Automotive marketing trends: Unexpected growth for PPC

As we near the end of 2023, many marketing teams will be deep in the planning stages for next year. So, they’ll be looking at what channels are working, and which aren’t. And this is no different for marketing teams working in automotive industries. But what are the industry trends?

Based on anonymised data from our call tracking software, we’ve found out what is and isn’t working for the automotive industry. Here are our top takeaways.

What channels are driving website traffic?

A successful marketing campaign needs a mix of sources, but which ones should be a focus going into next year? Here’s what the data from our research have found are the biggest drivers to automotive websites:

  1. Direct: 34% of traffic
  2. Organic: 27% of traffic
  3. PPC: 18% of traffic

Organic and pay-per-click (PPC) are, unsurprisingly, core drivers of website traffic.

However, comparing it to 2022 tells a slightly different picture. When looking at visitor sources in 2023 compared to 2022, organic search showed a slight decline of 12%, however, is still responsible for more than a quarter of traffic.

PPC, on the other hand, had a 42% year-on-year growth, demonstrating its increasing impact in digital marketing and its ability to drive around a fifth of traffic.

This doesn’t mean you should neglect your organic search in favour of PPC. It’s about ensuring you’re targeting the right keywords with the right content and the right type of search. For example, if your PPC campaigns result in calls that don’t generate a sale but are customer service queries, then this type of content should be prioritised for organic search.

To achieve this, automotive marketing teams should review the keywords that are proven to generate enquiries, and reduce budget from those which are not leading to sales calls – marking them as negative keywords.

If your PPC campaigns result in calls that don’t generate a sale but are customer service queries, then this type of content should be prioritised for organic search. Automotive marketers should review the keywords that are proven to generate enquiries, and reduce budget from those which don’t lead to sales calls.

As more car dealerships invest in PPC, this will mean more competition, ultimately placing greater pressure on individual budgets. So, you’ll also need to understand which keywords are valuable to you, ensuring they align with your overarching objectives in terms of enquiries and revenue to deliver a tangible impact.

In addition to understanding the most valuable keywords for your business, analysing PPC accounts can help marketing teams to identify longer tail keywords that are generating revenue and driving results, but are ultimately less competitive. By identifying these opportunities – either through digital analysis or through the work of partners such as Mediahawk – marketing teams can more effectively generate leads.

Does this match phone call performance?

Calls are still a key part of the customer journey for automotive dealers. This means understanding where your calls are coming from is key when planning for 2024. Our data shows that the main sources of calls are:
Channels driving calls from dealer websites - automotive autumn 2023. Source: Mediahawk.

  1. Google Business Profile: 54% of calls
  2. Other and offline: 37% of calls
  3. PPC: 9% of calls

So, this means Google Business Profile (GBP) should be a core part of your strategy, and that includes investing time in optimising it. Regularly monitoring reviews is just the starting point, with marketing teams also required to actively manage their profiles. This includes ensuring contact details and opening hours are always accurate, through to utilising built-in features such as messaging, and the ability to share content updates directly to your profile. In addition to this, any links back to your website should be tagged, and phone numbers used exclusively for individual GBPs.

Google Business Profile (GBP) should be a core part of your strategy, links back to your website should be tagged, and phone numbers used exclusively for individual profiles.

Outside of digital channels, offline sources such as mailers, events, and outdoor advertising have become a key driver of calls, so while they shouldn’t be overlooked, their place in any marketing strategy should be carefully considered. This is because these channels can be extremely costly, so the results they drive should be aligned with overall objectives – such as awareness or lead generation.

Aside from these opportunities, there are channels that automotive marketing teams are investing in, but which are not driving calls. Auto Trader, for example, is driving only around 3% of calls, and investment in paid social media – while demanding on budget – is responsible for just 2% of calls.

This is where dynamic call tracking is needed, to ensure that these channels are driving the level of ROI you want to see and that their results continue to shape effective marketing strategies into the future.

Key trends automotive marketers need to know

But what does the rest of the report say?

From October 2022 to September 2023, there haven’t been any stark changes in calls or website visitors’ growth. We expected to see a spike in calls and website traffic for the September plate change, but that didn’t surface.

Overall, year-on-year, PPC is on the up and social media is down. Google Business Profile has an even larger influence on calls compared to our last report, which suggests even more people are using it for repeat calls to dealerships.

Want to find out more? Download the full report today to learn the five vital trends automotive marketing teams need to know.

About the author - Harry Bott

Harry Bott, Director at Mediahawk, has over 20 years of experience helping marketers generate a better response from their marketing. He has enabled businesses to improve their conversion rates through his consultative approach and deep understanding across various sectors, including automotive and care homes.

Automotive trends report autumn 2023.
Five key trends automotive marketers need to know right now

Calling all automotive marketers. Download our latest report with the insights you need to help guide your marketing strategy and increase enquiries and sales.

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