The 411 On Google’s Dealer Playbook (Now Called Guidebook)

The long awaited Google Dealer Playbook (now called the Guidebook) is finally here! The playbook is your go-to guide that is filled with insights directly from Google on how car dealerships should structure their paid search campaigns and targeting to maximize online and in-store return, with strategy recommendations spanning the Google search, display, video and measurement platforms.

It came as no surprise that our marketing strategy here at Dealer Inspire lines up very closely with Google’s recommendations. We constantly test against ourselves to ensure our accounts are at peak performance, to provide our clients with the best return on their investment. With the digital landscape ever changing, the best strategy from six months ago might not still be the best option. However, we have found time and again, some core truths that provide strong account performance.

The Dealer Playbook

A Guide for Maximizing Google’s Products

Foundation Fundamentals

  • Site Experience

    Speed and Excellence

  • Google Measurement

    Track at minimum calls, form submissions & VDP pages with AWCT or linked GA goals

  • Paid Search Basics

    Ad Excellence

    90% Coverage on Branded Ready-to-Buy keywords

    Keyword Coverage

    Target Branded fixed-ops terms for top profit drivers


  • Paid Search Excellence

    Structure for Intent

    Improve business decision making and QS by tightening Ad Group and Campaign strategies

    Maximize Ready to Buy

    Optimize impression share for moments most likely to convert for dealers

    Audience Excellence

    • RLSA (first)
    • Similar Audience (next)

  • Video & Display Basics

    TrueView & Google Display

    • Remarketing
    • Similar Audience
    • In-Market Shoppers

Today’s Differentiators

  • Paid Search Expansion

    New Car Expansion

    Test impact of coverage on:
    • Branded Upper Funnel
    • Strategic Conquest & Segment

    Used Car Coverage

    Coverage on relevant branded used inventory

  • Video & Display For Growth

    Creative Testing

    Experiment with mobile preferred 6-second ads

    Targeting Expansion

    Mirror TV buys and reach relevant affinity audiences and demos

Future Growth Levers

  • Put Google’s Maching Learning To Work

    Smart Bidding

    Let Google’s advanced exploration and optimization tools find your next customer

  • Maximize Measurement

    Beyond Last Click

    Compare attribution models to find what works for you

    Connect Online to Store

    Connect CRM and sales data to online events and media

    Leverage Conversion Import or Store Sales Direct to match Offline actions into AdWords

  • Focus on your core, low-funnel terms first. These searchers are ready to buy, they just need to decide where they’re going. Ever seen the conversion rate on a competitor’s campaign for a dealership that isn’t protecting their name? You may think they’ll keep scrolling until they find you – but I wouldn’t count on it. These terms will include your name, dealer & location searches, to name a few. Missing these searchers is like missing the last step on a staircase- they might still make it to your dealership, but chances are they’ll fall into someone else’s lap.
  • Protect your own backyard to see how your leads are impacted by distance, check out our blog here.
  • Optimize for mobile. With mobile traffic increasing significantly year over year, don’t play roulette with your leads. Maintain a strong mobile presence in the results so you don’t miss out on valuable traffic, and make sure your website is fast-loading and easy to navigate on a mobile phone.
  • Track the actions that matter. Form submissions, phone calls, questions through chat – all of these help you begin to build a relationship with your customer. VDP views are the archaic dinosaur that keeps showing up to the party – they aren’t providing you with additional information or insight about your customer, especially if you ads are directing to a VDP / VRP.
“It’s no coincidence that Dealer Inspire’s web strategy aligns with Google’s Dealer Playbook. Dealer Inspire stands ahead of the pack with its innovation and follow-through of creating the technologies and techniques that dealers need today in order to succeed in the future. Google is a data-driven company and when the data shows that platforms like Dealer Inspire are succeeding by using new ideas, the search engine shares the innovations with the greater community.”

Danny Dover

Director of Special Initiatives, Dealer Inspire
#1 Best-Selling Digital Marketing Author

Breaking Down Google’s Dealer Playbook!

We recently hosted a Facebook LIVE series where we had more in-depth discussions of Google’s Dealer Playbook. Subject matter experts from Dealer Inspire and Launch Digital Marketing came on the show to help breakdown each section of the playbook giving you actionable insights that you can use to upgrade your dealership’s digital marketing game today!

If you missed the shows as they aired live, have no fear! Each episode of the series is embedded below for your viewing pleasure.


Episode 1: Site Speed & UX On Your Website Platform

An expert explanation of what pagespeed is and why it’s important to understand how the speed of your web platform impacts the overall user experience. This is by far the most complete and comprehensive discussion on pagespeed that you’ll find anywhere on the Internet. Check it out!


