Steve White shares some best practices about how to really maximize your ROI in paid search.

BY April 07

Dealers have leveraged paid search for years – and some spend significant budgets on it. However, whether they do it by themselves, or work with a vendor, I find many misunderstand some of the strategies, analytics and the method to the madness that is paid search.

I’d like to explain a few things and share some best practices I have learned over the years about how to really maximize your ROI in paid search:

Branded Search:

Let’s start with branded search.

Historically, branded search has been the highest performing search type because marketers spent more on branding activities such as TV, radio and newspaper. These mediums provided customers with a familiarity as to where to begin their online search. Then along came Google, which began, in essence, as a glorified phone book. Now consumers rely on Google to tell them what to buy and where to go.

I am pretty sure that when setting up Google AdWords, like most dealers, you bid on your dealership’s name. There are several reasons for this. First, organic results keep getting pushed further down in search results, so this helps with visibility. Second, and perhaps more importantly, if you do not bid on your dealership’s name you risk having competitors, third-party listing sites, manufacturers and lead providers jumping in and gaining exposure to a customer searching YOUR dealership’s name. If their ad text is compelling enough, this customer could easily be lured away from your website to a competitor’s.  As a result, if you wish to be “in the game,” so to speak, and never lose a click to a competitor, you are pretty much forced to bid on your dealership’s name. This is what I like to refer to as the “Google Tax.”

Non-Branded Search:

Non-branded search is what should be front and center when analyzing the effectiveness of your paid search campaigns. When bidding on multiple keywords, the results are typically analyzed utilizing the paid search campaigns as a whole – branded and non-branded – and this is where the true effectiveness of your paid search campaigns gets skewed.

Often, due to necessity, branded search performance is a large part of the overall paid search budget. Those searches are going to happen. However, when looking at the overall outcome, paid search results can look rosier than they actually are if branded search results are included.

Yes, bidding on branded search should be part of your overall paid search strategy. However, to truly evaluate the effectiveness and performance of your paid search campaigns you would be wise to stop including branded search campaigns from your ROI analysis. Instead, isolate branded search from your overall results and optimize for non-branded terms.

How can you effectively do that analysis yourself? Ask your vendors to run a report that shows attributed leads and engagements isolated by brand and non-brand.

You can also look at VDP’s. But, that will not give you the full picture. For example, a customer looks at VDP’s from a non-branded search, they are retargeted and then come back with a branded search. What gets the credit? You would need to adopt a Multi-Touch Attribution model to tell you this.

Paid search campaigns are not as efficient as everyone thinks they are. When you truly do the analysis and segment it in AdWords, or Google Analytics, our data shows that branded search over-compensates for the lack of results that non-branded search terms generate. It’s become more expensive and is less productive.

And that’s why the party is over…at least for those that rely on branded search to mask the true ROI of their paid search campaigns.