auto dealership how many times your dealer ads could have been shown had the max CPC been higher and lower.  This will allow your car dealership to decide which keywords are worth spending a little more, and which you are spending too much money on.

Of course, Google is quick to point out that past data does not predict future results, so take all of this information with a grain of salt.

While this tool can help make optimizing your auto dealer pay-per-click campaign a little easier, it by no means makes it easy.  Successfully managing and running your car dealer PPC ad campaigns requires someone at your dealership to be extremely dedicated and knowledgeable.  Using an expert PPC management vendor will free your dealer staff to sell more cars, as well as give your auto dealership the results you need from your PPC campaign.

Dealer Incentives Program – Cash For Clunkers

The Cash for Clunkers program seems to be a success, despite the criticism that the program continues to get.  Some would-be buyers complain that their older cars don’t qualify as “clunkers” and environmentalists have said that the program isn’t really lowering the United States’ dependence on oil or pollution.  Yet this doesn’t seem to be slowing the success of the program.

There are dealerships that have all but run out of the most popular new vehicles, and by some accounts, tens of thousands of customers have made their way into auto dealer showrooms.  The Transportation Department reports that over 80,000 vouchers have been processed under the Cash for Clunkers program, 47% of which were for domestic auto purchases.

Even though some consumers, politicians, and program critics are unhappy with the Cash for Clunkers incentive program, auto dealers are still reaping the benefits of this giant influx of dealership traffic.  So why, despite all the negative reaction it has received, is it still so successful?

Incentives.  Consumers (more so now than ever) are looking for an extra reason to buy.  This could be a coupon, a discount, or an additional item thrown in for free.  The success of Cash for Clunkers shows that your auto dealership needs to be using incentives in order to help get website traffic into your showroom.

Use an incentive based lead generation tool on the home page of your dealer site.  Increase the incentive after they submit their contact information if they schedule a test drive.  Using incentives on your auto dealer website has continually been shown to increase leads, dealer showroom traffic, and car sales.  Make sure your dealership doesn’t get left behind when the Cash for Clunkers incentive program ends.

Increasing Dealer Website Conversion

On Tuesday, I wrote about how website design, content, navigation, and technical problems can affect your auto dealership website conversion rate.  Your online marketing efforts can also affect the rate at which traffic on your car dealer website converts into leads.  Here’s how:

Keyword Selection (SEO & PPC): People who use search engines expect to find websites that are related to the keywords they used.  If your car dealership websites show in the search engine results for un-related terms, this will almost always result in a lower conversion rate.  This is true for keywords in both search engine optimization and in your pay-per-click ad words.  Make sure your dealership is only bidding on keywords that are related to your industry and website to help lower your bounce rate.

The more frequently your site shows up for longer tail search terms (like “Richmond Nissan Altima 2009,” as opposed to “Richmond Nissan dealer”), the higher your conversion rate should be.  Having content that brings in more long tail search traffic can both raise your traffic volumes AND increase the rate at which it converts to a lead, since the incremental traffic will convert at a higher rate than your general website traffic.

Title Tags and Meta Descriptions:  Your auto dealer website provider should be able to help you set these two SEO-related items.  If the description of your website that shows in the search engine results doesn’t truly reflect your website, the people that click through will quickly click off.  Also, you may be losing valuable traffic that would click on your website if the description were accurate.

Ad Copy: If your dealership is using pay-per-click marketing (PPC), the content of your ads is very important.  When you partner with a car dealer PPC management vendor, your ad content should be optimized to maximize your conversion rate.  If not, make sure the copy is relevant to the keywords being bid on, your dealership, and the auto industry.

Every piece of your website, including online marketing, can contribute to your site’s conversion rate.  Talk to your online marketing partner to make sure your SEO and PPC efforts are reducing, not adding to, your dealership website’s conversion rate.

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.