Automotive Digital Marketing Strategies for SEM

Top Tips from a Automotive Digital Marketing Agency

We’re a automotive digital marketing agency specializing in SEM / PPC management. We’ve worked with companies like YourMechanic (a national auto repair service, like Uber for mechanics), and RepairPal (a marketing network for independent repair shops). Check out our case study for YourMechanic PPC.

We help auto companies with three major areas:

  • SEM / PPC Management
  • SEO & Content
  • Local SEO / Google My Business

Below are our main tips for auto company SEM:

  • How to structure your SEM account
  • How to work with a reduced budget
  • Updating the account with changes to products & pricing
  • Looking for ways to increase revenue – ecommerce marketing ideas
  • How to increase ROAS (return on ad spend )  aka ROI

How to structure your SEM account

For auto companies, it really pays to be thorough. We’ve found that auto companies can get the most revenue at the lowest cost by having separate campaigns for every make and model they serve, and every car repair service they offer. This gives you two advantages: 1) You find

If you’ve had these problems, and want to address them in your auto digital marketing plan, know that we’ve had these same issues. Here’s how we addressed them:

How to work with a reduced budget

Budget reductions happen all the time, and they stink. They mean reduced revenue and less room for trying new tactics and ideas.  But they are a fact of ecommerce marketing life.

We’ve found the best way to work with reduced budgets is to focus on campaigns, then keywords.

First, rank your campaigns by performance. In Google, we use Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) (aka Conv. Value/Cost). Then make sure to reduce budgets on the lowest performing campaigns first, or consider pausing those campaigns altogether. This way your best campaigns will still run with the most budget. We built software to automate this process.

Second, take a hard look at your keywords. There are usually some keywords that are very relevant, but also very expensive, and may no longer be profitable. Make sure these are bid down. Don’t overpay to be number one, or you’ll waste a lot of money. (We automated this too)

How to update your ad account with changes to products & pricing

If you have a large product portfolio with many different products or services, then updating your ad account every time a product product inventory or pricing changes can be very time consuming.

Here are a few tips for how we addressed these issues:

  1. Automated Business Feeds – For SEM campaigns, we found that creating a business data feed of what cars are available, and at what prices, could help us control the regular SEM campaigns, and we could automate turning them on or off as needed.
  2. Ad Optimizers – Similar to business feeds, these let us adjust ad copy in real time to reflect current pricing and sales, by inserting variables like {price} into the actual ad text.  In this way, when pricing changed, the ads would updated automatically, rather than us having to go update all the copy at once.

How to increase SEM revenue for auto companies

At other times, our auto clients really wanted to grow revenue, and the problem would be that they were maxed out with their current marketing strategy.  We found there were a couple of general ways to increase revenue:

  1. Capacity Analysis
  2. Long tail
  3. International Expansion

Capacity Analysis

The idea here is to go back and look through your campaigns to see a) which ones have good performance, and b) can absorb more budget. Google will highlight “recommended budgets” for each campaign. By ranking your campaigns by performance, and increasing the best ones’  budgets, we were often able to significantly boost spend and increase revenue. Here’s an example below. This ecommerce company sells furniture, and has an annual budget of approximately $600k.  We found that we could boost spending here by an additional $100k, and create an additional $230k of revenue for them.

Long Tail

The idea here is to look for longer, more specific phrases that target your product. It’s the difference between “webcam” and “60fps webcam with autofocus 1080p”.  We found that by mining our search queries, we found more “long tail” keywords. We could then set up custom ads for these. This would bring in incremental revenue that was both lower cost, since fewer advertisers were bidding on these exact terms, and also likelier to convert, since if we advertised a very specific product, and had a landing page to match, the customer was much more likely to buy. You can find these long tail keywords in your Google Anlalytics search queries, Google Web Console, or third party services like SpyFu and SEMRush.

International Expansion

Once the above two tactics have been used, international expansion is a good next bet. We found the best way to do this was to look at the client’s Google Analytics to see which countries their organic sales had come from, and then target those in SEM. We would then set up campaigns that were duplicates of our US campaigns, and then target each one to a country or group of countries. When grouping countries we found it was useful to group them by region (Europe, EMEA etc.) or purchasing power. What we saw was that European countries generally had similar performance as US, but once we got beyond Europe, the ROI was generally lower. So we’d only recommend further expansion beyond Europe if the tactics above have already been used.

How to increase ROAS (return on ad spend )  aka ROI

Another big issue for our tech clients was finding ways to increase their ROAS (return on ad spend) aka ROI. Most of our clients had a specific target they had to meet, such as a ROAS of 3. Here are our top tips on increasing ROAS:

  1. Focus on price
  2. Focus on conversion rate
  3. Desktop vs Mobile

Focus on Price

In general, we steer clients away from advertising items that have a lower price point, say less than $60. The math is unforgiving. On average, ecommerce conversion rates are around 1%. So if you want to sell a software license, and the price is $25, and your average cpc is $0.50, then your CPA (cost per acquisition) is ($0.5/1% = $50).  As a rule of thumb, we steer our clients to focus on only advertising items above $100. Items less than $100 should be used for cross-sell at checkout to increase average order value (AOV) (e.g. “Customers who bought X also buy Y to go along with them.”)

Focus on conversion rate

Conversion rate is the other half of the ROAS equation. Unlike CPC, you have complete control over your landing pages.  We recommend all of our clients install HotJar to see how their customers actually interact with their landing pages, where the dropoff points are.  Although making progress on landing page optimization takes time, every small change can have a big impact. Moving your conversion rate from 1% to 1.2% reduces your CPA by 20%!  Many clients complain that it’s hard to get IT to make changes to the pages, but this is the tail wagging the dog. As marketers, IT should help you sell more, not the other way around.  Conversion rate optimization is a great use of time and IT budget to increase sales and lower CPA costs.

Desktop vs Mobile

Last, we’ve seen over and over that clients are much more likely to convert on desktop than mobile. We’ve seen differences of 5x between the two!  Make sure that you are bidding desktop higher than mobile. You can extend this out to bidding on all demographic parameters like age, location, desktop vs mobile, and audience (previous purchasers,etc.) At Zavient, we wrote our own bidding software that automatically adjusts all of these weekly. Hope these tips were helpful for you to increase your ecommerce conversion rate! If you’re interested in seeing how an tech digital agency can help your company drive more revenue, get in touch with us.