Selecting Keywords Pays Off With Improved Marketing ROI


Dealers need a strategy to bid on well-focused keywords and make sure others don’t call up their ads for the wrong searches. BY AMY FARLEY

A strong keyword strategy is one of the most important aspects of your dealership marketing team’s online paid search efforts. By selecting your keywords properly and implementing the right “negative” keywords, you should see more qualified clicks on your ads and an overall improved marketing ROI.

Selection of keywords for paid search campaigns should be strategic and carefully planned. If your aim is to improve the quality of your ad click-throughs, then your keyword strategy should be tied to the sales funnel. People who are searching for high-sales-funnel keywords are much less likely to click on your ad with the intent to schedule an appointment or make a purchase. This makes those clicks less valuable to you – and remember, you’re paying for each click you receive.

High-sales-funnel keywords include broad terms like “Nissan Maxima.” People who search for that term are likely in the research or consideration phases of car shopping (if they’re even in the market for a vehicle at all). They may want to gather information about that particular vehicle, but they are not necessarily interested in your dealership or even committed to the brands or model lines you sell. To make the most of your digital ad dollars, you may want to avoid bidding on these types of broad keywords.

Keywords With Greater Value

Conversely, choosing to bid on low-sales-funnel keywords can improve your ROI, because consumers who are searching for these types of keyword terms are more likely to be qualified car shoppers, making their clicks worth more.

Examples of low-sales-funnel keywords are more specific terms such as “buy a Nissan Maxima,” “Nissan Maxima dealership Austin” and “new Nissan Maxima for sale.” Consumers who are searching for these types of terms are likely primed to buy, or ready to come into your dealership. Searching for such terms indicates more strongly that someone is ready to purchase that model, or at least to take one for a test drive, and needs to find your dealership to do it.

As a consequence, these types of keywords are much more valuable to dealers. They represent shoppers who may actually be in-market to make a purchase at your dealership.

Let Dealers Handle Broad Keywords

There’s another good reason that dealers at the Tier III level should avoid bidding on and purchasing high-sales-funnel keywords. A dealer’s Tier I and Tier II parent organizations likely already take care of these keywords. If the parent companies have already bid on broad keywords like “Nissan” or “Nissan dealer,” then there is less need for individual dealers or dealer groups to purchase them as well. It would simply waste your paid search budget.

Traffic to the OEM or Tier II websites that results from these types of keyword searches will, in theory, funnel down to your dealership website if a consumer is in-market to purchase, lease or service a vehicle.

These methods of selecting (or conversely, not selecting) your keywords can work to keep your overall SEM strategy competitive and cost-effective.

keywordsWhat ‘Negative’ Keywords Are

Once you’ve put together your strategy for keyword selection, it’s time to examine your negative keywords, i.e. terms for which you do not want your ads to show up in a search. In many cases, these terms share a word with keywords you have selected, but have a completely different context.

Within the “Keywords” tab of Google AdWords, marketers have the ability to develop a list of negative keywords. When a user searches for a phrase that contains one of them, your dealership’s ad will not show up.

For instance, if yours is a Ford dealership, you may want to run paid search ads related to the Ford Explorer. However, the word “Explorer” has other associations that have nothing to do with your dealership, like the children’s cartoon show “Dora the Explorer.” It would do you no good to serve up your ads when someone searches for that term, so you might add “Dora” as a negative keyword for your campaign. This way, while a search containing “Explorer” might normally trigger your ad, adding “Dora” to your negative keyword list won’t produce it.

While it’s true that someone searching for “Dora the Explorer” probably would not click on a car dealership ad anyway, a misdirection from ad impressions can harm your overall account optimization. Negative keywords help you optimize your account so that you aren’t fooled into thinking that a keyword with high impressions is a strong one, when in reality, consumers searching for that term aren’t at all interested in your dealership.

Putting Negative Keywords To Use

Negative keywords help eliminate unrelated clicks on and impressions of your ads, but you also can use them to help qualify the clicks that you do get. To do this, you may want to drill down even further.

For example, you might still choose to purchase the keyword “Ford Explorer” but also use negative keywords to ensure that your ads do not show up on searches for keywords that are clearly high in the sales funnel. Someone searching for “Ford Explorer pictures” is likely unready to make a purchase, so you might set “pictures” as a negative keyword.

Certain keywords always have a place on your negative keyword list. “Ripoff” and “scam,” for instance, are search terms that you never want to call up your dealership’s ads. You might also decide to exclude certain service terms from your sales campaigns, certain sales terms from your service campaigns, or specific years from your new inventory campaigns.

Compiling A Negative Keyword List

It can be challenging to create a comprehensive list of negative keyword possibilities, however. AdWords can help a dealership with that. Once you’re logged into your AdWords account, on the Keywords tab, you can click on a button called “Search Terms” to see for which specific terms users are actually searching to trigger your ads.

In some cases, these terms will make perfect sense to you. An example: Someone searched for “VW Passat TDI,” it triggered the keyword “VW Passat,” and an ad for that vehicle was shown. Other times, the connections won’t seem to make any sense at all (as in the Dora the Explorer example I discussed, when a search for “Dora the Explorer” triggered an ad for the Ford Explorer). The “Search Terms” tool is a great way to generate ideas for negative keywords by examining what people are actually searching for, and it’s easy to add these ideas to your negative keyword list (which can also be found in the Keywords tab).

Putting careful thought and strategic planning into your keyword selection – in terms of both actual and negative keywords – can pay off in better, more qualified clicks and improved marketing ROI.