By any measure, Paid Search is useless in retail auto

Using your Google Analytics to get rid of SEM wasted spend!

I’ve heard from a couple people that my SEM posts were “negative.” That, what I should do was try to make my point with more “positivity.” Okay, as “positive” as I can be: If you’re a retail auto dealer, you should use your own Google Analytics to see that your paid traffic represents single digit traffic to your website compared to the vast majority of organic and direct traffic. Here, I’ll show you how:

Log into your Google Analytics account, and click on Audience to the left… then click overview. Once there, click the date range in the upper right and choose a date that’s 2 or 3 years back. Take a look at how much your overall user traffic grew or fell when you started SEM or better yet switched vendors or increased or decreased your spends. Like most dealers, you’ll notice there’s been little to no change relative to your vendor swapping or your spend. Sure, as other points open, construction, new products from your manufacturer, etcetera, you may have temporary significant changes in overall traffic but relative to your SEM strategy changes, you’ll see none… BECAUSE… SEM does not work in retail auto the way you think it does.

For example … the dealer below – mid-sized import dealer … changed vendors, reduced spend by $10K+ per month, changed vendors again… and overall visitors have been essentially the same for the past six years.

Conversion Attribution? You want to talk attribution… by any metric in Google you can see that for this dealer, and nearly every dealer we share this “inspection” with, we find that Paid traffic conversions are in the SINGLE DIGITS… by any metric!

Next, jump over to Conversions (it’ll be on the lower left), select Attribution, then select the model comparison tool. In this case we selected a 6 month time frame for the same dealer. You can see theirs, as well as when you inspect yours, that Paid Conversions are among the very lowest in terms of “percentage of overall conversions.”

Ok, you SEM Truthers, let’s check them out… here’s Last Interaction… a staggering 3.39%!

How about Last Non-Direct Click… a massive 4.17%!

How about Last Google Ads Click… a whopping 4.2%!

How about First Interaction… a huge 3.7% ROAS!

How about Linear… astronomical 4.1%!

How about Time Decay… a tremendous 4.01%!

How about Position Based… a dominating 4.19%!

These numbers are even less admirable when you consider they’re being given the benefit of the doubt that these anemic conversions didn’t cannibalize organic and direct traffic (which they most likely do). Additionally, the majority of these tiny conversions include BRAND campaigns that would of course convert naturally higher. Remove those BRAND campaigns and these numbers would be close to zero.

By any method of analysis in Google Analytics, for a retail auto dealer, paid search traffic is the smallest volume by at least an order of 10, and the worst of quality converting traffic. Translation; according to your own Google Analytics,  Paid Search in retail auto is a colossal waste of your time and money. It simply doesn’t work… unless of course you’re a Google White Label Army vendor… then it works wonders for you!

Oh, that’s right, I’ve got to add some positivity: I really admire your ability to take the time to carefully analyze your own GA, use your critical thinking, and do the right things to eliminate your useless Paid Search spend.

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