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Automotive Search Marketing Trends – May 2020

Updated: Mar 21

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” – Albert Einstein

Change is inevitable. The most successful businesses are those that can adapt quickly to new challenges as they arise.

At CBC Automotive Marketing we pride ourselves on providing our clients with beneficial, accurate and up-to-date information they can use to maximize their success. This has never been more important than now. We’ve done the research, crunched the numbers, talked to the insiders at Google, Bing, Oracle and more, and we’ve come up with some key automotive search advertising strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking at search activity since the onset of the pandemic, it’s clear that the game has shifted. Early on, new car buying search dropped by an average of 20% and used by 35-40%, but today, 9 weeks in, we’re seeing some bounce back. Auto dealers need to make sure they are targeting part of their digital marketing budgets to accommodate this uptick in COVID-19 related searches, with some important qualifications:

  1. Generic car buying search terms like buy a car or new car sales have lost volume during the crisis, while more specific terms that emphasize online or remote purchasing have picked up steam.

  2. Terms like online car buying and similar are receiving a high volume of searches and clicks. However, our initial data is showing a modest 2% conversion rate for leads. Since the cost per lead (CPL) we’re seeing is competitive at an average of $35, we currently recommend investing in this keyword group if you are offering online purchasing options.

  3. Search terms focused around home delivery have a lower search volume than online buying terms, but so far have a stronger 3.8% lead to conversion rate. These leads do tend to be more expensive, coming in around $55 CPL, but the high-quality nature of the leads makes the investment worthwhile.

  4. Our data suggests that auto consumers, while still looking for a deal, do want reassurances that purchasing or servicing a vehicle is safe. Search terms like corona car deals, corona auto service, safely buy a car and hygienic car service all continue to experience dramatic increases in volume. Initial data on these strongly suggests positive ROI for dealers.

  5. Not all search terms that seem relevant today are performing well. For instance, our data is showing that terms related to trade-in appraisal at home—which on the surface seem to address a valid consumer concern—have low search volume, low CTR, and produce few if any leads for dealerships.

The formula for lasting business success is accepting current realities and intelligently embracing necessary change. Now more than ever, dealerships need to reassure consumers that they are doing everything necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of their customers and staff. Getting that message out to your customer and controlling your narrative are doubly important to auto dealers during this challenging time. Click here to read more about how auto dealers can control the narrative during COVID-19.

Search trends in automotive typically change at a snail’s pace. But clearly, the current situation has had a dramatic impact on what consumers are searching for and what messaging they are responding to. Exactly how long this impact will continue remains to be seen, but it’s entirely possible that consumer priorities have shifted for the long term. While we expect that shift to continue to be reflected in search trends, it remains crucial to have a data-driven approach, to ensure that your search marketing dollars are well-spent.

When the time is right to discuss your marketing plans, let’s have a conversation.

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