The Dealer’s 2018 Automotive Digital Marketing Breakdown

By Jazel Auto Marketing

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2018 isn’t over just yet, but we’ve already seen major changes to digital marketing, whether that’s a shift in tactics, a change of tools, or the rise of a powerful trend.

In this post, we’re breaking down the changes to dealership digital marketing we’ve seen this year. From SEO and paid search, all the way to your website and online reputation, here are the 2018 marketing trends your dealership should be taking advantage of (or gearing up to dominate in 2019).


2018 Dealership Digital Marketing In a Nutshell:

What is dealership digital marketing in 2018 all about?

In 2018, dealership digital marketing is about enhancing and supporting your online presence.

Here’s why: Your shoppers are online.

We all know the importance of online research and shopping during the car-buyers journey. Car shoppers want information quickly and effortlessly, and they want to be able to access that info anywhere, at anytime.

Your digital marketing should fulfill (or, better yet, exceed) the expectation for a well-crafted and convenience-oriented online presence.  

Keep that in mind through the rest of this post — this overall change in the industry is a major one.



Video SEO is Defining 2018 (and probably the future too)

We’ve really seen the boom of video SEO in 2018.

Video content is huge, growing, and not likely to stop any time soon. It’s predicted that next year, 80% of all internet traffic will come from video.

Dealership digital marketing is extremely well-positioned to take advantage of this increased desire for video content. In fact, time spent watching vehicle content on YouTube has increased 2x year over year. That includes things like vehicle walkthroughs and reviews, dealership customer testimonials, and other vehicle maintenance tips, tricks, and advice.

People love video content, and Google (among other search engines) is responding to this by offering more video results for relevant search queries. In a recent study by STAT, the number of video carousels appearing in Google’s SERPs has nearly doubled.

On top of that a Forrester study estimates that with video, chances of getting a page one spot on Google increases 53x.

Video can also boost traffic from organic search by as much as 157%.

Have we convinced you that video SEO matters in 2018? If we haven’t, take some time to do a little freestyle Googling. Google “Honda crv 2019 walkthrough,” “how to fix a zipper,” “what’s going on song he man” or anything else you care to ask — you’ll see what we mean.

It’s also worth mentioning that SEO in 2018 has been continuing the trend towards better and more relevant results for users. Winning the search game is all about offering the most relevant result for the user’s query, and matching that user’s expectation of experience.

Here’s an interesting illustration of this trend:

Between 2015 and 2017, Google found that dealership “near me” searches grew over 200%. That’s an incredible rate of change, and makes “near me” searches an important focus for your own SEO.

However, Google recently reported that users are beginning to omit the “near me” query term from the searches, but still expect nearby location-based results. As technology improves and automatic location-based results.

We don’t want to give the impression that “near me searches” are going away. These searches are a major player in SEO.

However, this recent Google observation tells you even more about the trend that SEO (and all online experience) is moving toward: immediately meeting a shopper’s needs and expectations.


Paid Search

Responsive Ads Are Offering Extra Relevance  

Ah yes, paid search — one of the most common and powerful forms of PPC advertising. While not as essential as SEO (though only technically), paid search is still an integral part of dealership digital marketing — even more so as dealerships that were lagging behind begin to catch up and compete.

Luckily, the changes we’ve seen to paid search in 2018 are really cool. New this year are Responsive Search Ads

Responsive search ads are all about relevance, customization, and better ad delivery, particularly when it comes to vehicle merchandising and dealership digital marketing.

Here’s how these new ads work:

Step #1: The dealers (or agency) creates 15 possible headlines and 4 possible descriptions to be used in each of their intended search ads.

Sidenote: Google’s advertising can then display up to three 30 character headlines and two 90 character description lines — a full 90% increase in text over what we currently have.

Step #2: Google’s machine learning then chooses from combinations of these dealership ads to deliver the most relevant and useful advertisement for that specific car shopper.

Dealerships get to offer a wider range of vehicle explanations and benefits, which are automatically more effectively and efficiently displayed across your marketing.

Shoppers get a more personal experience, and dealerships get a more effective paid search advertising. Win-win.

Remember the goal of dealership digital marketing in 2018: support the online presence. That’s directly reflected in this exciting chance. The main advantage of responsive search ads is the opportunity to offer more information to your car shoppers — which is exactly what they are looking for.

Speaking of advertising: You can get all the details on the changing world of automotive advertising (and what you can do about it) in our webinar “Automotive Advertising Trends and Tactics from Two Industry Insiders.”



