October 16, 2023, Google released an update on their Search Central Blog concerning Vehicle Ads or VLAs or Vehicle Listing Ads. VLAs have been around since 2020, so what’s new?
Well I’m not really sure. But this fits the Google pattern of rolling-out products in a “progressive disclosure” way. One thing for sure is Google products come and products go away mysteriously, often without any disclosure of internal rational.
So here are thoughts and considerations as I view these things.
Firstly, the VLAs that some dealers have implemented have performed poorly. That’s just my experience with a limited number of dealerships and makes. The Conversion Rates have been in the very low range compared to Google (paid) Ads. But its important to note that the placement of the listing (that I saw) was at the bottom inside the Google Business Profile (GBP) space. It seems to make sense that this placement is not compatible with the intent of the user. When viewing the GBP, user intent is more likely to be Location or Reputational. Shopping actual inventory probably proceeds or follows the GBP view. So it makes sense that those clicks have poor conversion rates.
Now importantly; are they worth doing? And how difficult are they to implement? Go hand in hand. Its is not easy to implement Google VLAs because you have to setup a Google Merchant Center account. You are going to spend some time doing that. But then there is the feed from the DMS. You have to get your vendor or someone in house to set that up. Google wants the feed to run every four (4) hours! We know from experience that this is a project.
Are they worth doing? In this Google Splainer you see a different placement than mentioned above (inside the GBP). This placement at the top of the page should be far more effective. So until I get my hands on one of these examples, my opinion is suspended. Stay tuned. ( maybe a dealer reading this would contact me to do an audit 😉
Again, the press release was only a couple days ago, so obviously the intent is to ramp-up. But how many dealers are going to ramp-up without a vendor providing a frictionless onramp? There are a few vendors specializing in this but as mentioned, my experience is only with the GBP format which has shown that its not worth doing. (my opinion) That may be why Google is making changes. Uptake may indicate the ROI is not there.
Make: we all know that listing your inventory directly on the SERP (search engine result page) has to be very local to be effective. Vehicles farther away (no matter the CTR) will have poor Conversion Rates. But if you happen to be a Luxury, Exotic or Specialty Used dealer, distance becomes less important. VLAs may work better for niche markets where distance is not a determining factor to the sale.
Location: The placement of VLAs inside the GBP makes sense because the only users looking at the GBP are likely to be locals, but with the above mentioned problem that those users aren’t intent on shopping at that moment. Now if the new Top-Of-Page format is implemented, and a radius around the business can be set within the campaign, then Conversion Rates could be quite good. TBD.
Ads vs VLAs: Google says VLAs will only be manageable via Performance Max campaigns. That means Google’s Machine Learning (AI) will take over, and you know my opinion about AI in PPC Advertising makes no sense. However, if you are the first or only dealer in the area to implement a VLA campaign, its likely to work. ROI TBD.
This is a developing issue and those are some basic thoughts on the subject. I’ll update this post as I have more exposure to this (relatively) new product offering.
If you are an early adopter type, Signup and take me along. I look forward to the experience.