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Cut the Marketing, Keep the Leads

The reality is, we don’t have inventory to match demand right now. So why are you spending so much on advertising?

Zach Billings is the vice president of client performance for Wikimotive.

Chip shortages, not enough carrier drivers and now there are rumblings of a magnesium shortage. We’re sick of hearing about the why, but the reality is that we don’t have inventory to match demand right now. Naturally, this leaves you wondering, “Why am I spending so much on advertising?” It’s rash to think you’re going to cut all your marketing, but there must be places you can cut, right? Right!

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We could look at a dozen marketing channels and probably find waste in all of them. For the moment, let’s focus on paid search. When we talk about paid search (aka PPC or SEM), we’re talking about bidding on keywords to show up in the paid section of Google results and, to a lesser degree, display advertising. The average dealer spends about $10,000 per month on paid search, with the extremes ranging from about $2,000 to almost $100,000 per month for a single rooftop.


Every paid search campaign contains some waste. Even an expert marketer doing hands-on bid adjustments can’t achieve 100% efficiency. The problem for most dealers isn’t found in minute tweaks to bid strategies, affinity groups and geo-targeting, though; it’s much simpler.


Paid search audits are great conversation starters and expose immediate cuts to a dealership’s marketing budget, which it can either pocket while times are tough or reinvest into something more efficient. On average, we find that 40% of a dealership’s PPC budget can be eliminated today with zero impact on its website traffic or leads. How can that be if you’re paying for those clicks? I’ll explain our most common findings and give you a place to start the discussion with your paid search vendor. 

Where to Look

The first place to look is your display campaigns, which can help with branding but are rife with click fraud. That means — for a handful of reasons — the majority of the clicks on your display ads are not actual people interested in doing business with you. Cut your display budget to zero, and don’t look back.


Turning our attention to your paid Google results, there are typically degrees of waste based on your different ad groups and their objectives. Branded search makes up the largest portion of the 40% waste we typically find. Branded search is where you’re bidding on your dealership name or a close variant of it. Typically, this is done to prevent a competitor from bidding on your name, and it’s a wasteful practice that vendors have no incentive to discourage. The truth is that you always rank for your dealership name in the organic results and will get the intended click anyway. Even if your competitor is bidding on your name, customers know which store they were looking for and will bounce off your competitor’s site and navigate to yours organically. Cut your branded search ads altogether.


The other areas of waste can be more nuanced but aren’t hard to find if you know what to look for. They start with keywords related to your make and city, because you likely already rank organically for these keywords and others — at least close to your store. If you use professional tools (not random Google searches you might try), you can quickly find the keywords for which you already rank organically and … presto! You have your list of waste keywords. Stop bidding on these, and you will still get all the traffic organically. Compare your paid keywords to the organic impressions and clicks you’re already receiving, and cut the PPC budget without risk. Then, take the cuts and reinvest in marketing that will benefit you beyond the inventory crunch.

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