At the 2022 NADA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Google announced the introduction of Vehicle Ads (VA), a new ad format on their Search platform that shows nearby cars for sale at the top of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
TRFFK has been piloting Vehicle Ads since 2021 as part of the Beta and in May 2022, opened the Vehicle Ads offering to automotive dealerships across North America and are currently serving Google Vehicle Ads in both small and major markets across Canada and the USA.
What do Google Vehicle Ads look like?
You may have seen the style of ad below on Google under other product searches such as clothing retail, small kitchen appliances, laptops, etc. These types of ads are collectively known as Google Shopping Ads and are run out of the Google Merchant Center in Google Ads.
Popular amongst eCommerce retailers since 2012 (when Google rebranded the name from Google Product Search to Google Shopping), the Google Shopping medium never included automobiles, which traditionally had a more lead generation objective as opposed to ecommerce.
Having waited so long, dealers across North America are ecstatic about the ability to utilize the Google Shopping-like marketing tools known officially as Vehicle Ads to motivated shoppers who will now be able to be served more detailed and visual informational ads, in addition to the keyword-bid-based traditional search ad.
The auto shopper journey has evolved
Automotive shoppers have come a long way with 90% of potential buyers now starting their research online.[i] According to a Google/Kantar GearShift study, 6% of new car buyers ordered or purchased their vehicle online in 2021, up 1% from 2 years prior. In fact, over 50% of car buyers are considering an online purchase for their next car.
So, it is no surprise that Google has now added Vehicle Ads to their Merchant Center offering. Vehicle Ads are currently serving throughout North America, with many TRFFK dealers seeing their listings live, as can be seen from this real example below, from Montreal, Canada:
What are Google Vehicle Ads exactly?
Vehicle ads are a performance-focused, mid-funnel ad format which allows dealerships to promote their entire inventory. Google VA, which as been referred to in the past as Google Vehicle Listing Ads or VLA, are complementary to your whole search engine results page (SERP) strategy including many of Google’s other products.
Never before have dealerships been armed with the ability to dominate the SERPs on vehicles they have in stock, as they can now combine Google VA, Search and Organic strategies to dominate page 1 of a motivated, mid-funnel Google automotive searcher.
There is a significant difference though.
Whereas paid search and organic search strategies are triggered by exact or broad match keywords, Vehicle Ads get triggered when a potential buyer uses search terms that indicate they’re actually shopping for a specific vehicle. So this means more attention is paid lower-funnel query parameters such as “for sale”, “near me”, exact model queries, etc. though the exact science as to how Vehicle Ads get triggered is not explained.
When Vehicle Ads do trigger, the ads show right at the top of the SERP above all other results and include a photo, Year/Make/Model, price, condition (new or used) the dealership name, location (based on Google Business Profile linking) and distance away from your current location.
What’s best about these ads is that when a user clicks on the ad, they go direct to the VDP (Vehicle Description Page)!
How do Google Vehicle Ads benefit dealerships?
Google Vehicle Ads are simple and efficient: Google Vehicle Ads are a keyword-less campaign that focuses on your objectives and serves to the most relevant user. These relevant users will get served up the most appropriate vehicles in your inventory based on search queries that have clear vehicle shopping intent alongside model, brand or other pertinent qualifiers.
Google Vehicle Ads are an Inventory-based performance campaign: Google Vehicle Ads, along with an AI-provider like TRFFK combine the best of machine learning and automation to serve the right set of vehicles to the right user at the right time of the shopping funnel.
Google Vehicle Ads are VIN -based (linking directly to the VDP) so dealers are able to connect their feed straight from their DMS and advertise all of their current, in-stock inventory on Google – including merchandised photo and up-to-date sale pricing.
Google Vehicle Ads will provide increased exposure: The strategy is complementary to your whole search page strategy as well as to other Google products. In fact, in the recent Google Beta pilot on Vehicle Ads, advertisers who complemented their existing search campaigns with Google Vehicle Ads saw a 25% average increase in conversions. [ii]
What’s the difference between Search Ads and Vehicle Ads?
As you can see from the above example, both Vehicle Ads and Search ads can show up on the same search. But whereas Search Ads uses keyword bids and display text ads, Vehicle Ads utilize user-shopping intent and display images with year/make/model, prices and location. Google Vehicle Ads is also a good strategy that complements a dynamic inventory Search ad campaign.
Are Google Vehicle Ads only for Used Cars?
