We’ve talked about the importance of digital marketing time and time again. But one thing we haven’t discussed yet is the importance of good digital marketing and how to avoid costly mistakes.

As the Digital Marketing Strategist at J&L Marketing, I’ve noticed several common digital marketing mistakes that could be draining your budget and I wanted to share them with you.

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As I walk through these points, you might want to consider what your current approach is and how you might apply the information in this blog.

Researching Your Market

The most common mistake that is found across the board is the failure to research your market before spending money. It is crucial to understand what is happening both offline and online.

It’s important that, before you spend your first ad dollar online, you conduct a thorough offline and online analysis of your market. This will allow you to maximize your advertising dollars and minimize wasted ad spend.

This analysis should help you understand where your buyers are and what they are buying. Are they buying from competitors? What are the top zips you are losing market share in? What are the top makes/models or vehicle types that buyers in your market are interested in?

You need to know who your competitors are offline – and if they’re the same competitors that you have online. They won’t always necessarily be the same. Maybe dealerships that have struggled historically are shifting their budgets online to catch-up. Or maybe dealerships who are monster offline competitors, have a weak online presence.

This information will allow you to build out a laser focused strategy and protect your budget from unnecessary spending.

Radius vs. Zip Code Targeting

One example of what we can do with the data we pull from an online and offline analysis is zip code targeting. This gives us a lot of information about which physical locations your potential buyers are located in and which of your competitors they are most likely to turn to.

Online, we can even identify keywords they’re bidding on, their ad copy, and even develop a better understanding of their market share.

Putting all that together allows us to have a much sounder strategy before moving forward – and before spending a single dollar online.

I prefer zip code targeting over radius targeting for a few reasons:

  1. Radius targeting may be hitting areas outside your target market
    1. Not all zips are created equal
  • You can actually make bid adjustments for the ones that have a higher propensity of buyers (or decrease bids accordingly)
    1. You can get more control at the zip code level
  • By targeting at the zip code level, you can shift more focus towards zips that you really want to dominate, or ones that you’re losing market share in
    1. Only target the highest propensity of buyers
  • If you know that the west side of town has a higher propensity to buy from you then you can target that exact area down to the zip code. Why bother targeting zips in the east end of town if no one is buying out there?
    1. It’s easy to determine top zip codes
  • We can determine the top 5, 10, 20 (or more) zip codes and adjust strategy accordingly by analyzing online and offline data.

By narrowing your list down and only targeting zip codes with the highest number of probable buyers, you will save money. You won’t be wasting it on zip codes with buyers who will never come to your dealership.

Branded Keywords

If you’re not bidding on your own brand, then you’ve already made a mistake.

I recommend branded keywords because this will allow you to defend your ground – if consumers search for your brand, you’ll be at the top of the list. It’s extremely cost effective, you’ll have high quality scores, and high click through rates.

You’ll also take up more real estate on that search engine results page (SERP) – the most valuable real estate online. You’ll have your ad showing, as well as your Google My Business Listing, and organic results listing as well.

You’ll be able to deflect competitors who are conquesting against your brand. If they’re bidding on your brand, you will outrank them and push them to the bottom of the page or off the first page completely.

Ultimately, it’s just worth the investment. You’re going to be able to increase your search engine market share, defend your own brand, and drive more traffic in a very cost-effective way.  You can usually accomplish this for only a few hundred bucks a month – and the investment is worth every penny.

Negative Keywords

What’s your approach to negative keywords?

If you’re not familiar with this term, it’s simply the term used to describe negating a term from an ad-search query. Which means certain words will be removed from a search query to make it more relevant for you as a user. But, you need to make sure you’re constantly refining your negative keyword list.

By doing this, you’ll eliminate clicks from shoppers who are not relevant to what you’re selling – which will, in turn, increase your click through rates, bolster your quality scores, increase your conversion rates (as a result of that), and your cost per click will go down. Plus, you’ll minimize irrelevant website traffic that’s landing on your website and bouncing and skewing all your results.

