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Adjusting Your Paid Search Strategy

Article Highlights:

  • Learn what, where, and when customers are searching online.
  • Understand how to balance strategy and budget.

In this episode of Reynolds’ video podcast, Connected, Ross McArthur, sales director at Naked Lime Marketing, addresses how to adjust your paid search advertising to identify and answer customers’ needs.

Greg Uland Hello, I’m Greg Uland, marketing director of Reynolds and Reynolds, and this is Connected, the podcast with best practices and ideas to help navigate what is happening in the automotive retail industry and the world today. As the COVID-19 virus continues to change our world and how we live and work daily, this podcast discusses ways to continue operating in this unprecedented social environment. In today’s episode, we have with us Ross McArthur, sales director at Naked Lime Marketing. Ross, thanks for hopping on.

Ross McArthur Yeah, I appreciate the time today.

GU Absolutely. So Ross, today I’m hoping you can touch on some trends that you’re seeing in paid search. Obviously, demand is down for dealers right now and that has a big impact on advertising decisions. So what are you seeing? How are you seeing dealers react?

RM This is a really big historic event that we’re dealing with, and there’s a lot of unknowns. Every dealership is reacting very differently, to be honest with you. Some have been quick to react. Others are taking a wait and see approach. When it comes to paid search, you have to remember you’re not creating demand. You’re ultimately reacting to it. And so dealerships are trying to take advantage of that whenever they can. But to do that, they really need to understand three things first. What are people searching for? Where are they searching? And when are they searching? Once you know these three things, you have the information to make better marketing and advertising decisions. These are the types of things that will help dealers get through this and navigate out when things get back to some form of normality.

GU So thinking about those three questions, what, where and when are people searching; when you go through that exercise with the dealership, what impact is that having? What’s it doing to paid search budgets specifically?

RM Well, before we can talk about budgets, I think the one thing we all know is it’s impacted consumer buying habits, right? They’ve shifted a lot in the last four weeks and even last week itself. And we’re seeing dealers start to shift with them. And when we’re looking at the data, it didn’t point so much to budgets and the money that dealerships should be spending or are spending. It really pointed a lot more to targeting and the messaging that’s being used.

When it comes to paid search, people have to remember you’re only paying when someone searches for the products and services you sell, and then they click on it. So if people aren’t shopping, researching, and clicking on the ad, it really doesn’t cost the dealership anything. When you focus your targeting on very specific, low-funnel type searches that are very relevant to people’s needs now, this moment, the amount of money you spend naturally goes down. And the lower spend is really the result of changing how you’re targeting, not so much the outcome and just cutting budget.

GU Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So what about actual search trends? When you go through and you look at what people are searching and even when they’re searching and those types of things. Across the board, what are some trends you’re seeing?

RM The first thing we definitely need to recognize is that every state, city, county, and dealer are functioning very differently right now. And due to that, consumers are functioning very differently. They’re shopping differently. However, there are some common themes, and I’m sure we’ll continue to see those come to the forefront.

One thing that we are seeing is when people are searching they’re looking for just basic information. Are you open? Can I drop off my car? Will you come pick up my car and service it? How do I turn in a lease? My wife and I are dealing with that right now. We all of sudden realized, oh my gosh, it’s May next month, our lease is coming due, what are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to turn it in? Should we wait for incentives to come out? We’re not the only ones. So knowing that every area is slightly different, dealers need to evaluate their current situation themselves.

They also need to look at, what are the competitors doing out there? Then once they do that analysis, they’ve got to make a personal decision. Do you want that type of traffic and pay for that? Or do you want them to potentially just find you organically, come to your website, and try to get that information there? I hope most dealerships have added that type of information or frequently asked questions to their website, so it is visible when they get there.

The other thing we’re seeing, is a lot of rebound in searches recently. In the last week, many companies have rolled out incentives and specials and search volume has increased due to that. Ford launched a program for 90 days paid, 90 days deferred. And people are starting to actually grasp onto that and take some action. Other brands like GMC and Jeep are advertising 0% for eighty-four months. Pretty good incentive, right? Things that we haven’t seen in a long time. I think the biggest thing is, there’s no silver bullet, there’s no magic ball telling us what’s going to happen. I think the one thing we will see is that these OEMs and these companies will continue to push incentives to try to create some form of demand.

GU That’s great to hear that you’re seeing that stuff tick up. I definitely appreciate you taking a few minutes to talk through everything today. While we’re here and while we have the audience, is there anything else that you want to touch on or that you want to say?

RM There’s a lot, right? We’re all navigating this together and trying to figure this out. I think the one thing to hopefully take away from this quick conversation today is now’s really the time to redefine your targeting when it comes to paid search and your overall marketing message as a whole. The messaging that you have is probably just as important as how you’re targeting. I’m still seeing many dealers on TV and other forms of advertising that are using the same message that they would 2-3 months ago, to be honest with you. Like nothing’s happening in the world. We need to adapt. Not only for today, but for upcoming months.

Lastly, remember, paid search is not creating demand. We’re just trying to capture it. As these trends continue to happen, you need to make sure that you’re there when people are trying to make a buying decision. Outside of that, Greg, I just appreciate you having me. And I’m sure like everybody else out there, I’m looking forward to hopefully getting back to some form of normal soon. I’m sure you are, too. So I just hope everyone stays safe out there.

GU Great. Well, thank you, Ross. I really do appreciate you taking time today.

RM Any time. Thank you.

GU All right. This is Connected. Stay safe and we’ll see you on the next episode.

Continue to tune in often to see new episodes on best practices and tips for navigating the automotive industry during this unprecedented time.

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