Searching for a new car? If so, your search won’t be simplified by the paid search ads on Google, Yahoo or MSN.
The paid search landscape in the automotive category is a mess. Dealers, OEMs, third-party sites, publishers and competitors bid on one another’s keywords with reckless abandon. No doubt this confuses car shoppers, drives up CPC prices and frustrates the advertisers involved in this landscape. While there are limitations to what advertisers can and cannot control in paid search, there are some fundamental rules of search management that the OEMs could employ to make their campaigns more effective — and make the consumer search experience more palatable.
Here are three things the OEMs could do to clean up this landscape:
1. File trademark protection paperwork with Google
Google will enforce trademark protection provided trademark owners file paperwork with the search engine detailing their rights to the trademarked words. While Google won’t prevent advertisers from bidding on trademarked terms, they will prohibit advertisers from using trademarks in their ad copy. This makes it very difficult for non-trademark owners to bid on brand keywords cost-effectively, effectively cleaning up the branded-keyword landscape for brand owners and reducing CPCs through decreased competition. All of the major OEMs would benefit from filing trademark paperwork with Google and consistently enforcing trademark ownership in keyword ad copy.
2. Coordinate with dealerships
Local dealerships have embraced the paid-search landscape, but in doing so have driven up costs and ushered in a confusing customer experience. OEMs should work with dealers to develop a coordinated paid-search strategy. Other industries with distributed sales channels have developed co-op marketing programs to allow their regional business owners to compete in paid search in a coordinated fashion. The extent of cooperation is variable, but at a minimum keyword ownership rules should be established to prevent competitive pricing issues.
3. Expand campaigns in an organized fashion
A healthy paid-search campaign for any of the major OEMs should contain tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of keywords. Too often the OEMs are relying on broad match and dynamic ad copy insertion, rather than building out detailed exact-match keyword lists with customized copy. This, again, drives up CPCs through low click rates and provides a poor searcher experience. Long-tail keyword expansion with semantically organized keyword ad groups and tailored copy will drive down costs and engage potential customers through relevant, targeted messaging.