Your Automotive Marketing Specialists

Your Automotive Marketing Specialists

How to Optimize SEM Campaigns

4 min read

An SEM campaign is an essential part of all modern dealership marketing plans and has become a staple in any marketing conversation. Dealerships jockey for top position on all the hot queries daily and spend considerable amounts of money for each click.  SEM can be an extremely fertile ground for leads, but it can also be an inefficient use of funds if not optimized properly. As SEM budgets climb and competition gets fiercer, how can you be sure your campaign is working for you? This blog will examine 5 key aspects to consider when optimizing SEM campaigns.

1.     Geography and Understanding Your Market

Every dealership knows their PMA and which areas they serve, but have you ever plotted on a map where you’re selling cars? It seems simple, but a map of your sales will give you great perspective into your dealership’s reach and effectiveness.  Try plotting your new, used and service sales on a map at least once per year. You may be surprised where your sales come from and where you’re falling short.

After you have this plotted, try overlaying different metrics from your SEM campaigns by zip code. You can overlay spend, cost per click, click thru rate, impression share and more.  By understanding which regions yield the most fruitful returns, you can fine tune your campaign targeting and promote greater budget efficiency.  This can mean showing more often to the right people in the areas where you have the most success or picking up the slack and conquesting in areas where you’re short of your goals.

2.     Up to Date Copy

Ad copy plays a crucial role in your overall SEM campaign on multiple fronts. First, relevant and well written ad copy is a major component of your Quality Score. Quality Score is how Google ranks ads and decides on their placement in the search results.  Well written ad copy will boost your quality score, and consequently you’ll pay less for the same clicks your competition is competing for.

Aside from the Quality Score aspect of it, well written ad copy creates a seamless experience for prospective buyers when they click your ads.   The closer your ad copy lines up with your landing page content the more likely a conversion is to happen.  It is crucial that your site and SEM campaigns remain in lock step with each other and are telling the same story across the board.

If you’re like many other dealers out there, you update your advertised special prices throughout the month to stay ahead of the competition.  Having a procedure in place to communicate those changes through the chain of command and have them implemented as quickly as possible will keep you a step ahead of the competition and your customers informed.

3.     Enabling Ad Extensions

Ad Extensions have been around for a long time now, but many SEM campaigns don’t take full advantage of them. Extensions are a way to not only further increase your Quality Score and take up more real estate on the Google results page, but also enable your customers to interact with your ad and you.

One extension that is widely underused by auto dealers is the message extension. The Message Extension enables your customers to text a message to you directly from your advertisement. If you’ve already incorporated text messaging into your BDC plan, this is a great way to bring that full circle and keep your BDC representatives interacting with new customers. Before implementing this extension, make sure everyone is on the same page and able to adequately respond to customers’ messages in a timely manner. Dayparting this extension to show only during business hours is also highly recommended. For more information on how to set up this feature and other Google features, head over to our how to blog on Google Features.


4.     Conversion Tracking End to End.

In order to properly monitor your SEM campaign, you should have end to end conversion tracking set up and integrated with your Google Ads account. This can be done in a variety of ways, and is most often achieved through integrating Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager and Google Ads. 

The first step is working with your agency to identify which conversions mean the most to you. Once identified, work with your agency and web provider to get tracking pixels placed to trigger when the goal is completed. Some web providers are resistant to this but keep escalating your request and it should get fulfilled. A full picture of your campaign is absolutely worth the time spent on the phone with your website provider. As an automotive digital marketing agency, we report on conversions every month. Many dealerships do not have this set up, and we can’t emphasize enough just how important it is!


5.     Automated Bidding Strategies and Machine Learning

Having conversions implemented and properly firing enables your SEM provider to tap into Google’s automated bidding strategies more effectively. A good example of this is a Target Cost per Acquisition bidding strategy. 

Let’s say you crunch the numbers and conclude that for every $100 spent on SEM you generate 1 lead on average with a traditional Cost per Click based strategy. Google’s Cost Per Acquisition strategy can work to get that number lower. Let’s say we input $90 as our target CPA, and let the algorithm go to work. Google’s machine learning will identify which keywords and people are the most likely to convert based on past conversion data and show your ads as often as possible for those queries and to those people and work towards a $90 or lower CPA. 

Dropping your Cost per Acquisition can increase lead volume and quality, but as with any AI fueled bidding strategy, this needs to be closely monitored by your SEM provider.  Talk with your SEM provider to find out which bidding strategies they use for your campaigns and why.


Building and maintaining great SEM campaigns requires intense attention to detail, and near constant monitoring and updating. If you keep these facets and more in mind when formulating your own SEM strategy, you’ll consistently have more successful campaigns and get the most return on investment. The biggest key to SEM success is to be adaptable to the changing marketplace, and don’t be afraid to try new angles and approaches. Here at D2D, we take a very hands on approach to our automotive SEM campaigns.

If you would like some help dialing your own strategy in or have questions about a new campaign feel free to drop us a line here.