How Google Ads fit into the car buying journey

Let’s talk Google ads. 

Google ads are a critical piece of any dealership’s well rounded digital marketing strategy for one very simple reason: research is step one in a shopper’s car buying journey.

According to the folks at Google, when it comes to buying a new or previously-owned vehicle, 92% of shoppers perform extensive online research before they make a final purchase. Think about your own shopper behavior – when you plan to make a sizable purchase you want to ensure you get the right product at the right price. This means significant time spent on research.  

With over 63,000 searches happening on the platform per second, Google is the most likely starting point for potential buyers looking to do some research. Appearing on search result pages gives your dealership a way to reach leads at the start of their shopper journey, increasing your chance of nabbing that sale.

Let’s take a dive into the world of Google ads and how they can help bring more qualified shoppers to your dealership’s door. 

Advantages of Google Ads for car dealerships compared to other ad platforms

Between Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Google, there are a lot of different platforms vying for your marketing dollars. While there are pluses and minuses for each, Google’s ad offer is rather unique: instead of building, customizing, and updating audiences, you can easily reach shoppers based on their search queries by targeting specific keywords. This means you can create ads that are hyper-specific to your dealership and reach people who are actively searching Google for products and services that you offer. 

Benefits of Google Search Ads for Dealerships

While other social advertising methods just aim to drive traffic to your website, Google ads have many additional benefits that can prove valuable for dealerships:  

  • Reach new audiences   
    Google ads can help you reach audiences that may have never have heard of or been in contact with your dealership otherwise. Appearing at the top of the search result page increases the likelihood of people finding your dealership when searching for the products and services you offer.
  • Build brand recognition
    When your dealership appears towards the top of multiple search results, shoppers begin to recognize your dealership name. This creates brand awareness which increases the likelihood that they will come to you to make their final purchase.
  • Target hyper-specific audiences
    Whereas Facebook and other platforms may show your ads to everyone and anyone, Google ads allow you to target specific search terms which ensures your ad only reaches people looking for a vehicle or service that your dealership offers.
  • Run flexible campaigns
    With Google ads you can decide how often your ads appear, how long you want the ads to run, and how much money to spend. This puts a lot of control in your hands in deciding how your ad budget is spent.

How to Use Google Ads for Your Car Dealership

Choose the right keywords

Set yourself up for success with Google Ads by selecting the right keywords to target. The best place to start is to choose hyper-specific keywords that relate to your dealership including your dealership name, brand, and the products and services you offer. Use a combination of specific and general keywords that can capture broader searches. You may also want to target location based terms like the name of your city or town to help capture local business. The more specific your keywords are, the easier it will be to track which are performing well.

Test your ad copy

Creating effective ad copy that gets the results you want will likely take some time. The rule of thumb is to make sure your copy is relevant to the keywords you are targeting. Try running several variations of your ad simultaneously to see what wording is most effective and finetune your ads and budget placement based on the results. 

Set up Conversion Tracking

The default settings on Google Ads only tracks clicks and impressions. Conversion tracking allows you to see what happens when someone clicks on your ad adding a layer of transparency that will help you understand what meaningful activities (like leads and sales) come from your Google Ads.  Be sure to turn on conversion tracking in the settings because without it, you may be adjusting campaigns based on the wrong metrics making your efforts on Google Ads an exercise in futility. 

Google Vehicle Ads for Car Dealerships

In recognition of the part their search platform plays in the car-buying process, in Q1 of 2022 Google took a step towards better serving car shoppers and dealerships with the introduction of vehicle ads. Vehicle ads, a subset of Google’s smart shopping ads, allow dealerships to easily and seamlessly advertise their entire new and used inventory to shoppers through Google search. 

When a shopper enters a specific search query that relates to a car in your inventory, Google will display your vehicle ads. The ads display detailed information about the vehicle including the make and model, new or used status, price, mileage, and your dealership’s name. Vehicle ads are optimized for online conversions as the ads link directly to the VDP on your dealership’s website creating a higher chance of lead conversion. 

Google’s Transition to Performance Max 

While vehicle ads are an amazing tool for dealerships, smart shopping ad campaigns will soon be a thing of the past as Google plans to replace them with performance max campaigns towards the end of 2022.

What is performance max, you ask?

Performance max is a new campaign type that helps drive performance based on your specified conversion goals, delivering more conversions and value by optimizing performance in real-time across channels.  It is designed to complement your keyword campaigns to help you find more converting customers across all of Google’s channels like YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps.

The shift from smart shopping campaigns to performance max is expected to take place by the end of the year but vehicle ads are not going to be part of the initial transition. Google has said that vehicle ads can expect to be automatically upgraded to performance max at the start of early 2023 so keep an eye out for more news on that front!   

Google Ads for Car Dealerships – Conclusion

When it comes to creating an effective dealership digital marketing strategy, Google ads is a powerful tool that can help your dealership generate qualified leads by getting you seen at the start of the shopper journey.  Getting started may take some trial and error, but the benefits definitely outweigh the learning curve. 

AutoLeadStar’s Acquire enables dealers to run Google ads at a scale that was previously unattainable for lower costs with better results. Artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities allows it to not only create the best ads, but automatically tweak them around the clock based on the dealership’s ad performance. Email get.started@autoleadstar.com to learn more about how Acquire can skyrocket your dealership’s marketing.