Episode 2: Paid Search Excellence and Expansion

From the brilliant basics to today’s differentiators, our Paid Search experts show you how we (and Google) suggest your paid search campaigns should be structured to maximize performance. We also talk about display advertising, video and audience targeting take your campaigns to the next level!


Episode 3: Measuring Results in Google Analytics and Adwords

In this episode, our Analytics & Adwords experts give you a hands on demonstration on the best practices for tracking success in both Google Analytics and Adwords.


Frequently Asked Questions

Since its release in September, we’ve had quite a few dealerships reach out to us and ask questions about Google’s Dealer Guidebook. We’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions and answers here in this aptly named FAQ.

Is it called the Dealer Playbook or Dealer Guidebook?

Yes! The Dealer Playbook and Dealer Guidebook are one in the same. When Google revealed the first version of this document at Digital Dealer and directly to their agency partners (like us!) in September of 2017, they called it the Google’s Dealer Playbook. Then in December of 2017, when Google was ready to release the document to the dealer community at large, they changed its name to Google’s Dealer Guidebook.

It’s also worth noting that nothing but the name of the document changed. The content within has stayed consistent since its original release.

From this point forward, here at Dealer Inspire will be referring to the document as Google’s Dealer Guidebook, although some of the content we’ve already produced on the subject such as our Facebook Live video series will still reference the original Playbook title.


Why did Google create the Guidebook?

According to Gary Schueller, Industry Director of Automotive at Google,

The Guidebook was created to answer the one question we frequently get when working with dealers and their agency partners, ‘how should I best use Google?’ The Guidebook is designed to help dealers prioritize Google’s products based on today’s shopper behavior and where dealers are with digital.


 Where can I get Google’s Dealer Guidebook?

You can download the official Google Guidebook here! Get a quick overview of Google’s recommendations with their .pdf, and then sit back and watch our video series above to get deep dives, hot takes, and video tutorials on how to execute at your dealership. Enjoy the show!


Ok, I downloaded the Guidebook…now what?

Our best recommendation is to set aside an hour or two of your time to thoroughly review the content in both of the documents linked above. Make note of any areas you don’t completely understand or feel you don’t have a clear line of sight into.

For further context, watch the videos we have embedded above. Our in-house experts take you deeper into the Guidebook so you can have a better understanding of each section.

Lastly, contact your agency partner and set up a review call with them. Let them know that you want to see how your current digital marketing efforts line up with Google’s suggestions and what changes (if any) should be made.

If you’re currently a DI client with Paid Search services with us, you can rest assured that we’ve been following these best practices since before there was even a Guidebook! If you’d like to learn more about how your current campaigns align with the Guidebook, just reach out to your Account Manager and we’ll set something up!


What should my dealership’s budget be for digital marketing?

When it comes to your dealership’s digital marketing budget, there isn’t a one size fits all approach. In the Guidebook, Google recommends,

that your digital marketing budget allocation should fall somewhere between 45% and 75% of your overall marketing spend.

The most important thing to think about when trying to decide what budget works best for your dealership is to examine where your total marketing dollars are being spent, and confirm that those mediums (traditional and digital) are aligned with where your customers are spending time.

Need a hand making sense of it all? Drop us a line and one of our Marketing Strategists can review your current digital marketing plan and make recommendations for improvement based off Google’s Dealer Guidebook.


Why doesn’t the Guidebook talk about SEO, that’s a Google thing…right?

While Search Engine Optimization does largely affect how your dealership appears in Google search engine results, it’s not a part of the Guidebook nor a Google product or service. Remember, the mission of the Guidebook is to show how you can structure your campaigns and targeting to maximize online and in-store return using the Google search, display, video and measurement platforms.

SEO is about the quality and relevance of the content on your website, how well search engines can crawl and index your website and the authority of links to your website from other relevant websites.


Does Google make its Agency Partners follow the Guidebook?

Google does not require any of its agency partners to follow the Guidebook to the letter. It is simply a guide to help car dealerships, in conjunction with their marketing agency, drive their business forwards based on Google’s own internal data, research and best practices.

That being said, here at Dealer Inspire we had already incorporated most of what Google included in the Guidebook long before it was published. We’re not trying to pat ourselves on the back here, but…not only are we a Premier Google Partner but our team has over 1,000 combined Google certifications – more than any agency in the world!

Do you have questions that we didn’t answer here about how Google’s new guidebook for dealers can impact your business? Feel free to drop me a line at and I’ll give you the A’s to your Q’s!

Jason Stum
As the Director of Content Marketing at CARS, Jason draws from his hands-on dealership experience in Sales, Business Development, and Digital Marketing to lead a team in crafting actionable and insightful content for car dealers.

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