What are Google VLAs? 5 Things You Need to Know

By: Whit Norrad   |   11 Jan 2022
Google VLAs

I bet you’ve been hearing about Google VLAs - and it’s for good reason! Google VLAs are a new spin on the world’s most-used search engine and marketplace. Better yet, it’s not over saturated, giving you the best opportunity possible to take advantage. Let’s dig in.


So, What are Google VLAs?

Google VLAs stands for Google Vehicle Listing Ads. These are paid placements for vehicles (which ones? That depends on your geography) that show up in Google Search Results. 

They look like this:

Google VLA

They’re the newest and most-awaited paid ad placement we’ve seen since the launch of Facebook Marketplace. 

Google VLAs are for used inventory only, and display details such as:

check markYour dealership’s location
check markThe vehicle make/model/trim + headline
check markPrice
check markDealership name
check markProximity to the user

They’re similar to what you might find from a Best Buy Google Shopping ad if you were to search for headphones. This is the first time in history that Google has ever offered a way to display feed-based inventory in search results through a paid placement.

They’re Like Search Ads With Pictures

Historically, if I could recommend one type of advertising to any car dealership, it would be Google Search ads. 

Why? They have the ability to show up for only what you want, when you want, in a play-to-play manner. With dynamic search ads, any pages and content on your website that you want to be eligible for bidding can be. Those that you don’t want, won’t. This means that you can only bid on the inventory you have or the search terms that are relevant.

While different in nature and execution, VLAs bear a striking resemblance to Search Ads because what’s displayed is based on your real-time inventory. Simply, if you have the vehicle someone has search for, you’re eligible to bid and show up. If you don’t, you won’t.

Pretty efficient, if you ask me!

You’ll Likely Need to Modify Your Search Ads Budget

Because Search Ads and VLAs are so similar, it’s only logical that VLAs will cannibalize some of the paid clicks that Search Ads typically receive. Where the program is so new, there are no hard-and-fast standards to adhere to.

Like everything in marketing, the key to the game is monitoring your progress and ongoing optimization. A broad and simple suggestion is to keep your existing search budget the same, while allocating a secondary budget amount for VLAs. From there, see what happens and adjust accordingly!


Google VLAs Aren’t Facebook Marketplace Listings

Yes, Google VLAs and Facebook Marketplace have similarities (even though Facebook Marketplace no longer allows automated feeds for listings). 

No, the two are not equal.

Firstly, Facebook Marketplace was a “free” way to list used inventory on their marketplace. Now, the only way to upload a feed is a ramshackle roundabout adventure:

1. Make feed-based inventory ads in Facebook Business Manager

2. Hope FBM will let you choose Marketplace as the only listing placement

3. Pay to play with placements that aren’t equivalent to a manual upload

So which one is better? I’ll bet my bottom Bitcoin that Google VLAs will prove superior over the long run, and even in the Alpha state.

Why? Google is the most-used Search Engine in the entire world. It controls 90% of the search engine market and is home to over 5.4 billion searches per day. You could ask almost anyone these days, and when they’re looking to buy or research a new product, the very first place that they go is Google. 

Vehicle shoppers are no exception.


In Canada, VLAs are in Alpha

In the tech world, an Alpha product is the first iteration of a new product. This means that there is the potential for bugs/errors with the product. As more and more dealerships start to use the product, the feedback and tech usage will allow Google Trusted Partners like FlexDealer to learn more, iterate, and optimize, while also allowing our connections at Google to modify the code and product itself for improvement. This will allow it to advance to a Beta state and beyond.


Ricky Bobby did say, “If you ain’t first, you’re last,” and we don’t like losing. How about you?

Get ahead of the competition and in front of your customers with Google Vehicle Listing Ads through your trusted partner, and your Google Trusted Partners at FlexDealer.