Ultimately, you’re going to be able to maximize those ad dollars and get the most relevant traffic possible to your website. You won’t be wasting money on people that aren’t likely to convert into buyers, or those who are looking for something completely irrelevant to what you have to offer.

Ad Extensions

Another common mistake is not using ad extensions appropriately – or not using them at all.

I recommend you use as many as you can. Mostly because they have no additional cost whatsoever. They’re add-ons to your paid search ads and your display ads that will increase visibility and increase the size of your ads, which will increase your real estate on a search engine results page.

This boost in real estate could push your competitors down further or even off the page completely!

The ad extensions allow you to highlight unique details of your dealership which will separate you from the competition, and more… like adding a phone number and address so shoppers know exactly where you are and how to get in touch with you, and linking relevant pages within your website that might catch a shopper’s eye more than the main body of the ad (like used cars or service pages).

Audience Targeting – Remarketing & Customer Match

This is critical to online success.

These are customers who have either interacted with your website in the past, or customers who are extracted from your DMS (through Customer Match).

Customer Match allows dealers to upload first and last names, email addresses, city, state, and more into Google and Facebook. This allows you to target those audiences very specifically.

Additionally, you can utilize VIN specific retargeting to reach shoppers with the exact vehicles they’ve previously viewed on your website – across Facebook and the display network.

How are you using your DMS online? This is important to ask so you can understand what your strategy is online. Whether you’re excluding those customers to focus on conquest or using this technology to reactivate customers in your DMS, it’s important that you adjust your strategy to these identified and unidentified audiences.

Ultimately, you can make this all work together to maximize your reach online – and save advertising dollars while you do it.

Display Advertising

This is a channel where ad dollars are not spent efficiently.

I recommend that you audit your display websites frequently. You want to increase brand awareness, but you also need to maximize your ad dollars by making sure you’re serving to the right audiences.

Here, you just want to make sure you’re excluding irrelevant websites and clicks. Much like negative keywords, you want to ensure that you’re only serving ads to audiences who are most likely to purchase from you in the future, or at the minimum, consumers that are in the car buying process.

If you serve on mobile apps, then you get maximum coverage. But, there’s a risk involved with mobile that is less of an issue elsewhere. This is due to irrelevant clicks – or people clicking ads unintentionally and immediately “bouncing” from your site. This wastes ad dollars that you could use more effectively elsewhere.

So, with mobile apps, you can either exclude them completely or, if you’re going to include them, you need to refine your list and understand what apps you’re going to be serving on. Narrow and refine your targeting often!

On the display network or Facebook, you want to utilize remarketing and utilize customer match audiences and really target and refine or even exclude your audiences as much as you can.

Understand Your Market Before Spending Another Dollar

So, to wrap up, there’s just a few things I want to stress as you seek to minimize your wasted ad dollars and get the most out of your ad spend.

  • Understand your market offline and online, know who your competitors are, and what you need to do in order to stand out.
  • Defend your brand by bidding on branded keywords to make sure you’re defending the valuable real estate that you have online.
  • Avoid irrelevant keywords! Understand that they don’t drive the right traffic to your site and aren’t worth spending valuable ad dollars on.
  • Avoid irrelevant audiences by excluding them from your advertising – why waste money on locations and audiences that aren’t going to convert for you?
  • Maximize your DMS and remarketing lists by using them online. Whether you want to go after service customers or exclude your DMS audience completely and go after new customers, maximizing these lists will have the biggest ROI for you online.
  • Take advantage of ad extensions. These don’t cost you a thing but add extremely positive benefits to your display and paid search ads.
  • Reduce wasted display advertising by constantly refining placements.

These are only some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen. It’s the tip of the iceberg.

If you have a limited ad budget, you need to get the most out of it! Reduce waste as much as possible – every dollar saved is another dollar you can invest in getting more qualified traffic, more people to your dealership, and, ultimately, more satisfied customers.