The Past, Present, and Future of Paid Search: How your car dealership can prepare for the evolution of SEM to stay competitive

  Ilana Shabtay

PPC for Car Dealerships in 2022

While we can’t imagine a world without Google or Siri, paid advertising actually started way before these trends. The first documented paid advertising platform was called Planet Oasis, and existed only on desktop, of course.  Shortly following this phenomenon in 1996, Open Text Index and opened up bidding platforms for businesses to show up first as “preferred listings”. 

It was clear from the beginning: with advertisers paying an average of $1 per click (which was quite high in 1999), there was a scalable business model. 

By 2002, Google released Google Adwords (Now known as “Google Ads”) – the ultimate platform for businesses to show up on relevant search results.  While Google led the market with 84.7% of all searches, Yahoo, Bing, and others joined the game giving advertisers a way to reach in-market shoppers. 

You can imagine that if Google was already getting about 95% of their revenue from advertisers in 2011, that merely 10 years later it’s still an incredibly competitive (and expensive) space for businesses. 

PPC for car dealerships – what’s worked until now?

Until recently, a digital marketing agency or in-house PPC (pay-per-click) teams were sufficient in competing in this advertising war.  Businesses put their trust– and money– into human “machines” that plan and execute advertising goals.  

Marketing specialists spec and create copy, design, and A/B tests that fit the business goals. The ads generally run an entire month without being touched or tweaked. At the end of the month, the marketing teams analyze the results and make changes as needed. This is especially true for the classic A/B test, where we investigate which version of the ad performed better after a full 30 days of running similar ads side by side. 

But as paid search becomes the most competitive advertising space, this routine is just not enough.  Even if your copy is competitive and the design is impeccable, businesses need to make real-time optimization and decisions. We need to be working 24/7, which is impossible for the average human. 

As search, display, and social networks become the most relevant place to advertise your dealership in 2022, machine learning and artificial intelligence emerge as integral parts of the marketing strategy.  

What is machine learning?

Machine learning is the idea that computers (aka machines) can learn from data sets and patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention. This means that when new data is presented to a trained machine, it comprehends and reacts efficiently. 

The simplest way to understand machine learning is with a company like Netflix.  Viewers watch shows and movies, and as Netflix understands the user behavior, it recommends other shows to watch based on the interest.  As the users preferences change, so do the recommendations. 

Industries from oil and gas to hospitality are applying machine learning to increase customer satisfaction and stay competitive. And just like Netflix, the machine learning is allowing these industries to react to big sets of data for better results. 

What PPC strategies for car dealerships will work in 2022?

The future of paid search is here.  So while manually creating ads worked until now, the new pace is much faster- a pace that only a machine can handle.  

In 2022, it will become the norm to automate Google Ads for car dealerships.  This means no more manually creating design, copy, and uploading ads.  This means no more manually putting a max/min bid on each and every campaign for display networks.  It means optimized, updated, and high performing ads for every shopper in real-time. 

The trajectory of PPC for car dealerships is pretty amazing and we’re excited to be apart of its journey into the future. 

Maximizing Your Dealership’s PPC Campaigns with Google Analytics & Google Ads

Google Ads and Google Analytics might be the most powerful tools in digital marketing, but if you’re not connecting the two, you are probably missing out on meaningful data and insights.

Why Car Dealerships Need to Connect their Google Ads to Google Analytics 

Not all clicks are created equal 

Imagine this scenario: you have two ads for a coveted and valuable keyword. One seems to be performing well, with a high CTR (click-through rate, i.e. the ratio between people who saw the ad and the people who actually ended up clicking on it), while the second ad only generated a handful of clicks.

Instinctively, most marketers would reallocate their budget to the first one ad, and may even delete the second. But what if the majority of people clicking on the first ad left your site after browsing for 10 seconds, while people clicking on the second ad browsed your website for half an hour, and ended up converting on one of your forms? Surely, in this scenario, you’d rather set aside a larger budget for the second ad, as it generates quality leads.

While Google Ads mostly measure CTR, Google Analytics can track and measure a variety of activities on your website, and provide valuable insights to your visitors’ behavior. Once Google Ads and analytics are connected, you can track conversion rates on all your ads, as well as visit duration, pages per visit, the percentage of new visits, and bounce rates, These are useful indicators that can help you decide how to distribute your advertising budget according to your goals.

How to connect Google Ads to Google Analytics

Linking Google Ads to Google Analytics is pretty straightforward. See below Google’sstep by step instructions:

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. Click the tools icon in the upper right corner of your account. Under “Setup,” click Linked accounts.
  3. Under “Google Analytics,” click Details. 
  4. You’ll see a list of Google Analytics properties (i.e. websites) to which you have access. The “Status” column shows whether a property is linked to Google Ads. (If you don’t see an Analytics property here, make sure you have “Edit” permission to that property.)
  5. In the “Actions” column, click “Link” next to the properties you want to link to Google Ads. You can link as many properties as you’d like.
  6. Now you’ll see one of the two screens described below:
    • If the property you chose only has one view, you’ll see the name of just that view. Select Import site metrics to be able to see Google Analytics data in Google Ads reports.
    • If the property has multiple views, you’ll see a list of the views that you can link. For each view, you can do the following:
      • Link: This will make Google Ads click and cost data available in Analytics, and Analytics goals and transactions available for import into Google Ads. Link as many views as you’d like. 
      • Import site metrics: (Recommended) Choose one view that you want to import site engagement metrics from. This view will be used to show site engagement metrics in the Google Analytics reporting columns of your account. Note that you’ll need to add Google Analytics columns to your Google Ads reports.
  7. Click Save.

Setting up goals and events

Google Analytics typically measures activities related to a website’s page as a whole – the amount of traffic on a certain page, the average time per visit, etc. In order to track more specific user interactions such as form submissions, link clicks, video plays, and downloads, Google Analytics gives you the option to create “events” that are important to user behavior.

Once you create the event, you can now track very specific actions on the site– where the visitor came from, what was their digital footprint before the “event”, etc. Once you have these setup, you can transfer the events to goals and get even more granular on your Google Ads performance. 

You can check out this tutorial by Google on how to set up events and goals.


You’re all set up! Don’t forget to check in every few days to make sure your ads are meeting your goals, and optimize them accordingly. 

Want to learn more about automating your car dealership’s Google Ads for better performance with less spend? Check out Acquire now.