The Definitive Guide to Automotive PPC

min read
The Definitive Guide to Automotive PPC

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can have a significant and positive impact on your car dealership marketing program. It can be a powerful tool for elevating your brand exposure online, driving traffic to your website, and connecting with potential customers inside and outside of your local market in real time — to name only a few benefits.

Marketing in automobile industry circles has been tilting more toward digital channels in recent years because more consumers are using the internet to either research car purchases or complete their full car buying journey. So, if your car dealership marketing efforts have yet to expand online, you’re likely missing hot leads and sales opportunities.

PPC advertising, like search ads on Google, display ads on third-party sites, and paid ads on social media, can all help to raise your dealership’s visibility with target audiences online. So, you should consider making it a part of your overall marketing efforts. Following is an overview of what PPC is and how to create a strong automotive PPC strategy.

What Is Automotive PPC Advertising?

PPC advertising is a form of direct-to-consumer advertising. The advertiser pays a fee to the platform that’s hosting the ad (like the search engine Bing, for example) each time a user clicks on one of its PPC ads that leads to its website or app — hopefully, to complete a transaction.

In automotive PPC, a dealership’s marketing team develops an ad campaign designed to reach a target audience, creates a budget and bidding strategy, provides or creates a destination landing page, and then builds the PPC ad, which might feature text, images, video, or all three elements. 

How Much Do You Need to Spend to See Results With PPC?

Automotive advertising costs for PPC campaigns vary widely depending on the competition for keywords and ad space. Some keywords cost between $8 and $15 per click, and the more dealerships bidding on PPC placement, the more expensive ads can become. However, costs are generally lower than more traditional ad placement, as long as the campaign is effective.

Still, PPC campaign costs can rack up fast if you’re not careful, which is why it’s vital to bid on search terms most relevant to your dealership. Free keyword search tools, like WordTracker and Google’s keyword planner, can help with this process. (And keep in mind that a well-produced campaign that attracts active car buyers can ultimately deliver generous returns, given that the average transaction price for a new car is about $48,000.)

Note: Overall PPC costs can be higher if your dealership opts to engage automotive digital marketing partners or automotive marketing agencies to create or manage your campaigns.

PPC Channels

What channels should you use for PPC campaigns promoting your dealership? Consider employing some or all of the following channels, depending on your budget and digital marketing objectives:


Search ads are the most common form of PPC ad and are dominated by Google, which has over 2 billion active users. Other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing also offer pay-per-click ad opportunities. Advantages of paid search tactics for dealerships include the ability to:

  • Target ads by location and demographic data, such as age and gender.
  • Control and adjust ad frequency, the length of the campaign, and the ad budget.


Online display advertising, such as banners, can help auto dealerships target specific users by incorporating keywords that can be linked to demographics and buyer profiles. Display ads can be found almost everywhere online, including on social media sites like Facebook, video channels such as YouTube, and the Google Display Network. Display ads can also appear in-app, while users are checking webmail, for example, and are formatted for mobile viewing.


Social PPC is also paid advertising, but as the name suggests, it appears only on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. Due to the nature of these sites, social PPC can offer benefits beyond a click-through to a dealer website. There is the potential for even deeper engagement in automotive social media marketing. For instance, Facebook users can “like” an ad or follow the advertiser on the social platform; and on Twitter, users can re-tweet an ad, helping to potentially boost additional engagement.  


With ever-increasing streaming speeds and mobility, more people are viewing videos online either on their computers or smartphones. YouTube is the largest platform for video ads with over 2 billion active users worldwide. Advertisers must start their own free channel before creating a video ad. YouTube provides case studies, tutorials, and tools to help advertisers create engaging videos. The platform also offers free measurement tools to help advertisers gauge PPC campaign success.  

Types of Automotive PPC Campaigns

Now that you know where your dealership can deploy PPC ads, you’ll need to decide what type of PPC campaign you want to use. Here are some options:


A branded PPC campaign uses your company’s name and other brand elements as keywords. That helps ensure paid search results featuring your dealership will appear at the top of a search engine results page (SERP). Branded PPC campaigns also attract customers already in the sales cycle, including those who may have decided on a make and model and now want to find a local dealer by name or reputation. 

Competitor and conquest

A competitor PPC campaign uses competitor keywords, which can help your dealership go toe-to-toe with direct rivals. Since this isn’t a typical search ad, and you’re looking to lure a customer away from the competition, your ad must be compelling. Competitor ads that emphasize specific cost advantages (Get $2,500 off!) or underscore your ranking as the #1 dealer in your market based on customer ratings are examples.

Another PPC campaign strategy to explore is the competitor conquest campaign, which serves up ads for your auto dealership when people search the brand names of your closest competitors. 


A dynamic PPC campaign uses content from your website to fill in gaps in your keyword strategy and target ads so that you don’t miss relevant searches. A dynamic campaign is ideal for auto dealerships with websites that feature high-quality content or that have a lot of inventory to show. Google Ads uses titles and phrases on your website to select a landing page and create a headline for your ad.  

