Shoppers searching for specific brands and models (e.g., “bmw” or “f-150”) are likely in the later stages of research, ready to finalize their consideration sets, settle on models and locate dealers. During this phase, brands must balance two crucial initiatives on Google.
First, brands must defend their own branded keywords to close in on shoppers whose search behavior indicates interest in their specific lineup. Second, they can develop competitive ad buying strategies to reach other potential buyers in these final stages. By appearing in the top results against competitors’ keywords, brands can compete for mindshare, solidify their appeal and even potentially reel in accidental clicks. During a collection period taken in Gartner L2’s auto report, 52% of brand OEMs bid on both their own keywords and their competitors’ keywords, while 36% only bid defensively against their own keywords. 11% of brand OEMs demonstrated no competitive search engine marketing (SEM) strategy on branded keywords whatsoever; this group mostly consisted of ultra-luxury brands.
Both OEMs and dealer networks engage in competitive ad buying, but these efforts are not always coordinated. The average OEM bid against the branded keywords of four competitor brands. The average dealer network competitively bid on more than twice that, targeting nine competitors. This gap may suggest that many dealers act independently from their central brands in terms of Google search strategies. There was an average 18% overlap between an OEM and its dealer network’s targets, an indicator that communication between the two tiers may be wanting.
Brands should establish an integrated competitive SEM strategy with dealers to ensure that investments are not spread thin across a disparate and ill-conceived group of targets that might reduce impact.