Lacklustre PPC results sent Sandicliffe Motor Group in search of a new specialist agency and better results
Sandicliffe was formed in 1948 when founders Richard Woodhouse and Henry Barton bought a small garage and workshop premises in the area of Stapleford, Nottingham. Since then, Sandicliffe Motor Group has become a well-known and trusted brand for new and used vans and cars across the East Midlands.
Sandicliffe’s PPC Performance Was Not Delivering The Results They Needed
PPC has been part of Sandicliffe’s marketing and sales generation strategy for several years. They worked with several digital marketing agencies with mixed results. Overall, they felt that the ROI on their PPC investment was disappointing. They also felt that poor communication and responsiveness levels from their agencies led to unnecessary frustrations and wasted opportunities.
In July 2019, Sandicliffe began their search for a new and fresh approach to their PPC marketing. Maley Digital was invited to undertake a full PPC audit and to present a new strategic direction for paid search activities. Our insights and ideas resonated with Sandicliffe and we were appointed to take on the account.
We Quickly Identified Some Missed Opportunities and Areas For Improvement
From our audit, we could see that there were multiple opportunities and areas that were ripe for improvement.
- Over reliance on automated bidding. Automated bidding is a useful tool in the PPC repertoire, but not all the time. We identified that blanket automated bidding was applied across all campaigns, regardless of their purpose or scope. As a result, 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 receiving less than 5% of the impression share eligible for a number of major campaigns. In short, Sandicliffe was not visible on PPC at all for some of its top sellers.
- No call conversion tracking. The team at Sandicliffe was unaware that they could 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. The low impression share was in part, brought about by the previously mentioned automated bidding approach. This meant that the Sandicliffe team was only getting a fraction of the potential impression share available for keywords in their geographical areas. This problem was also caused by a lack of budget management, with key brand campaigns capped while poorer performing and less commercially significant campaigns were prioritised.
- Lack of negative keyword management. Sandicliffe sell new and used cars. They also provide a range of other services such as after-sales care and parts. When using more generic keywords, it’s vital 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 fair 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.
- The 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 terms.
- 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 – some of the cheapest and most valuable conversions you can acquire from PPC.
Rebuilding The Campaign Structure Across The Entire Account Was the Best Long Term Strategy
Taking all the audit issues into account, we concluded that the best approach was to initiate a complete re-build of the campaign structure across the entire account. We felt that this would yield the best long-term results in terms of 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. In addition, we:
- Created a new ad schedule 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.
Manual Bidding Was Set Across All Campaigns To Retain Better Control Of Positions and Impression Share
By doing this, we found that we were able to get significantly more clicks and impressions for important keywords. 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 all bases are covered in terms of keyword opportunities.
In addition to the improvements mentioned, we collaborated with Sandicliffe’s in-house team to maximise ad copy and push the best offers.
Our Radical Changes Have Generated Significant Improvements In Performance
In the first six months of managing the account, we 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.