Sandicliffe Motor Group is a site multi-franchised new and used car & van dealer based in the East Midlands. Established for over 70 years, Sandicliffe is well known in the local area and holds a fantastic reputation.
Why Sandicliffe were looking to change PPC Management
The team at Sandicliffe was growing tired of the results and service they were receiving from ‘award winning’ digital marketing agencies and were looking for an improvement in the results achieved from PPC after working with several agencies in a row, as well as improved reporting, responsiveness and communication from a new provider. Maley Digital was approached by Sandicliffe in July 2019, a meeting was arranged and a full audit and strategy plan was presented
Where were the opportunities with this account?
Where were the opportunities with this account? From the audit we conducted, it was apparent that there were multiple opportunities and areas ready for improvement, including:
Overreliance on automated bidding
Don’t get us wrong, automated bidding has its place and can work exceptionally well in specific cases! However, on this account, blanket automated bidding was applied across all campaigns, regardless of what the purpose/scope of each of those campaigns was. The result was that some of the client’s campaigns targeting top selling new cars were not showing ads at all, because automated bidding was running with a maximum CPC cap that was not high enough; this meant that the client was unfortunately receiving less than 5% of the impression share eligible for a number of major campaigns. Effectively, the client was not visible on PPC at all for some of its top sellers.
No call conversion tracking
The team at Sandicliffe was unaware of the options available to them in terms of the ability to accurately track call conversions in both Google Ads and on Google Analytics for their other marketing channels. In the automotive industry, we’ve found that typically more than 50% of the leads generated come through as phone calls, so the account was being optimised on less than 50% of the actual conversion data. With third party call tracking providers available off the shelf, it was a no brainer for us to introduce this for Sandicliffe and subsequently allow all possible conversions generated by the PPC activity to be tracked.
Low impression share
A big contributor to low impression share comes back to the automated bidding approach, which meant that particularly for key models, but also across the board, the Sandicliffe team was only obtaining a fraction of the potential impression share available for keywords in its geographical areas. Another reason for the lack of impression share was a lack of budget management, with key campaigns capped but poorer performing and less commercially significant campaigns (such as competitor model targeting), being prioritised.
Lack of negative keyword management
Sandicliffe sell both new and used cars, alongside providing a range of other services such as aftersales care and parts. An important consideration, particularly on more generic keywords, is to ensure that you are only triggering keywords that are fully relevant to the advert and landing page that you’re going to send the user to.
Under the previous management, keywords indicating that the user’s intent was for a used car (determined at either blatant level where the user had included “used” or “second-hand” in their query, through to more subtle keywords such as “15 plate” or “MK3”, for example). This was wasting a decent amount of budget as most users that hit the landing page from a “used” keyword but triggering a “New” campaign would bounce immediately from the page. Dynamic Keyword Insertion was also used on these ads, meaning that the headline of the advert replicated the user’s search – therefore misleading them into thinking the advert was for a used vehicle, rather than a new one.
Additionally, the client’s brand name and its variants were not excluded from non-brand campaigns. This not only paints an unrealistic impression of how effective these campaigns are, but it also wastes money; brand clicks are easily attainable at less than £0.05 per click, but when triggered by a non-brand campaign the CPC would be in line with the average CPC of the campaign, so £0.50+ for the automotive industry.
Location only based keyword targeting
In many campaigns, only location-based keywords were included – for example ‘+Ford +Service +Leicester’ and strangely these were also only eligible to show in a small radius around the dealerships. This meant that:
a) If the user was in the catchment area (eg. Nottingham) and just searched for ‘Book Ford Fiesta Service Near Me’, then the ads would not be eligible to show because the user hadn’t included the keyword ‘Nottingham’ in their search.
b) If, for example, the user was away for the weekend in Bath, but was trying to get their service booking sorted for the week ahead and searched for ‘Book Ford Service Nottingham’, then the ads would also not show because the user is outside of the radius targeting for this campaign and would be the case even though the location was specified in the search term.
Misleading overall results due to dodgy display campaigns
It is very easy to get clicks for £0.01 on the display network, particularly when advertising your content on low quality apps and games. Often, this is a move used by PPC providers to inflate the overall results and paint a misleading picture of the effectiveness of their campaigns. With almost 10,000 clicks per month coming from this type of campaign, it was both a complete waste of money for the client (at around £1,000/month with no conversions) and a dilution of the real results achieved from the rest of the campaigns.
