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Google Ads for Car Dealerships

Kyle: Hello, and welcome to the Google Ads strategy show, I am your host, Kyle Sulerud. And today I’m going to be interviewing a guest. And we’re going to be talking about Google ads for car dealerships. 

With me today is Todd Friedman. He runs a marketing agency specializing in marketing for car dealerships. And we’re going to talk all about how he got into that. And some things that you can do if you ever find yourself helping a car dealership with Google ads, or perhaps you own a car dealership and you’re looking to get into Google ads.

Todd, welcome.

Todd: Hey, Kyle, how’s it going, man? Thanks for having me on. Super excited to be here.

Kyle:  Awesome. So tell me a little bit about how you got into Google ads.

Todd:   So I was in the car business for probably a good eight years. And one day, the last job that I had that I got fired from, I just said “You know what? I’m done with this. I’m gonna figure something else out”. 

So a friend of mine suggested: “Hey, you should get into real estate,” which I did, and found it was even more of a rat race than the car business was. So I had to kind of take a step back and reassess a few things and started learning about online marketing. And one day I was reading this article: let’s take everything that you’ve learned about internet marketing, as far as building websites, doing SEO, doing Pay Per Click, doing social media, and why don’t you provide those types of services to local businesses. 

And a light bulb just went off in my mind on that. I said, “Well, perfect. Let’s do that. And I know the car business. So let’s start reaching out to car dealers.” And that’s pretty much just how it’s started and how I got into it. And over the years, you have to, obviously, refine your processes, refine your offerings. But Google ads is definitely a big part of what my agency does on top of several other things. And it’s, it’s been great.

Kyle:  Now, were you doing anything with marketing, when you were working for the dealerships? Or what kind of jobs were you doing?

Todd: I was in the service department. For the time said, I was working with dealers and also independently-owned automotive businesses. And like I said, I just got to a point where I said “There’s got to be something better than this.” All these hours, all the hard work for what seemed like at the time, not the best payoff. I just said, I’ve got to figure something else out.

Kyle: Got it.

Todd: But I was so ingrained in the industry, and I’m a car guy myself, I love cars. I’m a gearhead, if you saw what I was looking at right now there’s a huge painting of a Porsche emblem right in front of me.  So I mean, I’m a huge car guy. I knew I kind of wanted to stay within the realm, but maybe just not necessarily work inside a dealership

Kyle: Do you feel like you have a pretty big advantage knowing the industry and being a car guy? Are you able to apply that knowledge pretty well, when you’re running marketing campaigns?

Todd: Yeah, absolutely. Especially in the car business, it really helps to understand not just the industry, but to understand how dealerships work, understand how the personnel works, how they think, things of that nature.

It really helps to not only just be able to walk the walk, but more importantly, I think, talk the talk. So, if you know how to communicate to someone that runs the dealership, you have a much better opportunity than just someone who’s coming in from a marketing agency who maybe doesn’t necessarily understand the industry and understand how the business works.

Kyle: So does it helps you more on the client side, like you’re able to communicate with these people at the dealerships? Or does it also help with being able to do their marketing and speak to their customers?

Todd: I think both of it helps, really. I think if you have an understanding, not just of the industry, but what’s going on in the industry, it helps a heck of a lot more. So one of the industry publications is called Automotive News. I get it delivered to my house weekly, so I can stay up on what’s going on in the industry. And I might read something in it. Like, I was just speaking with one of my clients yesterday, I read an article some time ago that was talking about how are dealers going to evolve over the next several years. As you know, things become uncertain potentially in the industry. 

And one of the things I was talking with them about was, how else can we make money? You have a guy that details all the vehicles, why don’t we start marketing that we do “wash and vacs” and details if a customer just wants to come in and get their vehicle detailed on a Tuesday afternoon or something like that. So that was one thing. 

Consumers these days want more information on financing. So you start coming up with content for the dealer website to be able to better educate the consumer on the financing options and what happens during the financing process when you go to purchase or lease a vehicle.

Kyle:  So that’s fantastic. I don’t want anyone listening to overlook what you just said. Like, basically, if someone’s thinking about doing marketing for a car dealership, or maybe they’re running a car dealership, they’re gonna have to compete with a guy who gets Automotive Weekly delivered to his house every week and like really knows the industry, because that’s what you do.

 And yeah, I can really see how that would help with this industry when you’re getting different ideas of different things that that can be marketed. Now, what services does your agency provide other than Google ads?

Todd: So we also do a lot of the standard stuff. We do SEO, we do a lot with Facebook ads. The biggest thing I’ve noticed, especially about the car business from running an agency that works mostly with car dealerships nowadays (we do work with some other industries like medical professionals, contractors) but, the bread and butter for what we do is automotive.

