The Ultimate Guide to Google Ads for Car Dealerships in 2023

Published 27/01/2022 - Updated 06/10/2023

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Written by

Gary Lewis Cheetham

Automotive marketing specialist from Manchester, UK

In this article we will discuss how we use Google Ads to its full potential for car dealerships (updated for 2023).

Most dealerships rely on classified ad sites such as AutoTrader or eBay to generate leads. These sites have major drawbacks:

  • Expensive
  • Difficult to Target
  • Ads Are Often Ignored
  • Competition from other dealers

We believe that for car dealerships to continue to grow in 2023, they need to take control of their ads and pursue a direct-to-consumer model.

The direct-to-consumer model (D2C) is a way that car dealerships can buy and sell directly with local customers using Google ads, without going through third parties.

This is a concept that has allowed car supermarkets such as WeBuyAnyCar and Cazoo to grow into household names.

These large outfits are successful because they control the whole buying journey for their customers. They can purchase cars directly from customers without going to auctions, and they can retail cars on their own platforms.

This means they make a higher profit margin on each sale than an independent dealer can achieve.

Taking back control of the customer journey

But there is a way that local dealers can take advantage of this powerful model for themselves.

That’s by running targeted local ads on paid platforms such as Google ads, and generating leads with a landing page that’s optimised for paid traffic.

How Google ads fit into the vehicle buying journey

Google offers two main advertising products, Google Search Ads and Google Shopping ads.

Google Search Ads are a form of online advertising that allow businesses to reach potential customers through text or banner ads placed on Google search results pages and other websites across the web.

Google Shopping ads (product carousels with images included) are not available for car dealerships, because Google does not allow vehicles to be sold on it’s shopping platform.

GL Digital founder Gary Lewis Cheetham standing outside the Harley Davidson Dealership Mike Bruno's Freedom Harley Davidson Baton Rouge Louisiana

I Can Run The Marketing At Your Dealership

GL Digital founder Gary Lewis Cheetham standing outside the Harley Davidson Dealership Mike Bruno's Freedom Harley Davidson Baton Rouge Louisiana

I Can Run The Google Ads At Your Dealership

Hi, I'm Gary. I've been working in auto businesses since I was a teenager at my dad's dealership.

My clients get these benefits:

Completely done-for-you dealership marketing - across Facebook, Google and TikTok.

Pre-qualified sales leads - Good credit local customers, attached to a vehicle so easy to close.

Fixed monthly price, no contract. Cancel anytime (but you won't want to)

Contact Me

New Features in Google Ads for 2023: Google Vehicle Ads (beta)

A car dealer using a smartphone to look at Google Vehicle ads for a Ford F150 truck using the Google Vehicle ads Beta in 2023

Listen up, car dealers, it’s time to rev up your marketing engine and leave those dusty old keyword ads behind.

In 2023 the Google Vehicle Ads beta is widely available in the US, and is your ticket to more sales online. With this bad boy, you can show off your inventory like a boss and reach the right audience, without ever leaving the comfort of your dealership.

Think about it, no more awkward small talk with tire-kickers, no more dragging folks around for a test drive just to have them ghost you.

With Google Vehicle Ads, your customers can browse your whole inventory . They can check out all the bells and whistles, from the color of the leather seats to the sound system, without ever leaving the couch.

So, if you’re looking to take your dealership to the next level, join the Google Vehicle Ads beta and get ready for a whole new level of convenience for you and your customers. Plus, it’s a no-brainer, you get to show off your inventory in a way that’s never been seen before! (And likely, your competitors )

To set up Google Vehicle ads (beta), follow the instructions on Google’s Website here.

Before we continue, who has written the article “The Ultimate Guide to Google Ads for Car Dealerships in 2023”?

I am Gary Lewis Cheetham, an automotive marketing specialist with over 10 years of experience in the industry. Born and raised in Oldham, Greater Manchester, UK, I started GL Digital Automotive Marketing in 2020 to help independent dealers in the UK and US reach their full potential through effective digital marketing strategies.

Having spent my teenage years working at my family’s dealership after school, I have a strong foundation in the car trade and a passion for the industry.

My expertise in marketing and focus on using Google Ads for car dealership marketing has helped me develop effective strategies for reaching and engaging potential customers, driving sales, and building a strong online presence for car dealerships.

Benefits of Google search ads for dealerships

A screenshot of the Google Vehicles For Sale in February 2023, showing Google Vehicles for sale fo the query Toyota Corolla

There are many benefits to using Google ads for car dealerships:

  • Reach a large audience: With over 2 billion active users, Google has the potential to reach a large number of consumers.
  • Target your audience: You can target your ads by location, age, gender, and interests, meaning you can reach people who are likely to be interested in your products.
  • High ROI: Google Ads is one of the most effective forms of advertising, with some businesses reporting a return on investment (ROI) of up to 500%.
  • Flexibility: You can control your budget, how long your ads run for, and how often they appear. This means you can tailor your campaign to fit your needs.

