Search Advertising for Dealer Fixed Ops Profits

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Fixed operations is known for being a major profit center in the average dealership, and is responsible for maintaining loyal customer relationships. But when it comes to online advertising, fixed ops often misses out on strategy, spend, and ultimately, sales.

The Strategy

Fixed ops spends a lot of time looking at measurements like CSI, retention rates, absorption, and effective labor rate (ELR). Marketing can have a huge impact on those measurements, depending on the customers who come into your dealership and the profitability of the services you provide.

Dealerships often stick with the basics when marketing the service drive: discounted oil changes, tire rotations or replacement, and brake inspections, on top of the general “XX% off any service.”

Selling these services to customers can be an important signal of loyalty, but are they really profitable?

Consider your technicians’ skill levels and the profitability of each service, including parts and labor. Which jobs does your team do well, at a large profit, and how can you capture more of those jobs?

The secret lies in digital advertising and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Many service customers turn to search engines when they need urgent repairs and regular maintenance. If you can win a top spot in the search results, you’re more likely to win the sale, but you have to create a lasting strategy.

Content is King

Google and other search engines have made it their priority to improve users’ experiences with every search, on any device. They require relevancy, ease of use, and readability. Content creators used to be able to load webpages with keywords and dump money into ad spend budgets in order to show up in results, even if their page didn’t really match the intent behind the search. Pages would get a lot of traffic, but saw high bounce rates.

Cue Google’s decisions to include a business’s relative location, page bounce rates, online reviews, and hundreds of other data points to choose what to show to a customer. It’s not enough to keyword-stuff or throw money at the problem anymore.

You have to learn about your target customers and write for them, not for yourself. Meaning, if a customer searches “what does the ‘ABS’ light on my dash mean?,” your content could advertise a brake system check, but could also include extra content about what ABS means, why it’s important, and why the light may be on.

Understand the Numbers

Paid and organic advertising are not set-it-and-forget-it strategies. When search trends or in-demand services change, your content may need to change with them. Events like the 2008 Recession and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic changed vehicle buying and service behaviors.

Not every shift in advertising will be that extreme. For example, a simple shift in advertising is seasonal promotions. If you’re in an area that experiences severe winter weather, customers may be on the lookout for fluid checks, tire replacement, or other services. Articles, social posts, and ads should respond to what customers need.

How do you know what to optimize? Tools like Google Trends, Analytics, and Ads show what customers are searching and how often your website and ads are shown and clicked. Look at what’s performing well and what isn’t, and constantly make adjustments to keywords, ad types, and budget.

In Conclusion

Today’s customers are more likely to wait for vehicle dashboard alerts to decide when to service. Often, they turn to search engines like Google, Safari, or Bing. Out of the top ten results Google shows on the first page, the top three spots can be paid advertisements.

You typically need to rank in the top three positions in paid or organic search results to be considered by most customers. To help you rank higher overall in service searches, market with clear goals in mind: what your customers want, and how you can win the business by helping them get it.