In Q1 of 2022, FlexDealer became a Trusted Partner in the Google Vehicle Ads (formerly Google Vehicle Listing Ads) alpha program. This was an exciting step for our team, our clients, and a bridge that has connected us to many other wonderful partners. 9 months later, things have changed and we're excited to share exactly how!
Google VAs are a new type of ad designed to showcase vehicles only. They are based on the concept of shopping ads, like you may see when searching for typical e-commerce products like shoes or headphones. We have been asking and waiting for vehicle placements like this on Google for a long time, so you can imagine our excitement now that they’re here!
VAs are image-based ads that serve up on Google to people who are searching for similar vehicles in your used vehicle inventory. They show up at the top of search results, even above dynamic search ads - those "all-text" ads you're used to seeing. Essentially, if customers in your local area search for a vehicle that matches something in your inventory, they’ll see a picture of it front and centre - a more visual way to engage with vehicles for sale. From that image, they can click right to your dealer site, coming in as a warm and engaged lead that your team can follow up with.
Check out this Google Vehicle Ad FAQ blog post if you’re still looking to have a few more questions answered!
Like with any Alpha program, there have been bumps along the way. Here at Flex, we've been open with our clients about the process, timelines, and how managing these accounts works. At first, there were many steps involved for dealers, our team, and the automotive team at Google. This was a relatively slow process, but resulted in getting our initial accounts live and serving!
From there, we were able to obtain Trusted Partner status (which is a step above simply being in the program), which allows us to proceed through the VA setup process faster and get accounts allowlisted quicker. Now, we're seeing accounts get approved much faster than ever before - and we mean much faster. We're able to more quickly execute on the fun part of it all: actually creating and running these ads. Safe to say, connecting with the team members at Google has been an integral part of getting our clients live.
To say this has been a labour of love is a bit of an understatement. But but we remained committed to our clients and the benefits of the VA program, and it’s truly starting to pay off.
Each week, we're seeing bug fixes in the platform itself from Google, improvements in their process, and improvements in our process. Looking forward, we see Vehicle Ads as a way to bolster warm leads that are actively searching for in-stock used inventory: the hottest segment in the market right now.
We expect to continue seeing some overlap between dynamic search (text-based) ads and VAs. Because of this, we suggest that clients using both ad types monitor the budgets of these campaigns in harmony so that the two are able to achieve the ideal end goal without choking the other type out. Know that it's normal to see some cannibalization and overlap between the two, because they're similar in function, but look very different visually. This usually provides enough variation that your different ad campaigns are targeting different types of buyers and widening your overall net.
As more competition enters each local market, it would be wise to plan for the possibility of higher ad costs and budgets to account for more auction entrants. Depending on your inventory levels (and those of your competition) and the types of used vehicles that you have for sale, you may see new VA competition impact your business differently.
Whatever you do, don’t panic! Stay connected with our team through our FlexDealer email newsletter for ongoing updates on Vehicle Ads and all things digital marketing for car dealers. You can also email us or simply book a consult quickly and easily online to chat about the needs of your dealership and how we can help.
Not running Google VAs yet or not convinced they’re right for you? No problem! You can book a call with me, Whit, your Director of Demand Generation HERE. We'll get your dealership set up with an agreement and ready to rock and roll into Vehicle Ad placements before your competition even hears about it.