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Paid search: a car dealer’s path to driving more sales

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on April 4, 2019

When shoppers decide they’re in the market for a product or service—or they’re generally curious about something—they head to a search engine like Google for information. In fact, billions of Google searches happen every day. Think about how many of those are car searches—or, chances for your dealership to attract potential customers to your site.

While you can rely on search engine optimization (SEO) tactics to help you increase the ranking of your site without spending money, changing algorithms and ranking criteria make it hard to maintain your position in search results. So how else can you promote your dealership and drive new visitors to your site? Through the use of search engine marketing, or paid search as it’s commonly called.

What is paid search?

Paid search is the practice of marketing your business through the use of paid ads that show up on relevant search engine results pages. These ads, often referred to as pay-per-click (PPC) ads, come in different formats, and you can bid on keywords that shoppers might search for to have the ads appear in results. As consumers’ car shopping journeys become increasingly digital, paid search is becoming more important than ever for dealers—it makes up more than half of digital ad spend in the industry (about $5.8B), according to eMarketer.

How paid search works and why it’s so effective

Paid search gives you the ability to bid only on search terms (“keywords”) that are relevant to your dealership—like specific makes, models, and years you have on your lot. Do some research to figure out which keywords are relevant to your business and that potential customers will search for to find your cars and services. By setting up paid search campaigns based on those keywords, you have the opportunity to put your cars in front of low-funnel car shoppers who are ready to buy.

Ultimately, paid search makes it easier for consumers to choose your dealership, and this ability to get in front of ready-to-buy shoppers is what makes paid search so effective. Where paid search has the edge over so many other advertising options is that by typing a specific vehicle into a search engine, the shopper shows they have the intent to research or purchase that car.

Another advantage of paid search: it’s available to everyone no matter the budget size. That’s because all ads for keywords you’ve bid on go through a process known as the ad auction. The ad auction evaluates your maximum bid and your Quality Score, then determines the placement, or rank, of your ads. This all takes place before an ad ever appears in search results for a relevant search query.

Beyond your paid search keywords

Bidding on the right keywords is only half the battle though. You also need to create compelling, relevant text ads that get people to click. Use your ad copy to highlight what makes your dealership unique and include keywords the shopper searched for and include a call to action. The higher your click-through-rate (CTR), the better your quality score, and so the more cost-effective your paid search campaign will be. But don’t stop at your ad copy. Make sure that your landing pages are also relevant, providing shoppers with the information they expect when clicking on an ad for their search term.

Periodically review your paid search campaigns to see what keywords are being searched for most and to make sure that your ads are still meeting your goals. If they’re not, adjust your keywords, bids, and ads accordingly, then continue to monitor the results. With a little practice and patience, paid search can be one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies your dealership uses, and it can help generate substantial revenue for your business.

To learn more about paid search marketing and how CarGurus can help, visit today. 

Topics: Marketing tips, paid search, search marketing, SEM