In 2018 Content Is All About Delivery

The content question in 2018 is “how do you best get your website content to your audience?” Whatever your content marketing strategy — whether it’s providing useful info in blog posts (like we love to do), or creating world-class VDPs with every detail shoppers want —— that content needs to be able to reach your audience.

That’s where AMP pages come in. Mobile search is dominating the dealership digital scene, and AMP helps deliver your results to your shoppers faster (and first).

Here’s AMP in action in the search results:

And the AMP page itself:


 Social Media

User Generated Content Is Generating Interest

We talk pretty often about how word of mouth is increasingly shifting online, and that is powerfully reflected on social media, with the increasing influence of user generated content.

Social media is a hub for user-generated content — whether that is official reviews on your Facebook page, casual tweets about their favorite dealer, or 50 shining Instagram shots of their brand-new car — users are creating content about vehicles.

And that content has tremendous influence on other car shoppers — much more so than traditional or digital advertising or marketing. In fact, 85% of consumers find visual UGC more influential than brand photos or videos.

Why? Well, trust. People trust other people’s experiences more than they trust brand marketing — and accordingly, they pay more attention to UGC.

UGC isn’t just trustworthy, it often answers the exact questions that shopper has about their experiences. It’s no surprise that 93% of consumers find UGC to be helpful when making a purchasing decision.

How can you cash in on the UGC craze?

Show off your happy customers in your own testimonial videos — like Towne Ford:

Get on social media and share the content that your users are creating about you.


Email Marketing

Time to Get Personal

It’s 2018, and though email seems like it has taken a backseat in marketing (at least in terms of exciting news), this is still one of the most reliable, effective, and widely used platforms out there.

The thing that’s defining email marketing in 2018 is segmentation and personalization. General seasonal sales email blasts are all well and good, but how much more could you be making from offering more relevant experiences?

For example, you could target customers who will likely be reaching their first vehicle maintenance dates with special emails offering them an awesome deal on their service if they come to your dealership.  

Want more ideas? Just worried about lackluster emails? Either way we’ve got your back. Here are 23 (total) email templates for revitalizing your customer communications:

11 Brilliant Car Sales Email Templates to Boost Your Appointment Rates


12 More Helpful, Funny, and Engaging Car Sales Email Templates To Boost Your Bottom Line

Dealership Website Optimization

2018 Brings AI-Powered Individual Experiences

Website are getting faster and more beautiful by the day, but what’s actually beginning to change website experiences is a shift towards increased relevance.

Businesses are expected to deliver different shopping experiences to different customers based on their unique interests and goals, and you better believe that extends to online.

The technology driving this development, naturally, is artificial intelligence, or AI. This technology, also often referred to as machine learning, can be leveraged to make websites change content based on the behaviors of the shopper.

Our own website platform comes with this AI technology built in. Our BBT technology can automatically adjust the online customer experience to match their interests. AI tracks the user’s behavior and determines what they are shopping for, or would be most interested in, and the site adapts dynamic content in high-attention areas to display the most relevant offers.

If that sounds almost awesomely futuristic — welcome to the future. It’s 2018, and our websites have artificial intelligence.


Reputation Management

Your Most Important Location/Review Site: GMB

We get it. It’s not like Google My Business is new — but it is become more important (and more valuable) with every update, and in 2018, it has come to dominate dealership reputation management. Remember when Yelp held that honorable distinction? Yup. That’s no longer the case.

Now offering a wide selection of add-ons to increase the value of your GMB page to users and make your online marketing more effective, GMB can make a huge difference.

Here are just a few of the features you can use:

Appointment Booking

Recently expanded appointment booking options allow users to schedule an appointment in one easy step. Dealerships looking to bring in more service customers might consider this as an auto marketing solution.


Integrate a chat feature directly with your GMB page. Shoppers can send you a message, question, or request while browsing. Unavailable? Just pt to turn off the chat feature or set up auto-replies.

Google Question and Answers

Answer your shopper’s most common questions with this helpful section.

Google Posts

Use this display images and copy, events, and call-to-action buttons on posts about specials, promotions, sales events, and products.

Your dealership’s Google My Business page is are at the forefront of your shoppers attention, and it should be optimized accordingly. Don’t let this platform go neglected — or you won’t even know the number of prospects you’re turning off.



Change is Here To Stay

We’ve said it a few times in this post (if you hadn’t noticed): dealership digital marketing in 2018 is all about your online presence.

Online, you dealership should be where there shopper wants you to be, offering the information the shopper wants to find, and providing the experience the shopper want to have.

Focus your dealership’s digital marketing efforts on that principle tenant, and you’ll not only finish 2018 strong, you’ll be that much more prepared for everything 2019 is going to throw at the automotive industry.