For example: Say you operate the top Volvo dealership in New England. If you’ve invested in a dynamic PPC campaign, someone searching for “Volvo dealer New England” will see your “#1 Volvo Dealer in New England” ad at the top of the SERP and be directed to your landing page.


A remarketing ad specifically targets potential customers who have previously interacted with your car dealership. They may have made a previous purchase, signed up for your newsletter, watched your videos on YouTube, or simply visited your site. 

You can conduct remarketing campaigns on Google Ads and other ad platforms including social networks. Remarketing campaigns might feature generic display ads, such as a photo of your dealership or a popular car model, or more dynamic ads that show a car buyer an image or video of a vehicle type they’ve already researched.  


Hyper-local websites allow auto dealerships to market their campaigns directly to local audiences. With Nextdoor, for example, you can create and post ads that appear across three parts of the site: as sponsored posts on the newsfeed, in the “For Sale” marketplace, and in displays to the right of the main news feed.

Video ads  

As mentioned earlier, the growth of YouTube makes video ads a compelling automotive advertising option for many car dealerships. More buyers are watching videos on smartphones, which gives video ads additional impact, especially if used in conjunction with geo-targeting (advertising that uses location data to reach target audiences).   

General automotive PPC campaigns

Your dealership might also want to consider using a general automotive PPC campaign, where you simply advertise the makes and models currently available at your dealership. You can use this type of campaign for hiring or for reinforcing your brand image as well.

Creating a Strong Automotive PPC Strategy

Below are some key topics and best practices you’ll want to keep top of mind as you develop and measure the effectiveness of a car dealership marketing campaign that includes PPC advertising. Some of this information has already been covered above, but it’s worth a quick review.


Make sure to do your keyword research, and test and retest keywords, to confirm you’re bidding on and using the right keywords in your PPC campaigns.

Geo-targeting and audiences

Clearly identify your audience and understand where your audience is. Tactics like geo-targeting can help you reach and follow your local audience — and target mobile users.

Ad copy

Invest in creating meaningful and compelling ad copy that will attract potential customers and tempt them to click through to your landing page.


Create a realistic budget for your PPC campaign to cover everything from developing stellar ad copy to bidding on top keywords.


Analyze the competition’s PPC campaigns to see what works for them, and what doesn’t. Learn from their mistakes and leverage their successes.

Landing pages

Develop enticing landing pages for your website or app, so that when customers click on your PPC ads, they’re led to content likely to motivate them to buy.

Measuring PPC Success

A vital metric for measuring PPC campaign success is the click-through rate. You know you have a winning campaign when potential customers are taking the time to click through to your site or app.

Conversion rate

To measure campaign (and sales team) performance, look at the conversion rate, or how many customers convert to the next stage of the buying journey — whether it’s a test drive or purchase.

Cost per click (CPC)

Once you know how many potential buyers have clicked through your PPC ad, you can calculate CPC. How much did you pay for the ad? And how many clicks did the ad generate? 

Cost per lead (CPL)

Calculate dealership cost per lead to dig even deeper into PPC ad performance. Knowing the CPL helps your marketing team determine how much they need to spend to generate new leads. 

Cost per acquisition (CPA)

With the CPA metric, you’re calculating how much it costs to get a customer from the initial outreach phase to a conversion.

See How Invoca Empowers Your Automotive PPC Campaign

Another best practice to help you supercharge your PPC ad campaigns is adding conversational intelligence to your tool set. And with an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform like Invoca delivering conversational intelligence, you can:

Reduce cost per acquisition with call tracking

One benefit of conversation intelligence is that it offers deep visibility into a dealership’s actual CPA from a PPC ad campaign. Invoca provides an automotive solution for call tracking that tracks inbound calls, enabling automotive marketing teams to tie real numbers to a campaign by putting online and offline (phone) conversations together to give a true CPA. 

Without call tracking, you may be overestimating your CPA

An accurate CPA helps marketers better optimize campaigns and spend their ad budget more effectively. In fact, an independent study on the total economic impact of Invoca call tracking and conversational analytics shows that call tracking helps marketers optimize paid search campaigns by 25% — resulting in up to $1.4 million in savings.

Invoca also integrates with your marketing tools, like Google Ads and Search Ads 360, so you can use call tracking data in your existing workflows. 

Improve retargeting and suppression

Conversational intelligence helps marketers understand what keywords from PPC ads led to a call to the dealership, and what keywords were used in a phone conversation that led to a sale (or didn’t). 

They can also use keyword insights to create more effective retargeting campaigns. For example, if a caller expresses interest in a specific type of vehicle over the phone but doesn’t convert, marketers can retarget them with ads encouraging them to schedule a test drive of that same vehicle. And by cross-referencing call tracking with a PPC campaign, marketers can suppress ads being sent to customers who already converted. So, in the case above, a caller who did schedule a test drive over the phone wouldn’t receive ads encouraging them to get in touch with the dealer to set one up. 

Dynamically route callers to the best location

Using conversation intelligence to route calls to the appropriate department enables your teams to respond quickly to customers’ requests for assistance or information, helping your business increase customer satisfaction and potentially boost your dealership CSI score

Additional Reading

Want to learn more about how Invoca can help you improve your automotive marketing strategy? Check out these resources:

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