Ways to Reduce Your SEM Spend

On this week’s episode of Auto Marketing Now, Brian Pasch gives you some ways to reduce your SEM spend so that you can use those funds for other areas of opportunity, like video pre-roll or a “video everywhere” strategy.


Brian Pasch: Welcome to Auto Marketing Now on today’s show, we’re going to talk about ways to reduce your SEM spend so you can use those funds for other areas of opportunity like video pre-roll or a video everywhere strategy. Of course, we’re going to do our popular email grab bag. So let’s get started with today’s show. It’s not uncommon for dealers to really not think much about their Google ad spend, their search engine marketing spent, it’s co-opable by most OEMs, and they trust that their agency is doing the right thing in the keywords and ad strategy that they’re deploying. So let’s take a look today at simple ways in which you can increase your marketing reach by decreasing advertising waste. And when I talk about waste in today’s segment, I want to give credit where credit’s due. I was watching a video on LinkedIn from reunion marketing, and the video mentioned a very, very common tip that triggered a conversation that I’ve been having with dealers was why pay for keywords if you dominate the page?

Brian Pasch: And it was a very simple strategy that said, “Look, your SEO specialists should know which keywords, and which phrases the dealer’s doing really well for, meaning they dominate the page.” That information should be shared with the SCM company or vice versa. The SCM company should be very transparent on which keywords they’re buying, and to determine, well if those keywords really need to be bought. So this is a little controversial, my recommendations, because Google doesn’t agree with me, and some agencies don’t agree with me, but that’s okay. I’ve done a lot of testing, and here’s one thing that I know that dealers don’t have unlimited funds to advertise their business with margins compressing. Dealers are asking me, “Brian, where is their advertising waste? There’s great guys out there. James Grace from wisely, George Ninny from Generations Digital that are out there holding the torch, and trying to help dealers maximize their marketing mix to sell more cars in the digital age.”

Brian Pasch: So let me just talk to you about a few observations. Number one, dealers buying their own name. Now, for the most part, I am not a fan of dealers buying their own name, because for example, if you are Jay Wolfe Toyota, and you’re the only Jay Wolfe Toyota in the country, why would I buy my name if when I type in Jay Wolfe Toyota, I’m number in organic, my Google, my business listing appears on the right, on a desktop, and when on my mobile phone, when I type in Jay Wolfe Toyota, I own the entire page, meaning my screen is completely filled with the Google My Business listing. Why would I pay Google to place an ad above my free listing on a mobile phone that I dominate? And the answer is, you don’t.

Brian Pasch: Now somebody might say, “Well Brian, if you buy your own name, you can highlight specials. You can include short links to specific pages.” And here’s my response. If they’re typing in Jay Wolfe Toyota, they already have a reason to go to Jay Wolfe Toyota. It may be to service their car, and most of those searches are for service. It may be because they saw a special ad or promotion on television, or they’ve done business with a dealership before. Buying your own name doesn’t bring net new shoppers to the dealership. And I’m saying this under the condition that if you’re a Toyota of Alvin, and you’re the only Toyota dealer in Alvin, and so when someone types Toyota of Alvin or Toyota Alvin or Toyota Alvin Texas, if the entire page of organic search results is dominated in position number one by your website, and Google My Business on a mobile phone, Google My Business. To me, there’s no reason to waste the money.

Brian Pasch: Now there are some people who lean in hard and say, “Brian, it’s my money, and I can do whatever I want with it.” Well, of course you can. But here’s my general rule. I don’t waste any time on dealer expenses under 500 bucks a month. You could lose 500 bucks a month just on a sloppy car deal. So if a dealer says, “Hey, I’m only paying 300 bucks or 400 bucks a month buying my name,” I’d say, “Good. If it makes you feel better to see yourself in Google lights, not just your own organic lights, go ahead and do it.” But I see dealers today spending three, four or five I saw a dealer up to $10,000 a month buying their own name. The dealer almost dropped dead when I showed it to him. They had no idea.

