In the past, car dealerships relied primarily on TV commercials, billboards, and print advertisements to market their business. But now, it’s more important than ever to incorporate a digital campaign into your car dealership’s marketing strategy. Why? A growing number of consumers are shopping for cars online rather than in dealerships.
Only about 2% of new or used car purchases were made online prior to 2020. However, nearly 30% of car purchases were made online in 2020. Even if consumers aren’t completing the entire transaction online, they are still completing many of the steps in the buying process online. For example, a consumer may research their options and take a virtual test drive online before visiting a dealership to actually purchase the car of their choice.
The bottom line? If you’re not reaching consumers online, you’re missing the opportunity to connect with a huge segment of your target audience.
If you’re new to the world of digital, you may not know where to start when it comes to marketing your dealership online. Every digital marketing campaign is unique, but in general, they all consist of the same components. Here are the main components you will need to focus on to launch an effective digital marketing campaign for your car dealership:
Paid Search Ads
Incorporating paid search ads into your campaign can help you increase the visibility of your car dealership’s website. A paid search ad appears in the search results whenever someone conducts a search using a search engine such as Google.
The ad will only appear if the user is searching for a keyword you are targeting in your campaign. This ensures that your ad is only visible to those who are performing automotive-related searches. For example, if you choose to target the keyword “car dealership near me,” your ad would only appear when someone conducts this search.
Paid search ads are pay-per-click ads, which means you are only charged if a user clicks on your ad. If your ad appears in the search results but is not clicked on, you are not charged. The cost per click will depend on a number of factors, including the competitiveness of the targeted keywords.
A paid search ad campaign is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website. You should see a spike in traffic as soon as you launch a paid search ad campaign. For this reason, it’s important to make sure your website is running smoothly and up-to-date prior to launching this segment of your campaign.
Running call ads is another way to connect with people who are performing automotive-related searches on Google. Like a paid search ad, a call ad will appear in the search results when a user searches for your targeted keyword.
If a user clicks on your paid search ad, they will be sent to your website. If they click on a call ad, however, they will automatically call your car dealership. Because of this, call ads only appear when searches are performed on mobile devices.
Running call ads is a great way to drive phone traffic. It gives you an opportunity to speak directly to potential customers instead of sending them to your website for more information. It’s also an effective way to connect with consumers who have an urgent need. For example, someone who needs their car repaired as quickly as possible might call local dealerships for quotes or to find out how soon they can bring their vehicle in for repair.
Before launching a call ad campaign, make sure you adjust the settings to ensure it only runs during your car dealership’s normal business hours. This way, you won’t miss a call from a potential customer who is trying to contact you after hours.
You can choose to target certain demographics or users in specific locations when running paid search ads or calls. However, Facebook allows you to target a very narrowly defined audience, which is why Facebook ads should be part of your car dealership’s marketing campaign.
For example, say you are offering 0% financing to everyone who purchases a new SUV from your dealership in the next month. You can use Facebook to target people in your community who are likely to buy a new car in the next 90 days. You can narrow your audience down even further to only target those users who are interested in SUVs rather than sedans or pickup trucks.
Being able to target such a narrowly defined audience gives you the opportunity to connect with consumers who are preparing to purchase a new car. This ensures you don’t waste any ad dollars reaching users who aren’t in the market for a new vehicle.
The best part? You can set your own budget for Facebook ads, so you can spend as little or as much as you would like. Start with a small budget. Then, if your ad is performing better than expected, you can always add more money to it to keep it running longer.
Launching Google and Facebook ad campaigns can drive a significant amount of traffic back to your car dealership’s website. You should not send traffic directly to your homepage, though. Instead, create unique landing pages for every one of your ads.
The landing page content should be related to the ad content. For example, say you are running an ad encouraging people to schedule a test drive of a new electric vehicle at your dealership. You may want to link this ad to a landing page with an image of an electric vehicle and a scheduling tool so users can book their test drives online. This way, anyone who clicks on your ad will know exactly what they need to do to schedule a test drive.
If you’re new to digital marketing, you may want to test multiple landing pages per ad. Once the campaign is up and running, monitor the performance of each landing page to see which one has a higher conversion rate.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Implementing effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategies is one of the keys to digital marketing success. Just like paid ads, SEO strategies increase your car dealership’s visibility in the search results and drive traffic to your website. But SEO drives organic traffic, whereas paid ads drive paid traffic. In other words, you won’t have to pay for the traffic you receive as a result of your SEO strategies.
The goal of SEO is to increase your website’s ranking within relevant search results. This is crucial to your dealership’s success since three-fourths of people don’t look past the first page of search results. If you aren’t on the first page, you won’t get the chance to connect with consumers who are searching for dealerships like yours.
You can implement many different SEO strategies to boost your car dealership’s ranking in the search results, including:
- Creating optimized blog content for your website.
- Incorporating targeted keywords into your headers, page titles, URLs, meta descriptions, and more.
- Increasing the page speed on your website.
- Making your website more user-friendly and easier to navigate.
- Placing links to your website on other third party sites.
- Optimizing the infrastructure of your website.
The more time and energy you invest into SEO, the better the results. But it takes time to see results from SEO, so it’s important to be patient. In the meantime, you can focus on driving traffic to your website with paid search ads. Once your SEO efforts take effect, you may be able to reduce your paid ad budget and focus solely on driving organic traffic.
The final component of your digital marketing campaign should be reputation management, or in other words, monitoring and managing online reviews from customers.
Many people research car dealerships in their community before deciding which one to purchase a car from. Part of this research involves reading reviews of the dealership on Yelp, Cars.com, Google, Facebook, DealerRater, Angie’s List, and other sites. If your dealership has dozens of negative reviews, consumers might think twice about doing business with you.
Encourage your satisfied customers to leave reviews of your dealership online. You should also make an effort to respond to every review–good or bad–of your dealership. If it’s a positive review, all you need to do is thank the person for taking the time to post it.
Responding to negative reviews is a bit more challenging. If someone had an unpleasant experience, apologize and ask them to return to your dealership to give you another chance. If the person is complaining about a specific issue, work with them to resolve it. You may not be able to change their mind about your dealership. However, responding to negative reviews shows other people that you are committed to customer service, which may help you win over new customers in the future.
Use this as a guide to help you map out your digital marketing strategy. Now that you know the components of a successful campaign, you can start connecting with your target audience online.