Customer journey example for a customer buying a car

The customer journey for a customer buying a car can be summarised in the following steps:

  1. The customer sees a Google ad for a car dealership.
  2. They click on the ad and are taken to the dealership’s website.
  3. They browse the website and find a car they are interested in.
  4. They fill out a form to request more information about the car.
  5. The dealership gets an email notification that someone has requested information about the car.
  6. The dealership sends more information about the car to the customer.
  7. The customer decides to buy the car and goes to the dealership to finalise the purchase.
  8. The customer may or may not take out a finance agreement on the vehicle

Getting started with Google ads for a car dealership

When you’re starting with Google ads, it’s best to target keywords that are specific to your brand. This will help you to capture traffic from people who are already interested in what you have to offer.

Before you start, set up conversion tracking

On July 1, 2023, Google Universal Analytics will be subsetted and replaced with Google Analytics 4. Our recommended way of setting this up is by using a gtag (Google Tag Manager.)

Make sure you have the Google Tag Manager tracking code installed on your website before you start. This will help you to see the results of your ads. This will tell you how much money is coming back from your marketing strategy.

Set up branded keyword ads

Your first ads should target branded keywords.

What is a branded keyword? Simply put, run ads targeting your dealerships brand name only.

Other than your specific brand name, for a car dealership, some good branded keywords to target might include:

  • “car dealerships near me”
  • “buy a car”
  • “car sales”

If you retail new vehicles, you should also run ads targeting the brand name of the vehicle make you’re licensed under.

By targeting these keywords, you’ll be able to reach people who are already interested in buying a car, and you’ll be more likely to convert them into customers.

We generally see that running ads for branded keywords bring the most benefit in the

The power of local targeting

Our recent research has found that over 50% of all sales happen to customers that are located within 25 miles of the dealership. This means that dealerships need to focus on targeting local customers with their Google ads.

Google Ads provides powerful ways to target ads locally. You can target by location, radius, and even on a map. This allows you to place your ad in front of people who are likely to be interested in what you have to offer.

Google Ads also offers a high ROI, meaning you’re getting more bang for your buck with this form of advertising. You can control your budget, how often your ads appear, and how long you want to run them for.

What to write in your google ad copy

Good ad copy takes lots of time and experimentation to write. The most important thing is to run several variations of your ad, and check results to see which approach is most effective.

Here are some examples (for a car dealership) to get you started:

  1. “Looking for a new car? Check out our latest deals at our dealership!”
  2. “Find the perfect car for you at our dealership. We have a wide variety of vehicles to choose from!”
  3. “Come down to our dealership and take a test drive today! You won’t be disappointed.”

The advantage of Google ads compared to other ad platforms

Google Ads brings highly relevant traffic to car dealerships because it targets people who are already interested in the specific vehicles you offer.

Unlike social media platforms like Facebook, which tend to show ads to lots of users who may not be in the market for a new car, Google Ads allows businesses to target people based on specific searches.

This means that you’re more likely to reach people who are interested in buying a car.

Should dealerships run Google Display ads?

Google Display Ads are a form of online advertising that allows you to reach people who are not already searching for your business.

These ads appear as banners or videos on websites across the web, and allow you to target people based on their interests.

We generally do not recommend Google display ads for car dealerships. Instead, we run paid social funnels on websites such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

We find that the return on investment for paid social funnels is generally much higher than Google display ads.


Google Ads is a powerful tool that car dealerships can use to generate leads and sell more vehicles. Ad targeting allows you to place your ad in front of people who are likely to be interested in what you have to offer, and the ROI for Google Ads is high.

Additionally, lead generation ads make it easy for potential customers to get in touch with you.

When setting up Google ads for lead generation, it’s important to make sure that your call to action (CTA) is clear. You want to make it easy for people to get in touch with you, so make your form as simple as possible.

For car dealerships, we generally do not recommend running Google Display Ads, but instead focusing on paid social for a broad spectrum approach.

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About the author

A profile picture of Gary Lewis Cheetham, the founder of GL Digital Automotive Marketing, smiling outside a car dealership

Gary Lewis Cheetham is an automotive marketing specialist, born and raised in Oldham, Greater Manchester. Gary Lewis Cheetham is the founder of GL Digital Automotive Marketing. He spent his teenage years working at the family dealership after school, learning the ropes of the car trade from the inside out.

After moving on to working in marketing, Gary Lewis founded GL Digital in 2020 when he noticed a need for direct-to-consumer marketing platforms within the auto industry. He now strives every day to help independent dealers in the UK and US realise their potential. Gary also loves Formula 1 and motorsport.