So the thing that I’ve noticed in running my agency is while for a long time, dealers needed help with their marketing and they still do. There’s a really, really big disconnect nowadays, between the prospect finding information online, finding a dealership online. There’s a huge disconnect between that point and actually coming into the dealership to have an appointment, to look at a vehicle, take a test drive, and purchase. 

So one of the things I’ve been working on with my clients (and also as an offering just to better help dealers) is I have a program called the Lead Engage System. And what it does is it’s a way to help the teams at car dealerships (we call them BDC, or appointment coordinators) be able to more effectively engage with a prospect, figure out what point are they at in their buying process, and then how do we influence them to come into the dealership sooner than later? Or how do we follow up with them in the right way that’s going to essentially tell them, “Hey, these people are on our side, they actually want to help me.” So when the time comes to buy, they’re going to come to that dealership and not the guy down the road. 

A lot of times what happens is, if someone calls in asking about a vehicle or submits a form on the website, you get a call: “Oh, yeah, well hey, can you come in today or tomorrow. Do you have a trade in? Or are you looking to lease or finance?” 

They may not be ready for that right this moment. And that’s a lot of the disconnect right there. The appointment coordinators don’t necessarily know that because they’re only trained to book the appointment, not engage with the prospect to try and understand their needs.

Kyle: So this Lead Engage System, is this a series of emails? Are there other marketing materials going out once these people have started the engagement?

Todd: So it’s part marketing, but it’s also part in-house process. We work with the people (with the personnel) at the dealership to train them in the right processes and procedures on how to handle and manage the leads that come in. But then we also help them create the right type of marketing and the right types of follow up, to be able to continue to engage with those people correctly.

Kyle:  So you help them create the marketing? Or do you already have certain marketing materials in place that you can let them use?

Todd: So we have some stuff, but what I found is the premises, there are so many car dealers out there and a lot of them say so many of the exact same things, that not just in the marketing, but in this aspect, I try to help the people at the dealership really to bring out their own voice. The dealership has its own voice, its own brand. But the people inside the dealership need to be able to have the same thing as well, because you don’t want them to be sounding like a robot.

Kyle: Got it. So you’ve really got your hands in everything. 

Todd: Decent enough. Yeah. 

Kyle:  So let’s talk more specifically about Google ads. What’s the biggest mistake that you see car dealerships making with their Google ads?

Todd: There’s a few of them. The first biggest mistake I see a lot of them do is trusting these large vendor companies

What happens in the car business is, the manufacturers say, “Hey, listen, you need to use this company for your website. It has a very specific layout”. 

So if you look at ten Chevrolet dealer websites, you’ll start to notice that a lot of them look almost exactly the same. So the manufacturers only want you using specific companies. So what those specific companies will do is they’ll also offer marketing to those dealers. 

And the issue is that it’s just so cookie-cutter and basic.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a search just to see how one of my dealers is doing in their particular market. And I’ll see three or four of their competitors and legit the ad says the exact same thing. Like almost to the tee, the exact same wording for everything. 

So there’s no differentiation. So I think that’s one of the biggest issues: just letting these big box vendors control all your marketing. Because all they do is they take a template, install it and hit go. And there’s a lot more to a business, a lot more to a dealership than just saying the exact same thing as everyone else. 

So you got to create that differentiation. 

I think the other mistake I see now is: not enough dealers implementing video into their Google ads. I’ve had some fantastic success with using YouTube ads through Google with a lot of my dealers and it’s been fantastic. 

So I think those are probably two of the biggest mistakes I see dealers doing nowadays with their Google ads.

Kyle:  Are you generating leads through those YouTube ads? Or is it more like you’d see a TV commercial for a dealer? Is it really just trying to get someone to come in, and then you’re somehow tracking it when they come? How are you measuring that success?

Todd: A lot of it is just the branding of it. And we do get some leads, I do see conversions from the videos from time to time. But the biggest thing that we’ve found is I do this primarily here in New York City. So, this is probably the most competitive market in the country, I would say other than maybe LA. 

So what I’ve been doing with the videos is, we use it more so for branding purposes. But, if you have the right message, and you provide valuable entertainment (as I would like to call it), you’re going to start getting into people’s heads. 

So like, one thing I’ve been finding is the videos…I don’t do the videos with my agency. I have an agency that I do work with here in New York called Car News Network. And I mean, Criss Castle, the owner, is just one of the most brilliant minds I’ve seen ever when it comes to video. So her and her team create the videos and then I will push them out using Google ads.

And what we do a lot of times is we’ll highlight certain vehicle features that people are always asking about, like Apple CarPlay. Or a lot of vehicles nowadays have that feature where you kick your leg underneath the rear bumper and the rear hatch opens up. 

So we’ll have quick one-minute videos where a salesman shows that off. And what we’re finding is not only do people see it all the time. But those salesmen almost turned into like local celebrities to a certain extent. People (are) like “Oh! I saw your video on YouTube! Yeah, Hey, how’s it going?”

