AutoNation, Your Paid Search Is A Mess. What Are You Doing Here?

By mike | Paid Search

Jun 06

Autonation is the largest car dealer group in the United States, with over 300 stores coast to coast. This makes them the most sought after client when it comes to vendors. When I was heavily involved in paid search, we always did small betas for them but it never panned out into anything fruitful.

They truly are a great dealer group, and they have great ethics but everyone isn’t perfect.

Last I heard they had decided to bring all of their paid search in-house which makes a lot of sense. Basic math tells me if you paid a vendor a reduced management fee of $500.00 per store that would add up to $150,000.00 a month, plus adspend. That’s 1.8 million dollars a year.

In my eyes, they would need one qualified leader and a staff with no more than 10 rooftops each.

Qualified Leader: $100,000.00 A Year Salary

30 Account Managers: $48,000.00 per year x 30 = 1,440.00 per year.

Total: $1,540,00 per year

Using this model they would save about 300K a year, but how would they know they have the right person running the show?

Two Reasons Why I’m Questioning Them

The Ads

Last week I was doing a paid search audit for a car dealership in Texas, and I saw this ad show up:

AutoNation Ad

Now I challenge you to say that 5 times fast. Besides the ridiculous headline, there is a typo. I suspect they are using some type of automation, and anyone that knows me knows I am anti automation. That is why I got out of the automation business because I clearly saw it failing 2 1/2 years ago and I was right.

Imagine all of the people that saw this ad and noticed the typo. I would love to see the CTR of this ad!

The Strategy

I still have a few paid search clients in automotive because few get how I do it. I know my strategy works, and I have the data to prove it. So for several months I’ve been noticing one of their stores advertising in one of my dealer’s areas. They were there, but not aggressively.

New Car Insights

You see what happened there?

They doubled their efforts in this area for this one store. But wait, now look at the pre-owned insights:

Used Insights

During April they were there a little bit, which is typical. But then this happened:

Used Insights May 2017

They declared all out war with us! Look at their average position and impression share. Now that the new month has started, they did make adjustments because so far this month their impression share it only at 52%. They’re probably regrouping after all of the money they wasted.

Where Was The Waste?

I still haven’t explained why this is wasteful. You may think “what’s wrong with someone competing heavily against you”? Here’s my answer:

47 Miles Away

They Are 47 Miles Away!

This is one of my biggest pet peeves in paid search. They are 47.1 miles away in a bird’s flight. So because their impression share is so high compared to mine, they are probably advertising another 10 or 20 miles above my dealer. If they think someone will drive that far to purchase a new or used vehicle from them I have a bridge to sell them. This is not only wasting ad dollars, but it will negatively affect all of their other metrics in their paid search accounts.

My overall CTR for all of my May campaigns was 16.14%, which is unheard of. My overall search impression share was 95.96%, which is also unheard of. How did I do that? By not using automation, other than what Adwords offers. I do it manually, and I play offense and defense AND I have a very low adspend.

You won’t find this on Linkedin because I’m not here to make anyone look bad, but someone needs to fix this. Could I personally do a better job managing over 300 stores? I doubt it, but I guess it would depend on my team and resources.



    About the Author

    I've been working in digital marketing since 1994. I'm the original founder of Showroom Logic based out of Miami Florida. I moved back to Carver Massachusetts to be closer to my family. After my second winter back, I am questioning my sanity.