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Straightforward SEM Tips

If you’ve been keeping up on this article series, you’re probably thinking “SEM is essential, why haven’t they covered that yet?” And we would agree with you; SEM is very important. The bottom line is SEM (search engine marketing) done right can provide a great ROI, on the other hand, it can just become a waste of money with no results. It’s important to remember that SEM is a piece of the puzzle, it’s not the whole picture. SEM is most effective when combined with an overall online presence strategy that includes SEO and GMB. Now that we’ve helped you develop the first two, we are going to provide you with actionable tips so that you can make the most of your SEM budget. Rather than discussing general SEM as it relates to all channels, this article will focus on several things you can apply right now to your Google Ads account.


Do not focus all of your efforts on being King of one specific hill. This can cause you to overspend and still miss out on potential leads. How can this be avoided? Measurement and analytics are key. Don’t just assume that your campaigns are working because you're spending money. Take control of your success. If you have an outside company managing your SEM then ask them questions and obtain clear reporting.

TIP: Use your CRM to establish markets that you can set out to conquest next. Most CRMs allow you to identify ZIP codes even down to neighborhoods that are either existing sales and service customers or are potential customers. Targeting areas that you have the most to gain from your competition can be an effective way to spend SEM via geotargeting.

SEO and SEM Worksheet

ACTION: Download this worksheet and answer the following questions about one of your current campaigns.

  • What are your top 5 SEO search terms and top 5 SEM ad keywords?

  • Are you getting traffic and engagement for one specific area or several?

    • For example, let’s say that my dealership needs to sell more Imprezas but when I look at my engagement it’s all coming from Outbacks. If I am already doing well on Outback sales maybe I can divert more focus and SEM budget to Imprezas. You don't want to excel in one area to the detriment of another.

  • What are your top 3 worst-performing vehicles, top 3 most engagements, and top 3 most expensive SEM ad spend? Does your biggest need match up with what you are spending money on?

Focus your SEM appropriately

Once you have a measurement system setup you can determine your spend. OEMs may be pushing you to sell more of their brand. Look at how you are currently performing on your OEM goals and focus your attention on selling more of the right brands in the right markets. You can also do some research to determine if you need to keep spending on a keyword. Are you still showing up first under that keyword? Check to see if you are utilizing long-tail keywords. These are longer keywords that are more specific and therefore more likely to convert. They also have a lower competition rate and will generally bid for less. You can even adapt your keywords to the current climate.

Google Trends is a helpful research tool that will show you what people are searching for both worldwide and in your specific region. For example, when searching “buy a car” the top related search in the US for the past 90 days (from when this article was written) is “do you need a down payment to buy a car”. This query is categorized as “breakout” which means it’s had a significant spike in search frequency. This can provide you with valuable insights into your keywords and help you see what’s on the mind of your potential customers.

TIP: Google is rolling out a beta “Insights” page in Google Ads. This page will help you explore custom insights for your business and industry. The features include audience forecasting and competitive insights, as well as trends relevant to your business. This will make searching for and interpreting trends much easier.

ACTION: Take your top 5 keywords from earlier and do a Google search (in an incognito tab). Is your organic SEO showing up as well? If so, can you cut back on SEM and see how it plays out? Take a look at those same keywords on Google Trends to see how they are performing.

Provide a Unified Customer Experience

According to dealer inspire, 10% of digital ads lead to a disconnected experience. Where are you sending your customers? If you were walking in the forest and came across this path, would you know which way to go? No, because there is no clear direction or sign. The same could be said of some customer experiences. When your customer is online, they do not have a sales rep with them that can walk them through the process. They need clear signs, a breadcrumb trail, to lead them to you. Your customers will be drawn to you if your focus is providing them with a seamless customer experience that is focused on helping them with their needs.

“In March of 2020, nearly 1 in 10 car buyers in the U.S. said they made their purchase online” according to Think with Google.

Even if your dealership does not provide a fully online experience, you can make the process simpler for the customer by giving them all of the tools they need to make a decision and start the purchasing process while staying on your website. Do you provide them with engaging e-quotes and OEM quality new car landing pages?

You can even provide a good customer experience once they have left your site. After your customer has been on your website, retargeted SEM can be implemented to show them even more helpful content (video or text) that will direct them back to you. For example, how to get the best value for a trade, how to get the best financing for my new vehicle, the difference between leasing and financing, etc.

ACTION: Pick your most recent campaign. Follow the worksheet to answer these questions:

  • Who is your target audience? Where are they in the funnel? For those lower in the funnel, are you landing them on the correct incentives that you are advertising?

  • Are the OEM incentives you are displaying on your website the same as the ones displayed on your campaigns?

  • When was the last time you did an in-depth analysis with the person in charge of your ad marketing?

TIP: Google will be adding performance max campaigns to Google Ads in 2021. This is a new way to buy google ads across all inventory. It will deliver a single comprehensive campaign that works with all advertisers across a wide range of marketing objectives. This type of campaign will offer the greatest reach, focus on your business goals, and give you more control and reporting. Google has also taken advantage of increased video streaming by launching video action campaigns. All advertisers will be able to drive more conversions across Youtube and Google video partners with this campaign. Watch this video to see what video action ads are all about.

With the above information, you can take control of your SEM by measuring your success, focusing your efforts appropriately, and providing a unified customer experience. The next article will help you to know if your efforts are paying off by reviewing how to best utilize Google Analytics.

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