What Dealers Can Learn About eBay’s Paid Search


By Joe Mescher

By stop­ping eBay’s paid search cam­paigns, buzz was gen­er­at­ed in the dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing world. It’s always com­pelling when a major brand shifts ad tac­tics, but a clos­er look at eBay’s deci­sion shows it had lit­tle to do with the val­ue of Paid Search itself. In fact, it actu­al­ly reveals the impor­tance of well-exe­cut­ed PPC cam­paigns with­in auto­mo­tive.

Here are the key lessons for deal­ers.

1. Start with a “rel­e­vant” strat­e­gy

eBay’s PPC strat­e­gy revolved around an fea­ture called Dynam­ic Key­word Inser­tion, which uses a snip­pet of code to alter ad copy auto­mat­i­cal­ly, depend­ing on the key­word a searcher enters.  Push­ing this  to the extreme, eBay served up ads in search­es for almost every­thing, includ­ing ‘stolen cars’, ‘sev­ered hand’, and even ‘crack pipe.’

Beyond the obvi­ous issues, this approach actu­al­ly drove up the cost of eBay’s paid search cam­paigns, com­pound­ing their poor ROI. Why? The ads didn’t deliv­er rel­e­vant con­tent. Google rewards rel­e­van­cy, and forces users to pay more if it thinks that ads won’t be rel­e­vant to searchers. Thus, a wrong­head­ed PPC strat­e­gy hurts on two lev­els: You’ll both pay more, AND get ter­ri­ble search results.

For­tu­nate­ly, the oppo­site is true too. Deal­er­ships that con­sis­tent­ly deliv­er excep­tion­al­ly rel­e­vant con­tent in ads – brand, loca­tion, deal­er­ship name, spe­cif­ic inven­to­ry and ser­vices– are reward­ed with bet­ter place­ment and low­er costs.

2. Test your paid search cam­paigns for speci­fici­ty

So, how do you make sure your cam­paigns are rel­e­vant? Test them! Here’s how:

• First, make sure you per­form this exper­i­ment dur­ing a time of day when you know your bud­get is active and ads are being served (If you lim­it the deliv­ery of your ads from 7am – 7pm for exam­ple, it won’t help to pre­view ads at 9pm).
• Vis­it the Google AdWords Pre­view Tool
• Search for a piece of inven­to­ry you stock, new or used, by fol­low­ing this tem­plate – [New/Used] [Make] [Mod­el] for sale [Geo-Loca­tion]. For exam­ple, a Sub­aru deal­er in Burling­ton, VT may search ‘New Sub­aru Out­back for sale Burling­ton VT’
Repeat the process until your ads are trig­gered, then review the ad copy
• Final­ly, make sure you know the land­ing page that shop­pers come to once they click ads from your dif­fer­ent groups (For exam­ple, does some­one search­ing for a used Hon­da Pilot click an ad that deliv­ers them to a home­page fea­tur­ing new Fords?)

Hope­ful­ly your self-test deliv­ered ads that called atten­tion to spe­cif­ic inven­to­ry, and drove to a vehi­cle details page (extra points if your ads includ­ed active incen­tives for new vehi­cles, which can deliv­er even high­er con­ver­sion rates). If not, you’ll def­i­nite­ly want to con­tact your paid search part­ner or ana­lyst.

3. Part­ner with an expert to improve effi­cien­cy

Even if your ads passed the ini­tial test, it still may be worth a con­sul­ta­tion with an expert to ensure your cam­paigns are opti­mized for effi­cien­cy as well as impact. For instance, there’s no rea­son to invest hours man­u­al­ly enhanc­ing every cam­paign. The process of cre­at­ing rel­e­vant ads for every new vehi­cle – plus pre-owned inven­to­ry obtained via trades, auc­tion and whole­sale – can be com­plete­ly auto­mat­ed. Here are the key ques­tions to ask dur­ing any con­sul­ta­tion:

• Do my Paid Search ads include head­lines describ­ing spe­cif­ic vehi­cles?
• Does my Paid Search ad copy describe spe­cif­ic vehi­cles cur­rent­ly in stock?
• Are my cam­paigns fea­tur­ing geo-spe­cif­ic text in some of my ad copy vari­a­tions?
• Have we begun invest­ing in Paid Search ads for prof­it cen­ters like Parts/Service?
• Can shop­pers see my ads when search­ing on their mobile devices?
• Do my ads link direct­ly to a Vehi­cle List­ings Page (or equal­ly rel­e­vant page), instead of the home­page?

4. Keep improv­ing!

As in all adver­tis­ing, there’s almost always room to fine-tune your paid search strategy—to deliv­er even more rel­e­vant ads, and in turn be reward­ed with high­er place­ment, a low­er max­i­mum bid require­ment, and increased form sub­mis­sions, phone calls, and sales. By pay­ing a close atten­tion to your cam­paigns, or empow­er­ing a trust­wor­thy part­ner to mind the store for you, you can ensure Paid Search con­sis­tent­ly deliv­ers a high return on your invest­ment, and remains a cor­ner­stone of your entire ad strat­e­gy.

Joe Mesch­er is the Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Evan­ge­list for  and can reached via the.



1 Comment

  • chatmeter says:

    A-B tests are a great way of test­ing two dif­fer­ent types of ads. They allow you to run two dif­fer­ent strate­gies at the same time and see which one is more effec­tive. PPC is a nev­er end­ing strat­e­gy that is always chang­ing. Make sure you are track­ing. If you need to track your deal­er­ship reviews, chat­meter () is one of the top com­pa­nies in the field.

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