As the competition in the online world gets tougher minute by minute, it’s time for automotive websites to reevaluate their strategies and consider hiring a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) agency. Not to be confused with Search Engine Optimization, this form of internet marketing involves the promotion of your car dealership website primarily through paid advertising.

This strategy does incorporate some aspects of SEO to help your website rank better, but majority of it is done for boosting Pay-Per-Click (PPC) listings. Are you trying to boost your sales by selling more cars? Need to hire an SEM agency? Here are some important questions to ask, which can help figuring out if there’s quality beneath all those SEM sales pitches.

How Much Of The Service Is Hands-On Vs. Dynamic?

Many automotive SEM agencies use robust and advanced systems/software applications for generating advertisements based on the content of your website. While there is nothing bad in this dynamic approach towards SEM, it means all your ads with be managed and created with very little human oversight. This may entail issues, as no system can stick to guidelines better than the human mind. Therefore, always make sure to ask if the service uses a hands-on or dynamic approach. Stay far away from companies that run automated campaigns. You wouldn’t want your money being spent on wrong clicks. Effective campaign operation requires human intervention!

Do You Guarantee Me #1 In The Rankings On Google?

If the agency you plan on hiring says “yes”, don’t hesitate on walking away, as they are probably running a scam. No automotive SEO/SEM provider can legitimately guarantee top rankings on Google. There is no way anyone can manipulate search engine rankings. The best of SEM agencies will guarantee no solid position for your site, but will tell you that you’ll receive a boost in visibility and rankings. Why can’t agencies offer top organic positions? Firstly, it depends on factors outside a vendor’s control, like technical aspects of your web platform and competitor growth. Second, it may involve risks like using Black Hat SEO techniques, which could put your site at risk of being penalized.

How Much Can I Customize My Campaigns And Ads?

This question goes hand-in-hand with the first one. Considering on the answer you get, it is imperative that you clear one thing beforehand: you want flexibility to edit your campaigns and shift your spending to other needs of your automotive business. Indirectly, this does mean that you require hands-on support. Therefore, if you are more trustworthy of a hands-on approach towards marketing your website on search engines, don’t hesitate on mentioning this. Generic ads and campaigns built from automated software can never guarantee results. You should have the ability of customizing your ads and campaigns according to your needs.

How Do You Geo-Target The Automotive Content?

There is no doubt that effective “geo-targeting” is an imperative part for any reliable and results-inducing SEM strategy. Subsequently, don’t hesitate on asking the SEM agency on how the plan to geo-target your website and its content. If they answer by saying, they use a 30- or 40-mile radius around your location; forget dealing with them at all. Bear in mind the main purpose of geo-targeting is to determine the location of a website visitor and deliver different content based on their location, such as ISP, IP address, organization, zip code/metro code, region/state, or country. Therefore, geo-targeting isn’t just based on radius. It is incredibly extensive and entails bidding, implementing location specific-keywords, and discovering location intent by search history.

What Do You Do To Achieve SEO Results?

As mentioned earlier, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) does involve work on the SEO of your website. It involves both organic search results and paid search results (using tools like Bing Ads or Google AdWords). Therefore, don’t hesitate on asking what strategies they use for boosting your organic rankings. You’ll want your pitchman to specify exactly what type of action their team will take and how often. Ask about reporting, analytics, monitoring, and expected time of results. You don’t want your money to go to waste. Some good White Hat SEO techniques involve optimization of Meta Data (keywords, page title, description), unique content development, off-page optimization (external and internal linking), and increasing responsiveness (boosting site speed and navigation).

How Often Do You Report Results?

It is imperative that you ask your automotive SEM vendor regarding the expected time to receive result reports. Where some may send you a detailed email with the report every month, others will visit you in person and display all relevant data in analytics and monitoring via a presentation. Decide whether once a month is frequent enough for you or not. Since you would want your SEM to be hands-free, it is a good option to keep an eye on your vendors at least twice in every month. More communication and reporting will guarantee that you don’t end up wasting your money. Moreover, if promises aren’t delivered, you’ll naturally hold the SEM agency accountable.

What Metrics To You Report On?

In addition to asking time timeline of reporting results, feel free to question about the metrics they will be monitoring and providing you reports. In the most basic form of SEM, prospective vendors should regularly provide you with these numbers: conversion rate, number of conversions, click through rate (CTR) and cost per click (CPC) not including the management fee. Upon request, you automotive SEM vendor should also provider keyword quality scores, cost per conversion, and bounce rate data. This way, you can determine whether they are actually working on your automotive website or not. SEM typically produces faster results than SEO, which is a long-haul process (but still the best way for helping an automotive website rank better).

If you find yourself in a situation where you are being pitched by a super sales clerk who doesn’t give you the right or relevant answers to the above questions, say no thanks. In fact, you might want to pass on the automotive SEM program and consider offering them a job of selling cars.