Brian Pasch: See, people thought, “Well, buying my name, it’s only like 25 cents a click.” Today the average dealer buying their own name is a minimum of a buck, a click, and up to $3 a click or more. I mean the dealer who was spending over $10,000 a month, we’re spending over $3 a click for their own name, and I’m just saying in 2019 someone types in Jay Wolfe Toyota, Toyota of Alvin, Circle BMW, they have clear intent to call or visit that dealership. There’s no reason to navigate them to some other special page. Now, there are some conditions if you are Toyota of Orlando, if somebody puts in the have, you have to test that Toyota of Orlando. If you dominate the page, if you’d dominate the page. You may not buy that, but you may need to buy Toyota Orlando, because in the Orlando market there could be multiple Toyota dealers, and instead of your one Google My Business listing showing up, actually it’s a three pack.

Brian Pasch: It shows the three Toyota dealers or whoever, how many there are in Orlando in Google search results. So buying Toyota and the word Orlando could make sense, and an aggressive way to make sure you’re present. If somebody types in Toyota of Orlando, that’s the exact dealer’s brand name, and if the page is clean, I wouldn’t buy Toyota of Orlando at all. Again, it’s the premise that why waste a thousand or two or $3,000 a month when you’re not doing everything you can in Google’s marketing platform to sell more cars in a digital age? Dealers aren’t investing in six second bumper ads or 15 second pre-roll because no one showed them how to create a memorable marketing messaging video.

Brian Pasch: They’re not doing addressable cable TV delivery, OTT video, because they don’t have the money. Well, that’s what they say. But I look at dealers, and well, man, they’re spending money on keywords they don’t need to. I was just recently in Reno, Nevada visiting the Dolan Auto Group, marketing managers, Stefan Precup is a good friend of mine, they have unique situation. They’re the only Toyota dealer in Reno. They have a couple other brands where they’re the only Lexus dealer in that town. That really changes the ballgame, because if somebody typed in Lexis and a model and Reno, and they own the page, why would you buy Lexus a model in Reno? In other cities you have to, but in Reno there are a number of keywords that I know I’ve looked that they were buying. I’m saying, “Why buy those keywords, no one else is buying them. There’s no other Lexus dealers or Toyota dealers in Reno, not even close.”

Brian Pasch: And so what the reunion marketing video just reminded me is, “Yeah, the keyword that you buy should make sense for your local market.” This is one of the problems with OEM mandated or managed SEM programs. They buy a set of keywords or build the set of keywords, and apply that set of keywords to every dealer, meaning it might be Toyota Camry, and then in bracket the city name or Chevy Silverado in bracket the city name, in some city names, they’re the only local dealer, and they dominate the entire page, meaning positions one or two, and the Google My Business or Google My Business on a mobile phone takes over. So I want to encourage you, number one, to consider not buying your name, and then start looking at keywords that you dominate for in your market, but other dealers might not. There are some big dealers in isolated areas of the country that would take advantage of this and save money.

Brian Pasch: It’s going to be hard for any dealers in a major Metro, like if you are in Miami or if you’re in Atlanta or if you’re in Los Angeles. Man, the competition for anything with Los Angeles is up there. That’s not the case in all markets, Reno being one of them. So I want you to look at more strategically the keywords you’re buying. For most dealers I don’t recommend buying their own name, because for every dealer in the United States, they’re number one in organic search for their exact search or their name for most. And their Google My Business listing comes up on desktop in addition. And on a mobile phone, the Google My Business listing takes over the entire phone. For other make model city keywords, be careful if you’re just spending money for the sake of spending money because your agency is using a template. Yeah, that template works great in Los Angeles, but overspending in Reno, and then I want you to really, really think about your retargeting campaigns.

Brian Pasch: I’m not a fan of retargeting everyone who visits a dealer’s website. I believe that your website companies should turn on the PCG standard for Google events, you should be knowing when people look at photos, download the car facts, engage with a payment calculator, when they click on the specifications tab, when they play a video, when they use a digital retailing tool, those events should be in GA, and I want you to use Google analytics free ability to create an audience. That audience can be called Engaged Shoppers. And those people who come to your website, who do things that shoppers do, I would retarget with your sales messages. And similarly, the people who engage with the service scheduler, or if you have good content with engaging CTAs for service, create an audience for those people. But somebody who comes to a VDP, and does nothing, doesn’t even scroll, doesn’t click on something.