No attempts to optimise by device, day/hour of day or demographic
In Google Ads you have the option to uplift or decrease bids for your campaigns and ad groups in order to adjust how you rank and how much you pay based on device performance; some types of campaigns will work very well on mobile devices, whereas others will work much better on desktop. The issue here was that this feature was not being utilised at all – a huge missed opportunity for the client.
Missing campaign extensions
Call extensions were only assigned to 30% of the live campaigns, meaning that a huge amount of click-to-call conversions were being missed out on – some of the cheapest and most valuable conversions you can acquire from PPC.
The steps we took to improve this account
Taking into account the various issues that we’d come across in the audit, we concluded that a complete re-build of the campaign structure across the entire account would yield the best long- term results in terms of account performance, management efficiency and reporting. Where possible, we re-built new campaigns on top of old campaigns to preserve the historical data.
Every campaign was re-built and re-structured to pick up 100% of the relevant terms available and split into campaigns by match type in order to allow us to better manage the performance of specific, exact match keywords – with exact match keywords added as negative keywords to the broader campaigns. We also:
• Created a new ad schedule that was able to take full advantage of hour of day and day of week bid adjustments not possible within the previous setup.
• Ensured that all location settings were the most relevant, with generic campaigns previously limited to users only in the exact locations and location campaigns (where the search term has to include a location) opened up to the entire country as the intent of the search was much clearer.
• Targeted the regions by postcode instead of radius targeting (using some radius targeting to fill in gaps) in order to allow more specific bid adjustments.
• Removed ‘search partners’ from all campaigns as it was performing poorly.
• Made sure that every campaign had at least the minimum two expanded ads and one Responsive Search Ad.
• Added new campaigns for models/areas of business not previously covered. There were a number of opportunities here, such as the Motability and service areas of the business.
We also initially set all campaigns to manual bidding so that we could retain better control of ad position and impression share. We found that we were able to get significantly more clicks and impressions for important keywords by doing it this way. However, as we have continued to work on the account and gather more data we have introduced some automated bidding strategies as well as dynamic campaigns in order to maximise return and ensure we’re covering all corners in terms of keyword opportunities.
In addition to the re-build of this account, by checking the accounts daily; keeping on top of bids; regularly mining the search terms report to exclude irrelevant terms and add in new keyword opportunities; optimising bids at device, postcode and hour of day/day of week; reviewing landing page performance; and collaborating with Sandicliffe’s in-house team to maximise ad copy and push the best offers, we have managed to significantly improve the results achieved from PPC for the client. This is analysed in more detail below.
At the time of writing (February 2020), we are six months into managing the Google Ads account for Sandicliffe and have achieved the following;
• The highest number of leads generated directly from PPC for any single month. Consecutively from September to January 2020, each month we set a new record for the total number of leads generated from PPC. In January 2020, we generated 225% more leads directly from PPC than in January 2019 and PPC now accounts for more than 55% of all leads generated from digital channels.
• Lowest ever cost per lead. As we were working with a very similar budget to the previous agency, we were able to significantly reduce the average cost per lead in order to generate the increase in leads mentioned above. Comparing July 2019 (the last month the previous agency was managing the accounts) to November 2019, we were able to achieve a 67% reduction in the cost per lead.
• Coverage for all makes and models. With the same budget available to us as the previous agency, we were able to ensure that all new car models that Sandicliffe sell were fully visible on PPC.
• Maximise performance for key models. Lack of best practice from previous agencies meant that bestselling cars such as the Ford Fiesta were being limited to as little as only 50% visibility in Sandicliffe’s areas. With some quick fixes and regular monitoring we soon got impression share up to 90%+ to ensure Sandicliffe was able to maximise lead generation for their key models.
• Significantly improved reports. The previous agencies had mustered together a variety of old school Excel spreadsheets that weren’t able to fully satisfy Sandicliffe’s requirements. We provided a PDF report that broke down all areas of the account to suit Sandicliffe’s needs. For example, we split the report into categories such as by manufacturer as well as by area of the business including servicing, new cars, used cars, parts, Motability and so on.