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Driving sales: How to use Google Ads for your automotive business

Back to all resources

Driving sales: How to use Google Ads for your automotive business

Key takeaways

The way people buy cars is evolving. While most purchase journeys still end at the dealership, they are highly likely to begin online, with multiple digital touchpoints in between.

A Google/Kantar study found that 94% of new car buyers now use online sources when researching a new vehicle, accounting for 73% of total engagement.1

Google Ads has a host of tools and features designed to give you the visibility you need online and to help prospective customers along the path to buying a new or used car. Here are the best practices to set you up for success.

1. Ensure you have a strong online presence

2. Create great content that covers all bases

3. Focus on high-value micro-conversions

4. Identify intent with broad match

5. Save time with Dynamic Search Ads

6. Help your customer take the next step

7. Reach users across channels with Performance Max

94% of new car buyers now use online sources when researching a new vehicle

1. Ensure you have a strong online presence

While most vehicle sales still take place in physical showrooms, research is moving online at a striking rate. In 2018, only 25% of people discovered their next car online — that’s now up to 83%.2

With purchase journeys increasingly evolving on platforms such as Search and YouTube, an engaging organic and paid media presence across a range of different digital platforms is a must.

And it’s not just about research. 18% of respondents to the survey said they had bought a car online or via an app, yet more than 70% said they would consider purchasing a car online now or in the future.3

Dealers and manufacturers can adapt to these changing habits by making online a key component of their marketing mix.

2. Create great content that covers all bases

Modern car buyers want answers to questions ahead of visiting the dealership. The challenge for the dealer or manufacturer is the sheer variety of queries and the fact that these are likely to change as people progress on their journey to choosing a vehicle.

Having a deep pool of creative assets gives Google’s machine learning technology more options to generate ads that will resonate with these different users. These can help answer their queries and raise awareness of your products as consumers move between different channels online.

3. Focus on high-value micro-conversions

For the majority of auto sales, a consumer will take a series of important steps before making a purchase — including price comparisons, car configuration, making calls to the dealership, and test drives.

Each of these steps can be considered a micro-conversion that takes them a degree closer to buying a new or used car.

With Google Ads, you can set up campaigns optimised to these different goals, helping you connect with customers while they are still in a research mindset or starting to consider models. Look to establish which micro-conversions drive the greatest value to your business, and tailor your campaign to include them.

4. Identify intent with broad match

Understanding buyer intent is challenging when there are so many questions and touchpoints for consumers before buying a car.

Long before deciding on the specific brand or model of vehicle they want, they may start by searching for broad terms such as “used cars” or “eco-friendly SUVs”.

Broad match can help your ads show up on Search for these more general queries, enabling you to reach the widest possible audience.

Broad match is more sophisticated than a manual keyword strategy, using automation to identify intent from a wide variety of search queries. When you add “electric car” as a broad match keyword, for example, your ad might also show for searches on “eco-friendly vehicles” and “reduce my carbon impact”.

By casting such a wide net, you can reach people showing an interest in a category before their intent is fully formed.

Keywords

Keywords are words or phrases describing your product, service, or business that you choose to help determine when and where your ad appears. When someone searches on Google, it’s the similarity of your keywords to the person’s search terms that decides if your ad is eligible to appear.

5. Save time with Dynamic Search Ads

Car dealerships and manufacturers often have an enormous range of options, from brands to engine sizes — so when you’re trying to capture all the potentially relevant queries on search, you can end up having to compose extensive keyword lists.

Dynamic Search Ads helps you fill gaps in your keyword list and even lets you forgo keywords entirely.

This automated tool uses machine learning to scan the content of your site and match it to live search queries. It then pulls pertinent words and phrases from your existing content to generate highly targeted search ads. These ads direct any users that click on them to the landing page that best serves their query, making for a great user experience and a higher conversion rate.

6. Help your customer take the next step

Consider what action you want customers to take when they land on your pages from a Google Ad. If they arrive on a page detailing the environmental benefits of electrical vehicles, for example, a strong lead might be wasted if there’s no clear call to action. Having paid for the click, you’ve potentially lost the chance to re-engage further.

Whether your customers are picking a model or booking a test drive, ensure you’re leading them towards the action that delivers value for your business — ultimately buying a car.

7. Reach users across channels with Performance Max

Performance Max is a new goal-based campaign type that allows you access to the entire Google ecosystem from a single automated campaign.

For car dealers and manufacturers, it’s the perfect tool to add more performance channels to your marketing mix without further complexity.

It's designed to complement your keyword-based Search campaigns and help you find more converting customers across YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps.

Wherever users are showing interest in a new car, Performance Max and other Google Ads tools will help your business show up and turn intent into a sale.

1-3, Google Gearshift 2021, Global, Base: All new car purchasers, n=13,758, Aug. 2021

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