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Understanding The Updates to Google’s Personalized Advertising Policies

On October 19th, 2020, Google will roll out a new update to their Personalized Advertising Policies which will add an additional layer of complexity for car dealers and their advertising partners to navigate. If you missed it, earlier this year Google announced:

“To further improve access to housing, employment, and credit opportunities, we are introducing a new personalized advertising policy for certain types of ads. This policy will prohibit impacted employment, housing, and credit advertisers from targeting or excluding ads based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP Code”.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because just over a year ago Facebook rolled out a similar set of advertising guidelines known as the Special Ads Category — the likely precursor that has applied pressure on Google to do the same.

The end result of this update by Google is essentially this:

If you run Google ads that contain finance offers in the ad headline or copy (0% Financing For 72 Months, No Lease Payments For 3 Months, etc.) or your have any ads with a landing page that references finance/payment options or directly links to a credit application — you can no longer target those ads by ZIP Code.

Example of an ad that doesn’t fly anymore due to Google’s Personalized Advertising Policies.


This creates a challenge, because targeting by radiuses will likely force you to target a larger territory (with more competition, including same-brand dealers) than more precise zip code targets. Also, most OEMs require dealers to use a pre-set list of ZIP Codes to target within their Google Ads campaigns, so the transition will require an overhaul of your targeting across all applicable campaigns.

But don’t worry, we’re not going to just deliver the news and leave you on your own. In typical Dealer Inspire fashion, we have a complete guide to help you understand the changes and how to minimize the impact you might see in your campaign performance, along with a few tricks to help connect with car shoppers in your market beyond the Google ecosystem.

HOW WE’RE OPTIMIZING OUR CLIENTS’ GOOGLE ADS ACCOUNTS

Updates to Google's Personalized Advertising Policies

While some in the automotive industry are waiting to see how it all plays out after October 19, 2020 before making adjustments to their client’s campaigns — we have been proactively making optimizations to the Google Ads accounts of our clients to ensure as little change in performance as possible. Our DigAd team has already:

  • Identified existing accounts for which Dealer Inspire is a certified DigAd provider, where the OEM requires ZIP Code targeting.
  • Accepted the policy change that is now beginning to appear as an account notification for the affected accounts.
  • Reviewed early flagged Expanded Text Ads and Responsive Search Ads that are not compliant with the pending credit-based policy change and altered ad copy to ensure compliance while maintaining keyword and landing page relevance within the ad copy itself.
  • Removed excess targeting from campaigns that may be negating ZIP Codes that are no longer relevant.
  • Begun working closely with OEM program representatives, along with an OEM-focused team at Google, to create new targeting requirements in light of the policy changes.

PERFORMANCE METRICS TO MONITOR

As a part of the updates to Google’s Personalized Advertising Policies, we do anticipate some fluctuations in overall campaign performance. Our DigAd team has always actively monitored the performance of our client’s campaigns, and will continue to do so. Here are the KPIs we’ll be keeping our collective eyes on after October 19, 2020, along with the predicted changes you might see in your accounts’ performance:

1. Search Impression Share

Chances are, if you’re utilizing ZIP Code targeting on some of your campaigns, you’re watching the performance of each one, and removing, negating, or bidding up on them if performance dictates. Unless that geotarget already forms a perfect circle, you’ll likely be grabbing additional geographic areas that you weren’t before, expanding your market further than you would like to.

2. Cost Per Click

OEMs provide dealers a set list of ZIP Codes for a very specific reason— to ensure you’re not bidding against other dealers under the same brand umbrella. When dealerships of the same OEM can’t bid in each other’s backyard, competition is limited and dealers get more bang-for-their-buck. With radius targeting, it’s unlikely that this will remain true, meaning the competitive field for any dealership under a ZIP Code focused OEM just got a whole lot bigger, and it’s likely to include dealers of the same OEM for the first time. We expect clicks to cost more as a result, but if you’re a DI client, you can rest assured that we’ll be optimizing campaigns in real-time to combat those changes.

3. Click-Thru Rate

What’s the benefit of highly focused advertising? You’re spending your money where it counts the most. The less granular you’re able to get with your advertising, the less efficient your campaigns are. Impressions are likely to rise, and with clicks likely to rise at a lower rate, that will equate to a lower Click-Thru Rate. Also, keep an eye on your bounce rate through Paid Search traffic as well via Google Analytics.

4. Lost Impression Share (Budget)

Lower search impression share means that your market has expanded, and with dealers normally providing fixed SEM budgets at the start of every month, your campaigns will likely be stretched thin by a radius geotarget. Of course, you can lower bids if you’re setting them manually, or allow Google’s Smart Bidding to prioritize the searchers most likely to convert, but even still, with a likely increase in CPC, your daily budgets for a campaign utilizing a radius could deplete its available spend earlier in the day than it has in the past.

