When you take a look at what’s happening on the internet, you can’t help but draw comparisons to roads, streets and highways. At last count, Google reported that it was processing more than 40,000 search queries — every second. That’s more than 3.5 billion searches every single day. Take a look at the daily count here. It’s amazing stuff.

7 SEM Automotive Tactics - Header Image

But keep in mind that’s just Google. While it claims about 80 percent of searches globally, there’s still a 20 percent share of searches conducted on other search engines like Bing, Baidu, Yahoo and Ask. That’s a whole lot of traffic you can’t afford to ignore.


Those are the type of statistics that back the case for developing an SEM automotive strategy to capture your share of search queries among car shoppers — and, of course, leads that translate into sales.


According to a 2016 study by AutoTrader, the average car shopper is spending 14.4 hours shopping for a car. Of that time, a whopping 59 percent is spent browsing the internet as part of the process. Only 2 percent of that time is spent researching print material. The remainder of that time?


About 3 percent is spent talking to other people about their car purchases while the remainder of the time — about 36 percent — is dedicated to shopping at dealerships, either the one where the car was purchased or other dealerships.


First, let’s dig into the definition of SEM — search engine marketing. The term has evolved over the years among many experts to include different variations of marketing. At one point, SEM was used to describe marketing that included search engine optimization (SEO) and the purchase of advertisements on search engines.


Today, if you hear the term SEM, SEM automotive strategy or other variations, it’s likely that the person is referring to paid search, including paid search ads and pay-per-click. While the concept is not incredibly difficult to understand, getting great results through SEM requires some pre-planning before execution, testing, data analysis and tweaking.


Here are 7 SEM automotive tactics to get you started:


1. Start with Google Adwords.

With Google commanding the largest share of search, your SEM automotive campaign should definitely contain a Google Adwords strategy.


While you should be investing in marketing campaign to boost organic results, you can invest in a more immediate solution by getting your brand in front of your targeted audience with paid advertising on search. With Google Adwords, you must plan strategically to get the maximum benefit from your investment. Read on for more tips.


2. Select search terms carefully.


According to an article in Search Engine Journal, it’s just as important to identify the wrong keywords/search words for your campaign as it is to identify the right ones. If you choose search terms that are not quite related to your audience, you could receive a lot of clicks from users who are looking for something other than what you offer.

“Make your campaign more effective — and less costly — by avoiding the wrong keywords and choosing the right ones.”


For example, let’s say that you specialize in high-end used cars. You have a specific target:  an audience with more disposable income than a recent college graduate.


Avoid search terms that would make lead some car shoppers to think that you have economy cars on your lot. Here’s why. For every shopper that clicks on your ad, you pay a certain amount per click. Make your campaign more effective — and less costly — by avoiding the wrong keywords and choosing the right ones.


3. Post engaging ad copy.


While you don’t want to attract buyers who don’t fit your audience, it’s important to attract those who do. Take the time to develop copy that touches upon the wants and desires of your ideal buyers.


Think of incentives that may appeal to them such as competitive interest rates, a wide selection of used car models, or easy trade appraisals. Do some data research to determine the avenues that have attracted traffic during recent searches. Make sure your copy is compelling to attract the attention of your potential buyers.


4. Use ad extensions.


With the use of ad extensions, you’re able to provide additional information in certain areas of your advertisement. Again, it’s important to determine how effective these will be in attracting your specific buyers.


“With the use of ad extensions, you’re able to provide additional information in certain areas of your advertisement.”


You could run the risk of having more clicks from an audience that won’t be interested in your inventory. But, on the other hand, you could potentially boost the number of clicks from buyers who are very interested in what you have to offer. Choose your copy for extensions strategically.


5. Develop an effective landing page.


If you’re directing traffic to your site with a specific appeal, it doesn’t make sense to send them to an irrelevant landing page. Let’s say your SEM automotive campaign is highlighting special pricing on certain vehicles or great interest rates. Or a special interactive tool to determine the trade-in value of their car.


Why would you direct them to your generic home page? Take the time to develop or upgrade a landing page that is relevant to the ad. Make sure it includes a clear call-to-action (CTA) for next steps. This page should be effective in generating leads and conversions.

6. Use tracking.


It’s important to track metrics to get a better understanding of how well your campaign is performing. Don’t settle for just click-through rates and impressions. Go more in-depth by monitoring how well the overall campaign is performing based on leads from forms that have been filled in and other forms of contact that produce leads.

7. Implement A/B testing.


The beauty of search engine marketing is that you can quickly switch things up if necessary. That’s why it’s important to use A/B testing to determine what type of copy is more effective in attracting your preferred audience. With A/B testing, you simply test out two different types of ads before choosing the one that performs better. If neither ad performs well, you can test another set.


With so many car shoppers spending the majority of their time searching for cars online, you can’t afford to ignore the benefits that SEM automotive marketing can have in expanding your marketing options.