And they just, they start a conversation from there. So I think the branding actually helps not just the dealership to build their branding, but it helps the salespeople that do the videos to build their own brand and build their own book of business.

Kyle: I like that perspective. I think some people do get caught up on “we need to generate leads, we need to get people to come to the website and generate leads.” For certain types of businesses though like car dealerships, you really can run branding type ads and see that benefit. So I like how you’re doing that, I like how you’re kind of looking at how that actually is working. Okay, what would you say (and maybe you’ve touched on a couple of things), but what would you say are the top three things that car dealerships should be focusing on with their Google ads?

Todd: So number one is messaging. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve been finding from my clients that helps them, is to have a message in your Google ads that stands out. 

Because a lot of times what will happen is, a lot of vendors that I’ve seen in a lot of agencies that run Google ads for car dealers, especially here in my market in New York City (and in the Metro North area of New York City) is all their ad copy is just it’s very vanilla and very generic. 

So, one of the things I try to do with all of my Google Ads clients that are car dealers is try to come up with messaging that just grabs people, stops them from what they’re doing and helps them. So even if they’re in the third or fourth position, there’s a message there that’s going to grab people’s attention. So that’s the number one thing. 

Number two, most certainly, as I had just touched upon, is the video. 

I think video is going to be a huge key for not just car dealers, but I think with just about any business moving forward. It’s going to help them get the name out there and help to build their brand. 

Third, I’ve started to have some really good success with click to call ads, especially for service. And I don’t see enough car dealers doing click to call ads for their service department. What we’ve been finding is a lot of times if someone’s searching for vehicle service, they’re doing it on their phone. So I think it makes better sense to just have a click to call ad that someone can just one touch boom, they call that dealership service department, so that they can schedule or get questions answered that way.

Kyle:  Got it. Is there anything else that you want to talk about to kind of leave the listeners with?

Todd: Oh, I’d like to just give something back to your viewers. 

So, for anyone out there that runs an agency that’s considering doing Google ads for a car dealer, maybe you have a friend that works there, or there’s a lot in your area that you want to try and reach out for, one thing to understand is that: the automotive industry is extraordinarily competitive

In automotive advertising, you have three tiers.

There’s tier one, which is the national level. Tier two, which is regional. Then tier three, which is local. 

So with tier one, that’s typically like your manufacturers: Ford, Honda, Mercedes, so on and so forth. 

At tier two, you’ll have regional. So like here in New York, you might see: showing up as a Google ad. 

And then for tier three, that’s the actual dealerships themselves. 

So depending on the keywords that you’re bidding on, and the ads that show up in those top four positions, you could have, I’ll use an example for Ford F150

Let’s say, you’re working for Ford dealer, and you type in Ford F150. You can have an ad from Ford, and then your particular ad for your dealership saying maybe like showing a lease offer. But then on top of that, you could also have maybe Chevrolet from the tier one level, trying to “conquest”, showing off the Silverado, and then you might have another Ford dealer ad show up. Or you might have even like a Toyota dealership showing a Toyota Tundra offer.

So it can be incredibly competitive. And one thing I highly recommend not doing is if you’re seeing a lot of those tier one and tier two ads, don’t try and compete with the manufacturers because they will outspend you all the time. All it does is jack the price of the bids up and just depletes your client’s ad budget. 

In some markets, you can do it. I have a dealer here that’s in the Metro-North area of New York. And we show up on top of the OEM (the manufacturer) consistently. But thankfully those ads don’t cost us a lot of money per click. 

So you have to be very wary of that if you’re going to be doing Google ads, especially if you’re in a competitive market. If you’re in rural Iowa, it’s probably not as bad. But if you’re in any major city, like anywhere near Chicago, New York, LA, Dallas, or Miami, it can get very, very competitive. You need to make sure that your client has a decent amount of money to spend on Google ads, because otherwise, they’re not going to show up very often. And that’s one of the biggest things I realized with car dealers is they want to see their ads as much as possible. So I think that’s one thing to keep in mind if it’s a niche that you’re considering getting into.

Kyle:  Great advice. And Todd’s company, his agency is called Altura Digital?

Todd: Yup, Altura Digital Solutions.

Kyle:  Where should people go if they want to get in touch with you?

Todd: So they can go right to my website, it’s My email is todd (at) You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram, too. is my Instagram handle.

Please feel free to reach out to me. If you’re an agency owner, I’d be happy to give you some advice. If you’re a car dealer that’s a little confused about Google ads or not sure if your current agency is doing things correctly, I’m more than happy to take a look. I hope some people find value in this.

Kyle:  Alright, sounds great, Todd. Thanks for coming on.

Todd: Thanks for having me, Kyle. I really appreciate it. Have a good one, man.

Kyle:  This has been the Google Ads strategy Show. I’m your host, Kyle Sulerud and I will talk to you later.