5. Cost/Conversion

Increased competition and potentially higher bounce rates may mean that the benchmark you’ve been aiming for in regard to Cost/Conversion could now be out of reach. With campaigns set to gain additional traffic once transitioned from ZIP Codes to Radius, the clicks could creep up before a conversion is reached.

TARGETING BEST PRACTICES FOR GOOGLE ADS AFTER OCTOBER 19, 2020

Ok, so on the surface, that may seem like a pretty tough pill to swallow. But like any other change, there are plenty of optimizations you can make to ensure a smooth and effective transition. If you’re managing your own ad campaigns, or are working with another agency, please consider these geo-location targeting best practices within Google Ads moving forward.

Utilize Google’s Locations Report: This report will still allow access to performance metrics based on ZIP Codes, even while not being allowed to directly target them.

Directly Target Cities/Towns: Before switching to radius targeting, try directly targeting the city/town of your dealership, as well any of the surrounding cities that you would have previously targeted. If you utilize Google’s Locations Report to see which ZIP Codes are performing best, you can use that data on a website like Open Data Soft which will match ZIP Codes to the city they represent for a quicker transition.

Plot Your Sales Data: If you are a Dealer Inspire client, we can plot your DMS data on a map to visualize which areas around your dealership generate the most sales. This can help you identify the cities, as well as optimize your target radius size, allowing you to dial in your targeting where you’re most likely to make the biggest impact.

The bottom line is that with the removal of targeting by ZIP Code, you still have plenty of viable options to dial in your targeting without having to over-extend your reach beyond your comfort level.

USE A CONNECTED MARKETING STRATEGY FTW

While Google gives us plenty of campaign optimization tools, and Dealer Inspire is leading the way with testing new strategies — you don’t have to put all of your digital advertising eggs in Google’s basket. Implementing a connected marketing strategy to target in-market shoppers on the devices and platforms they use most can take your advertising game to the next level so you can dominate your dealership’s market at a cheaper cost per click.

  • Microsoft Ads (Bing): If you’ve been sleeping on Bing, you’re missing out on making an impression with the 36.9% of PC users who make up the lion-share of Bing users. You can import your campaigns directly from your Google Ads account into a Microsoft Ads account, utilize your current ZIP Code targeting, and get quality traffic at a fraction of the price!
  • Facebook Dynamic Automotive Ads: Utilize Facebook’s inventory catalog capabilities by retargeting your website visitors and layering on a lookalike audience to reach local in-market shoppers with your best offers and brand messages.
  • Cars.com Display: Cars.com receives an average of 22.8 million visitors each and every month, and Dealer Inspire has exclusive access to that car buying audience. With Cars.com Display, you can run direct-buy display ads on Cars.com targeted to 100% in-market shoppers in your area. You simply can’t get any more precise with your targeting than you can on Cars.com.
  • FUEL: In Market Video: Video advertising can be one of the most effective ways to get your offers and brand messages in front of prospective shoppers. However as our media consumption habits have become more fragmented than ever, your challenge is figuring out how to reach local car shoppers across multiple devices and social, streaming, and OTT platforms.

    FUEL: IMV solves that problem by using the Cars.com in-market audience data (25 million monthly shoppers!) to target relevant ads only to local shoppers actively looking for a vehicle right now — and we target by zip code. FUEL video campaigns reinforce your brand’s message, so when that viewer goes from passively consuming video content, to actively using Google to search for their next vehicle — your dealership’s ads have a better chance of earning their click.

CREATE PRIZM™ ALERTS TO MONITOR CHANGES IN PERFORMANCE

While our team has your back, and will be actively monitoring the performance of your Google Ads campaigns, we highly recommend you do the same. That said, navigating between your Google Ads and Analytics Dashboards to try to figure out what’s going on is a daunting task. Especially if you’re responsible for more than one rooftop.

That’s where PRIZM™, Dealer Inspire’s proprietary reporting dashboard comes in. Not only does it sync via API with your Google Ads and Analytics accounts (among others), but it also has a killer alert feature that you can set up to notify you via text message or email when a pre-defined KPI is performing above or below a certain threshold.

There’s no better way to actively monitor your performance metrics during this transitional period. If you wait until month’s end to review your performance, then you’re losing valuable time and money by not making adjustments as needed in the moment.

At the end of the day, every dealership, agency, and Google Ads user is going to be in the same situation when it comes to navigating Google’s new Personalized Advertising Policy. There’s no doubt that the automotive digital marketing landscape is going to change, and those who have already prepared to make a seamless transition are the ones who’ll have a jump start over their competition.

Want to talk about your dealership’s digital marketing strategy with our expert-level specialists? Just drop us a line, and we’ll set up a time to connect asap!

Let’s Talk Strategy

Austin Moore
Austin is a Digital Advertising Specialist that focuses on implementing dealers' strategies & unique qualities into their paid search efforts to maximize their ROI. He enjoys discussing performance & optimizations with clients, bettering internal processes with teammates, and tweeting about absolutely none of these things.

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