9 Paid Search Tactics for Car Dealerships to Drive More Phone Leads

min read
9 Paid Search Tactics for Car Dealerships to Drive More Phone Leads

If there has been one constant in the last few years, it’s that paid search remained effective. Well, that and the crushing ennui, but we’ll stick to marketing here for the sake of brevity. After pulling back in 2020, automotive digital ad spending grew over 20% in 2021 and is projected to reach $19 billion by 2023. 

The automotive industry lays down about 8% of all U.S. digital advertising spend — and for a good reason. Over three-quarters of all car shoppers start their journey online before buying, and from the first click to getting the keys, the buying process encompasses about 14 hours over three months, on average. This means you need to catch their attention fast and keep it. What better way to do that than paid search ads? 

But paid search is only part of the journey. About 60% of car buyers will call a dealership after searching online, so your digital advertising has to be optimized to drive those valuable phone-ups that get buyers in the showroom and keep your service bays full. Here are 10 killer paid search tips to get more hot phone leads pouring into your dealerships.

1. Utilize Automation for Paid Search Bidding

One of the simplest, sure-fire ways to optimize your paid search bidding is to use Google’s Smart Bidding. Google’s keyword bidding algorithm takes into account factors you might not think of and it can crunch more data than any one marketer can. Google recently rolled out new features like Simulators that can help you understand how Target CPA, Target ROAS, and budget changes may impact performance, allowing you to forecast performance in Search campaigns.

The key benefits of using Smart Bidding include:

Reduced CPA 

Google’s Smart bidding algorithm trains on your conversion data at a vast scale to assure you’re bidding on keywords that drive the most value for your budget and helps assure you’re not throwing money at clicks that don’t result in test drives. By integrating offline conversion data with Google Ads from appointments set at your dealerships, you can further optimize your bidding and significantly reduce your CPA.

More available performance signals

In Google Ads, signals are the data points that you use to target your ads. Smart Bidding offers far more contextual signals than manual bidding does, including device type, audience, demographic, location, day of the week, and time of day.

More transparent performance reporting

Smart Bidding offers reporting tools that give you deeper insight into your bidding performance and help you quickly troubleshoot any issues including detailed bid strategy statuses, campaign drafts and experiments for Search and Display campaigns, bid simulators, and rich performance reports.

Pro Tip: Use bid multipliers

Use multipliers to apply different conversion weights if some call signals are more valuable to your business than others. This helps you define your own type of scoring system. Once you have this set, add the new weighted signals to your automated bidding strategies to ensure the system optimizes towards the actions that help you meet your goals.

2. Use Call Extensions & Call-Only Ads

The sound of a phone ringing is money-making music to your ears. But make sure you have very specific ad schedules in place for call extensions and call-only ads. Not having someone there to answer the phone is infuriating to the caller. Added bonus: with a tight ad schedule, you can afford to push your Max CPCs so you are getting the most bang for your buck. Here’s how to get the most out of call extensions and call-only ads:

  • Place extra emphasis on low-funnel, high-intent ad groups by utilizing call extension bid modifiers. Bid Adjustments can range from -90 percent to 900 percent, so there is a lot you can do to ensure your phone number is prominent in search results.
  • Create mobile-preferred ads that use call extensions for the keywords you’ve identified as likely to drive phone calls.
  • When creating a call-only campaign, remember there’s no landing page — the only action a person can take is to make a phone call. 
  • Don’t use these ads in situations where someone is likely to want more information before contacting a dealer directly. Call-only ads work best when there is a sense of urgency.

Pro Tip: Only use call-only ads for high-intent keywords

Ensure you only deploy call-only ads on search terms that are most likely to align with a high intent to call. Call extensions, in contrast, can be applied as liberally as possible as they receive more impressions and typically improve overall CTR.

3. Consider Non-Google Search Networks

Google Ads has been the leading search engine for years, but it’s not the only way to find customers. Depending on the audience the make or model that you’re advertising appeals to, you may be missing out on an opportunity that will perform better — and potentially have a lower CPC.

  • Google Search Partners is a one-click solution offering an easy way to expand reach to thousands of sites that have search enabled, including some notables like eBay and Ask.com. If you’re at all skeptical, remember that search partner performance can be monitored separately, so you always have a clear idea of how things are performing and can disable the feature at any time.
  • The biggest advantage to Search Partners is the added exposure you get in the YouTube search results. Did you know more than half of Google searches start on Google and go to YouTube next?
  • Microsoft Advertising (Bing) solutions also offer a way to reach a completely new demographic (higher average age). While its reach does not compare to Google, you may be surprised how ads targeting older demographics perform when it comes to driving calls.
  • Pinterest search is another way to capitalize on even more search intent signals across the web, and it’s a great way to get people who are looking at images of cars to your dealership websites.

Pro Tip: Use a bid management platform 

Using a bid management platform (such as SA360) is a great way to streamline campaign management across different search engines like Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, and even Pinterest. Invoca call tracking signals can also be applied to these strategies for more holistic optimization.

4. Put Click-to-Call Buttons on Mobile Landing Pages

Placing click-to-call buttons on landing pages will increase conversions from people who want a quote or a test drive and would rather not fill out a form on a small touchscreen. 