Brian Pasch: I’m not retargeting them with that VDP. It could have been an accidental click or a forced click. Somebody who comes to your homepage, and does nothing, doesn’t scroll, doesn’t click, doesn’t do anything measurable. They may just have gone to the homepage to look at your phone number, and call you or to drive over because they’re driving over. So these three suggestions, number one for most dealers, don’t buy your name. Number two, check out the manufacturer, makes city searches to see if you really need to buy them, and other related city searches of course. And then number three, use website engagement events in Google analytics to create an Engaged Shopper audience. Use that audience in your retargeting campaigns. And those three things could save you thousands of dollars a month, which then gives you the ability to do some more modern marketing, which I think most dealers are missing, would be best characterized as a video everywhere strategy, really smart pre-roll, OTT and now addressable video down to the household based on what vehicles in their garage.

Brian Pasch: These are exciting opportunities, but dealers need funds for it. And then this segment, I hopefully have given you the keys to unlock thousands of dollars per month of savings because you need a more modern marketing strategy, and that includes reducing any waste in your current marketing budget. And that ends today’s segment on improving the efficiency of your SEM spend. And now for today’s email grab any question. And then that manager wrote in to ask, “Brian, I’ve been following your work on Google analytics. I’m still a little confused on what the other channel is in my Google analytics report?” And it’s a very popular question because people understand organic. That’s a channel paid. Okay. Their Google paid advertising, referral traffic from Cars.com, Autotrader, CarGurus, they understand referral direct. Someone who typed in www in the name of their website, but what’s this other category? I call it the Google’s kitchen desk drawer filled with junk.

Brian Pasch: For most dealers, it’s the junk drawer for their agency traffic that doesn’t know how to use proper UTM tags. Now let me explain what that means. Google wants to know where each traffic that visit to your website came from. A lot of the traffic it can deduce on its own, but more and more mobile traffic is very difficult to track because of the nature of apps. So if you have a link in your Facebook posts, if you have a link in your email templates from the CRM, and somebody reads them on a mobile phone, and clicks on that link, it could come into your website as direct traffic. It isn’t direct traffic, but Google analytics says it is, similarly agencies here… Oh, that’s right, because we need to put tags on all our campaign traffic, so they make up their own tags. Instead of following what Google says it should be, they just decide, “Let me just make up the traffic,” and this is where the other channel exists.

Brian Pasch: Instead of calling paid Facebook advertising social, they may call it social ad carousel, and Google says, “No, the medium sources Facebook, the medium should be social, not social carousel,” or “Hey, we’re doing display advertising, and the agencies is the source, ABC innovations/display ads,” but there’s no medium called display ads. It’s just display, and they’re always in lowercase. It’s odd for me, especially companies that are out there touting their knowledge of Google analytics that they’re certified in Google analytics or that agencies do say, “We are a Google certified partner,” and they’re selling non Google products that have incorrect tags. Now is the traffic still in analytics? Yes. Can you still do some investigation of the traffic? Yes, but it screws up all your trends. If you wanted to see what’s my display traffic trends? Well that traffic should be in the display channel, and if someone says, “What’s my paid social media trend?” It should be in the social channel.

Brian Pasch: You see the other could have display and referral and email and… Well any ad strategy all mixed up, it’s the juncture. So take a moment to go into your Google analytics, click on the menu acquisition, go to all traffic, and then click on channels. Your other traffic should be close to zero. If you see thousands of sessions in the other traffic, then this means your agencies are not using Google compliant tags, and you should ask them to fix it. If you have any questions or need help, you can just go to pcgresearch.com, and download our free UTM tagging guide for the automotive industry.

Brian Pasch: Thank you so much for asking that question, and if you have a question, and you send it in, and I use it on the show, I’ll send you a free copy of my latest book Just Faster. It’s a complete discussion on digital retaliate in the automotive industry. Thank you so much for watching today’s show, and I’ll see you next week on Auto Marketing Now.

Brian is the Founder of PCG Companies, a conference speaker, automotive marketing trainer, and author of seven books on automotive marketing & attribution.