4 Digital Advertising Best Practices

How dealers can make the most of their digital advertising for the best ROI

I often see dealers make common digital advertising mistakes based on the advice of advertising professionals in our industry. The latter often seemingly don’t understand the critical ingredients for developing and implementing a successful online ad campaign.



There is plenty dealers can do, however, to optimize their digital advertising efforts. With just a little upfront education—and ad campaign evaluation on the back end—dealers can make significant contributions to the overall effectiveness of their online marketing efforts.

The following are four digital automotive advertising best practices, and tips to help dealers implement them.

1. Advertise at the right websites

Just because a third-party website is somehow related to the auto industry doesn’t necessarily mean that by advertising there, you will reach serious car buyers. It simply means people who like cars in some way, shape, or form visit that particular website. Casting a wide net doesn’t guarantee you’ll net more business—in fact, it may result in an influx of low-quality traffic to your dealership’s website, taxing your sales resources in the process.

If you really want to reach serious car buyers, advertise where serious car buyers are: at qualified auto publisher sites or sites within qualified publisher networks that have proven track records of delivering low-funnel, high-converting traffic. There is plenty of lead-quality and conversion data online, so be sure to do your homework ahead of time when considering which sites to include in your advertising mix.

2. Avoid linking too deep

A common fallacy in our industry is that you should implement ads that only drive consumers to a Vehicle Details Page in order to increase conversions. This isn’t altogether true. Maybe customers want to see a range of vehicles in your pre-owned inventory, versus only the white sedan to which you directed them. Advertising that is inflexible when it comes to destination URLs pigeonholes customers unnecessarily, creating a less-than-stellar consumer experience.

Instead, direct car buyers to more general areas of your website, such as a vehicle search results page, to give consumers more options by offering a broader range of models or a look at additional inventory—and, ultimately, a better buying experience.

3. Customization is key

As we’ve outlined, advertising at the right places in front of serious car buyers is key. But that’s only part of the equation. Even though millions of serious car buyers visit automotive websites every month, many don’t become leads because they haven’t completed the research process yet, not because they’re not ready to buy a car.

Advertising that focuses solely on targeted websites without taking into consideration customized offers that feature particular makes and models of interest, or the geographic location in which a person is located, is missing the boat.

To fully engage consumers and turn shoppers into buyers, be sure your offers cater to the vehicles of interest and to a person’s market area for maximum effect. And take advantage of custom solutions that allow dealers to use their own images, logos, ad copy, vanity URLs, and destination URLs to really turn up the volume on their digital marketing efforts—and to help avoid significant bounce rates in the process.

4. Measurement is important

To fully manage the effectiveness of your advertising partners, make sure you have a firm grasp of your key performance indicators (KPIs). These include click-through rate (CTR), time on site, bounce rate, and lead conversion. Understanding the metrics, and what your advertising is doing for your business, is key to maximum efficiency and ROI.

By following these four best practices, dealers can make the most of their digital advertising efforts and get the most return for their money.

Mindy Howe is senior director of strategic accounts for Autobytel Inc., offering the industry a full suite of high-quality lead products and advertising services, including AutoWeb pay-per-click advertising, TextShield, SaleMove, and Payment Pro. For more information, text or call (248) 842-3101 or email mindyh@autobytel.com.

Mindy Howe

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