PPC: What Are You Paying For?

It’s a simple fact that in today’s market, making use of Google’s AdWords platform is essential to getting your business in front of potential customers. Without a PPC campaign, there is too much left to chance, which is something that most dealers just can’t afford.

But time after time, analyzing new clients’ existing PPC campaigns has revealed a set of problems that go beyond keywords and organization. There’s a good chance that your AdWords account suffers from the same problem. Namely, paying way too much for plainly average results.

Paying the Piper

When you look at the cost-per-click (CPC) of your AdWords campaign, you’re looking at the raw data on what your dealership is paying Google for each click on your ad. What you’re not seeing is the actual value of each of those clicks.

As Google’s earnings reports show, they are making about $8 billion per month in AdWords revenue. So how likely is it that they want to help you reduce your CPC? Making it even harder to decipher a click’s true value is the interconnectedness of factors in AdWords. There are a lot of moving pieces that go into not only finding the right CPC, but executing an effective campaign overall.

Now, if you’ve spent time within AdWords, how often does the platform recommend you raise your bids? As someone who has managed dozens of accounts, I can tell you: All the time. And often, dealers or even their professional agencies will take Google’s advice and raise the bids, and thus CPCs, to “get results.” But before we look at the real results you should be demanding from your marketing department, it’s important to talk about value.

Looking for Value

If you think about the folks who walk into your dealership, I’m sure that many of them are looking for the best value. Whether shopping for a luxury vehicle or a budget used car, value is almost always at the top of their list. Now, why would a customer pay more for a vehicle that provides less value? The most common reason would be that they lack the information to make an informed decision.

That’s exactly what we see with many of Autogrowl’s new clients. Unfortunately, some of them have been misled by the agencies who managed their PPC campaigns. Yes, the auto industry is very competitive when it comes to Google AdWords, but the solution isn’t to just throw money at it. It’s about working smarter than your competitors and maximizing the value of each keyword and click.


If you look at the client’s AdWords audit above, you’ll see we not only found some exorbitant CPCs, but a keyword structure all but guaranteed to burn through money.

Looking at the red box in the top left, we see keywords that are extremely broad and have very high CPC. While geo-targeting a campaign seems like a good idea, and it works when implemented correctly, in this case it’s a recipe for disaster. And moving down, the Chevrolet Dealer keyword alone cost them almost $1,500 in a little over a month. Being a pure broad match keyword, a lot of this traffic is irrelevant. As you can see, all these broad keywords really add up and put a huge $9,000 dent in the dealer’s PPC budget.

When is the last time you looked at the match types and per-keyword budget utilization of your dealership’s campaign? If left unchecked, a poorly implemented campaign could put you in the hole for thousands with little to show for it.

Results vs Metrics

Now this is where a lot of dealers we work with had problems with their previous marketing firms. Like the car business, PPC performance comes down to the numbers. The tricky thing, though, is analyzing them the right way.

The client used in the example above had no idea they were paying so much per click, and less so that they were paying that much for completely irrelevant traffic! Although this account was in dire straits when brought to Autogrowl, the warning signs were hidden behind positive graphs and what we call “vanity metrics.”

Vanity metrics are the ones that make a campaign look good, like clicks, position, and impressions. But what these vanity metrics fail to do is touch your bottom line. How much do you care if someone visits your website for a few seconds? What if they’re just looking for the specs on their current vehicle? Would you pay $23 for the privilege?

Of course you wouldn’t! When you strip away the vanity metrics and industry jargon, what you’re left with are the results. And that’s how you judge the value of the work being done on your campaign. Rather than working to improve vanity metrics at the cost of your finite budget, your agency should be maximizing the per-dollar performance of each carefully chosen keyword.

Question & Answer

It’s the same advice your team probably gives to customers: Do your research, ask questions, and make sure you’re satisfied with the answers. If your agency tells you that your dealership needs to pay more for increased traffic, ask them, “Why don’t we instead try to get the same traffic at a lower cost?”

If they tell you your ads are bringing in a lot of traffic, ask, “Can you show me the exact search terms that brought them to our site? What pages did they visit?”

Because, let’s face it, your bottom line is what counts. You’re not budgeting for a PPC campaign just to appear in search results. You’re paying to find customers that will either purchase vehicles or schedule service. When you ask the person managing your PPC account, “What am I paying for,” listen to their answer carefully. And if the price isn’t right, it might be time for a Google search of your own.

About Autogrowl

Autogrowl is a full-service marketing agency with decades of combined experience in the auto industry, from salespeople to General Managers. Through the simple act of looking at marketing through the dealer’s eyes, Autogrowl has saved clients thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours each month on their marketing efforts. With personal account managers and a carefully selected team of ethical marketing experts, Autogrowl aggressively attacks clients’ bottom lines while bringing accountability and integrity to the marketplace.

Apart from serving current clients, team members speak at Dealer 20 Groups, travel the country, and are producing a series of white papers to educate dealers on the realities of digital marketing, with the goal of creating a better automotive marketplace for dealers and consumers alike.

If you’d like additional white papers or to learn more about Autogrowl’s services and receive a free audit of your current PPC campaign, contact ian@autogrowl.com.