Before we kick this thing off, let’s start with some quick definitions from the world’s first choice in encyclopedic knowledge – Wikipedia. 

Search marketing is the umbrella term used for SEO and SEM. 

  • SEO (search engine optimization) increases the quality and quantity of traffic to websites by improving visibility. SEO doesn’t include paid placements. 
  • SEM (search engine marketing) promotes websites and increases visibility in search engine results pages. SEM is done primarily through paid advertising.  

But enough with the acronyms. It’s time to spell out the benefits of search marketing and how it increases the quality and quantity of website traffic – by gaining visibility through free and paid listings, placements and advertising. Thanks to Think with Google, we’re going to see how one dealership group – Park Place in Texas – accomplished this with a 3-prong search marketing approach that you can use: 

  • Start the car-buying process on your website  
  • Think mobile – and do something about it 
  • Measure impact: metrics that matter to your business  

Start the Car-Buying Process on Your Website  

Park Place started with the fact that the car-buying process is different now. Shoppers do their homework:  

“By the time a customer gets to us, they’re a lot more educated about the buying process, so we have to adjust the car-buying experience to match,” said Kennedy Gibson, director of digital marketing for Park Place dealerships. 

Customers, on average, visit just two dealerships before making a purchase. That means a lot of decisions are made during online research. Park Place finds that customers who engage with their website buy at a rate two times higher than customers who only use other auto internet sources. In the almost words of Ron Burgundy, “I don’t know how to put this, but your website is kind of a big deal.”  

Park Place’s strategy included using their website to better engage with people throughout the entire car-buying process. They added a path-to-purchase tool to take customers from selecting a specific vehicle to entering financing and trade-in information. So now when buyers hit send, they’ve completed 80 percent of the purchase process! All they have to do is show up at the dealership and they can drive away in their new car faster than ever before. How do customers like it? Park Place has seen a 23 percent growth in purchases from online car buyers. 


Search marketing tips

  • Design a user-friendly website that’s easy to navigate and offers a positive online car-buyer experience. 
  • Make it easy for website visitors to reach out to you – include a contact form on every page.   
  • Offer web chat so customers can get answers to basic questions more quickly, prepare scripts for how you’ll follow-up on more complex questions with a call or email.  
  • Be there throughout the search process – customers start with emotional drivers (e.g., what’s right for me, what’s the safety rating) and then switch to functional drivers (e.g., what can I afford, what dealerships/models are near me, what’s the online price).  


Think Mobile – and Do Something About It 

If 60 percent of automotive searches come from mobile devices, and they do, it’s critical that car shoppers can find you. Quickly and easily. Especially during the research stage, when they’re deciding which dealerships to visit.  

That’s why Park Place decided to create a seamless mobile experience for on-the-go shoppers looking for directions, hours and contact information. They redesigned their mobile site so that – with one tap – customers can call the sales team, schedule service appointments or get directions. And how’s that working for them? Park Place now sees over 15,000 directions-related visits per month and 12,000 click-to-calls. 

Search marketing tips 

  • Be there when car-buyers start their research for: manufacturer brands, vehicle segments, safety ratings, consumer reviews and more.  
  • Check listings (e.g., Yelp, Google My Business) to make sure your information is correct: dealership name, address and phone number. If information is incorrect or incomplete, your dealership will be downgraded by search engines.  
  • Create relevant content for customers. 


Measure Metrics that Matter  

When buying a car, customers overwhelming start their research with a search. Park Place wanted to make sure the dealership reached these people, so they bid more for shoppers who’d recently done a car-related search. They also bid on mobile shoppers. And the paid ads paid off. 

“One in five people that click on our paid search ads end up visiting one of our dealerships, which just proves to us that we are putting our ads in the right place,” said Gibson. 

This led Park Place to change the way it measures its automotive marketing performance. Instead of focusing on lower-funnel metrics, like lead forms, they concentrated on the metric that truly matters – visits to the dealership. Their tool of choice? Google’s store visits

By improving digital touchpoints, shoppers experience seamless service and look forward to the same when they visit the showroom. Making the online experience more user-friendly helps drive offline results and builds customer relationships before and after buyers walk in the door.  

Want to give Park Place a run for its search marketing success? Partner with LOCALiQ AUTOMOTIVE – we can support you every step of the way. From fixing inconsistencies in your listings to flagging reviews that need attention; monitoring your online presence to suggesting strategic improvements to your website; and creating compelling paid search ads to optimizing your website for search and mobile.  


Contact us to learn more about search marketing and how SEO and SEM can work for your dealership.  


Related Content:  

Back to Basics: Automotive Search Marketing Best Practices 

Back to Basics: Automotive SEO Marketing Best Practices 

3 Automotive Marketing Tips to Break Through 



How One Auto Retailer Gets People into the Store by Helping Them at Home 

What Dealerships Can Learn from the Retail Crisis 

Why Dealerships Shouldn’t Ignore Listings and Review Management 

3 Reasons You Can’t Ignore Search Marketing