  • Don’t hide your phone number — make it big and bold
  • Try including it in the header of your page and near your form
  • A/B test button locations and page layouts
  • Always use click-to-call buttons for mobile audiences

Pro Tip: Use click-to-call buttons on high-converting pages

Ensure sales-focused click-to-call buttons are present on conversion-focused landing pages explicitly used to harvest demand in paid digital campaigns. Applying those buttons on more general pages will often result in an at least equal number of non-sales calls naturally being generated. 

5. Track Calls Made from Both Ads and Landing Pages

Making powerful optimizations that drive results all comes down to data. By integrating your paid media platforms with a conversation intelligence solution like Invoca, you can track all calls that result from your paid media efforts, including calls made directly from an ad or landing page. It also allows you to derive data and track call outcomes across all your dealership locations.

  • Use call extensions or call-only ads with dynamic tracking phone numbers in your ads.
  • Use a call tracking solution made for dealerships like Invoca, to populate your website with dynamic tracking phone numbers.
  • The more information you can track the better. At a minimum, make sure to capture the keyword, campaign/ad group, and landing page that led to a phone call. 
  • Integrate this data with your ad platforms so you can view call conversions alongside click conversions.

Pro Tip: Set the right goals for call ads

Don’t expect the same performance from calls from ads vs. calls from landing pages. Remember, someone who is calling directly from your ad is less likely to have seen your site or completed their research, so consider these calls more exploratory and less likely to convert directly. It’s important to establish benchmarks for these two types of calls and optimize accordingly.

6. Optimize Campaigns to Drive More High-Quality Phone-Ups

Keep in mind that keywords which drive high-quality phone-ups to your dealerships may be distinctly different than those that, say, help customers find locations or store hours. 

  • Dig into reports and look at the top keywords driving phone calls.
  • Instead of just counting clicks that result in calls, use an automotive call tracking platform that can analyze calls to accurately and automatically identify conversions.
  • Optimize your bids to ensure keywords generating the most quality calls will get top ad positions.
  • Split your campaigns up by device to reduce your mobile bids and drive more traffic at a lower CPA. Isolating your mobile traffic can improve call volume since they prefer to call over 50% of the time.
  • Test creating call-only campaigns for keywords proven to drive high-quality calls.
  • Double-check that your campaigns are sending customers to landing pages where the phone number is prominent and clickable.

Pro Tip: Suppress ads to converted and unqualified customers 

A lot of time is spent developing audiences for remarketing and customization strategies, but don’t forget about the audiences you’d like to suppress. Having negative call signals can be just as important as positive ones to determine the types of callers you want to avoid spending your marketing dollars on.

7. Set Bid Modifiers for Peak Call Times

Call volume for most dealerships fluctuates throughout the day and night. People probably won’t call to schedule a test drive at 11 p.m. on Monday, but they will light up the phones at 9 a.m. on Saturday. If you’re not increasing bids during peak hours, you could be missing out on calls and if you’re bidding during off hours, you could be sending valuable leads to voicemail.

  • Analyze call data in Google Ads, Google Analytics, or a third-party tool to spot peak days and times for phone calls. 
  • Confirm that these are quality calls from prospects. This can be done by looking at call duration or by using Invoca to get deep conversation analytics.
  • Increase bid modifiers to make sure your call ads appear during those times.

Pro Tip: Use AI to manage multipliers

Managing bid multipliers manually can get out of hand quickly. Whenever you can, lean on AI to action this type of optimization. If you are using smart bidding strategies (in Google Ads or SA360, for example), the algorithm will identify call volume trends and automatically adjust bids to maximize performance. 

8. Target the Your Dealership Locations

If your dealers only serve customers in Kansas, you don’t want to pay to drive calls from California. Additionally, you can identify areas that you are getting a high volume of calls from and focus targeting on them. 

  • Use call tracking data to identify regions with high call volumes.
  • Identify areas that are geographically relevant to your dealers. 
  • In Google Ads, set the location you want to target. You can then modify your bids to make sure your call-based ads appear in those regions.

Pro Tip: Focus on high-volume regions

Take it one step further and analyze call tracking data for conversion insights by a target area. If you have a strong case, it might be worth modifying your location targeting and budgets to maximize the volume of calls in certain geographic regions.

9. Use AI to Analyze Phone Conversations

Phone conversations provide a wealth of insight into your customers, their needs, and preferences. Platforms like Invoca provide searchable call transcripts in addition to powerful conversation intelligence so you can easily spot areas for improvement and find new opportunities for growth.

  • Listen to phone calls to find new keyword opportunities.
  • Use conversation insights to optimize your ads and landing page copy so they reflect the language of your audience.
  • Use conversation intelligence to track the outcome of your calls so you can identify the keywords driving your high-quality calls.
  • Retarget people based on the call outcome by syncing conversation data with your retargeting campaigns and RLSAs (retargeting lists for search ads). This way you can retarget unconverted callers with a special offer or converted callers with service and maintenance specials.

Pro Tip: Use out-of-the-box call tracking signals

While you’re waiting for your AI signals to build in statistical confidence, don’t forget about the signals that are available out of the box. They are extremely powerful and layering specific combinations can make for very precise signals. It’s also very helpful if you know what the possible IVR spoken phrases are, as they may offer valuable clues about what’s transpiring on the call. 

Additional Resources:

AutoNation Case Study: See how Invoca enables AutoNation to optimize media spend, empower contact center agents with insights from phone calls, and connect the full digital-to-call experience.

Blog: How to Boost Your Dealership CSI Scores with Conversation Intelligence

Schedule a demo to learn more about how Invoca conversation intelligence enables you to drive more leads to every dealership. 

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