Google Vehicle ads are available for both New [iii] & Used Cars via a feed through Merchant Center. The difference between the ads is that Used Car ads include KM and the Condition identification of Used whereas New Car ads only include Image, Year/Make/Model, Price (inc. country of currency), and Location.
How does TRFFK optimize Google Vehicle Ads?
TRFFK uses automation & machine-learning software (known as DealerBreacher) before publishing to ad networks. This ensures that the ads that get published are up-to-date and are focused to market your most important pieces of inventory. Most significantly, the TRFFK AI relentlessly pursues the highest performance for the metrics of Cost Per VDP and Cost Per Lead resulting in the highest relevancy to the end user – and that translates to the most VDPs and leads optimizing your ad exposure for the same dollar spent.
They do this by implementing engagement rules into the TRFFK AI including:
• Limiting exposure on lower inventory models
• Increased exposure for aged inventory where necessary
• Negating exposure on non-merchandised units
• Targeting the right mix of audience signals from your website & Auto Trader retargeting as well as in-market and affinity audiences
• Geotargeting for location optimization
What type of performance should I expect with VA?
One of the main Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that you will notice (and should keep track of) is the consequent increase to your Vehicle Details Pages. Getting more people to your VDPs is like getting more people out to see your vehicles on the lot – the chances get higher that they get excited to proceed to the next step in the sales funnel.
One item to note though is the potential for an increase in Bounce Rate as users are focused on specific individual vehicles. They see the vehicle they like off Google, click to your VDP, browse the information, then leave. This is not necessarily a bad metric, so keep an eye out for Time on Page to ensure engagement from the click.
Here is a snapshot of results from testing Vehicle Ads with one of our dealers, and the performance looks exceptional!
More qualified leads: Showing customers key information and visuals about the car before they click, helps provide more qualified leads.[iv]
Omnichannel goals: Optimize for both online conversions (leads) and offline conversions (store visits)
Automated targeting: Vehicle ads automatically show your most relevant listings for a related user query
Increased exposure: Serve alongside your text ads on Google.
What kind of audiences can be used with Google Vehicle Ads?
Audiences are a major part of any digital marketing campaign, and with Google Vehicle Ads, they are no different. Proper targeting makes your dollar go further since you are only serving ads to the most relevant, in-market shopper with the highest familiarity of your dealership as well as increased propensity to convert.
In addition to prospecting audiences, you can use your First-party audiences from your website and/or the lesser-converting Third-party audiences on Google.
Additionally (and exclusively) with TRFFK, you are also able to use your Second-party audience signals that we import from your Auto Trader Marketplace listings. These high-converting, lower funnel Audiences increase your frequency, visibility & chances for conversions. This is especially the case considering users will have a familiarity to the exact photo, dealership name and price they saw on Auto Trader, which they then begin seeing on Google.
What are the requirements for Google Vehicle Ads?
Here are the mandatory Google Vehicle Ads requirements for successful Campaign setup, deployment, and performance:
- Vehicle image
- Vehicle location
- Make & Model
- MSRP (For New Only)
- Dealership name
- Meta tag on dealer website
- Google Business Profile Access
Here is what is not acceptable on a Google Vehicle Ads campaign:
- Overlays on images
- Missing images
How can I get on the Google Vehicle Ads Program?
Getting on Google Vehicle Ads is simple – reach out to your TRFFK Account Director and/or Online Strategy Consultant and we’ll set up the feed, tag your website and import the audiences for optimal performance. Our dealerships are currently serving Google Vehicle Ads in their market as we speak.
As of the publishing date of this blog article, not all agencies and/or in-house digital marketing departments have the ability to run Vehicles Ads. Also, third-party agencies that have non-automotive Merchant Center programs are also not able to activate the vehicle ads program.
If you are not with TRFFK and are encountering issues with your current provider, reach out below and we’ll be able to get you up and running ASAP!
Ivan Sandoval, BA (Hons)
Senior Marketing Manager, TRFFK by AutoTrader
[i] Source: Google Gearshift 2021 // Base: All new car purchasers n = 2400 // KPIs: Overview P2P parameters and combinations
[ii] *Google Data, US, Automobile, Aug 2021 vs. Jan 2022. Results are based on lead form submission conversions, estimated off the Aug, Sept, Oct 2021 adopters on Vehicle Ads.”
[iv] Source: Google Support Merchant Center Vehicle Ads Answers https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/11189169