Jumpstarting Success: How UK Car Dealerships Can Drive Sales with Google Vehicle Ads – The Ultimate Guide

Example of a car dealerships google vehicle ads on a mobile phone

The Digital Shift in Car Buying

The Online Journey of Car Purchases: In today’s digital age, an overwhelming 95% of car buying journeys commence online, signalling a huge shift in consumer behaviour and the importance of digital marketing strategies for car dealerships.

Here at Localise, we couldn’t be more excited about the new ad format and believe that it has the potential to completely change the way the online car sales market functions. If your car dealership is aiming to thrive in the digital age, embracing Google Vehicle Ads is essential. We have created for you below, an ultimate Google Vehicle Ads Guide so that you can use the new ad format with confidence.

Screen record of Google SERP showing the new Vehicle Ads format

95% of car buying journeys begin online

Unveiling Google Vehicle Ads

First introduced at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show in 2022, Google Vehicle Ads allow car dealerships to catapult their stock into the spotlight on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP). 

These ads display vital details such as make, model, condition, mileage, price and location, providing a direct link to the dealership’s vehicle description page for potential conversions.

For example: If a user was searching for ‘Used Audi Q5’s near me’ they would see a range of adverts for Audi Q5’s right at the top of the SERP (search engine results page) and if your dealership utilises the new ad format, these results would include ads for your own stock if nearby. The user then clicks on your advert which takes them to the vehicle description page on your own website.

Google Vehicle Ads also extend beyond the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Similar to other retail sectors, car dealerships can leverage Performance Max Campaigns to promote their offerings across various Google platforms, including Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, and Discovery. By integrating a remarketing list, dealerships can effectively utilize Vehicle Ads for dynamic remarketing. This strategy allows them to persistently showcase previously viewed cars to past site visitors as they navigate the internet, helping to keep these vehicles top-of-mind as potential buyers contemplate their next major purchase.

In essence, Vehicle Ads prominently display the cars users are searching for, directly in their view.

Example of a car dealerships Google Vehicle Ads showing on both mobile on desktop
An example of where your dealership will appear within the Google SERP if you utilise the new ad format 

 

The Advantages

  • Enhanced Lead Quality: By offering comprehensive car information upfront, these ads attract more qualified leads.
  • Omnichannel Marketing: They enable dealerships to target both online leads and in-store visits.
  • Automated, Relevant Targeting: Google’s smart algorithms ensure your ads match the user’s specific search queries.
  • Increased Visibility: These ads can appear alongside traditional paid search ads, doubling your chances of catching a potential buyer’s attention
 

Key Policies and Guidelines

Google has placed strict rules on their new ad format to ensure that ads are relevant to customers and effective for dealerships.  Below are the key points to know, but you can read Google’s full guide here.

Image specifications

Image guidelines: Google recommends having high quality, clean images with minimal backgrounds for the best results. Logos, watermarks, text of any kind and placeholder images are not allowed. Read the full image guidelines here.

File formatsGIF (.gif), JPEG (.jpg/.jpeg), PNG (.png), BMP (.bmp), and TIFF (.tif/.tiff)
Maximum file size16 MB
Minimum image size100 X 100 pixels (recommended is 800 X 600)
Maximum image size64 megapixels
Recommended aspect ratio4:3

Eligible Vehicles: Vehicle Ads are restricted to non-commercial and passenger vehicles only. Excluded types include motorhomes, motorcycles, boats, planes, farm equipment, race cars, and any commercial license-required vehicles.

Purchase Only: The new ad format supports vehicle sales only. Leases or rental offers are not allowed.

Auction Exclusion: Listings for auctioned vehicles or auction-based pricing are not supported.

No Parts or Services: Listings should be for whole vehicles only; parts, accessories, tyres, or services are not permitted.

 
 

Getting started with Google Vehicle Ads

Google Vehicle Ads offers a powerful way for local car dealerships to stand out on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). While starting out might seem daunting, Google provides a comprehensive guide to help dealerships set up their Vehicle Ads.

  1. Start by setting up a Google Merchant Centre, Google Ads, and Google Business Profile for your dealership. If you’re managing multiple locations, each one will need its own account. If you already have Google Ads or a Google Business Profile, you can utilise these for your Vehicle Listing Ads.
  2. After creating your Google Merchant Centre account, express your interest in Vehicle Ads by filling out a form provided by Google. Google will then assess your location’s eligibility and reach out to you post-review, typically within a few days. Upon confirmation, access your Google Merchant Centre account and activate it for Vehicle Ads by going to Growth > Manage Programs > Vehicle Ads, and click “Get Started.”
  3. The next step involves submitting your stock feeds to Google Merchant Centre. The objective is to provide Google with the latest, most accurate information about your inventory, both online and on the sales floor. (See section below on how to provide a rich stock feed) This is a technical step, usually best handled by using the same stock feed that runs your website’s inventory and Vehicle Description Pages. After submitting your feeds to Google, expect a review period of a few days for Google to check your feeds, the necessary attributes for each listing, and your website, which might take about a week.
  4. As you wait for feed approval, link your Google Ads and Google Business Profile with your Google Merchant Centre. This integration enables Google to tailor your listings for local searches and feature your location directly in the ads. If you are the owner or manager of your Google Business Profile, follow these instructions to link it to your Google Merchant Centre. Similarly, link your Google Ads account if you are its Admin, using these instructions.
  5. With your accounts linked, your website verified, and your stock feeds approved, you’re ready to launch your first vehicle ad campaign. In Google Ads, initiate a new campaign and choose to create a Performance Max Campaign. Make sure to use the feed from your Google Merchant Centre account during the setup. Follow the steps to create your ads, and in a short times, your vehicle ads will go live on Google!
 

The Importance of a Rich Stock Feed

An example spreadsheet which contains the stock feed for Google Vehicle Ads
A rich stock feed (AKA Inventory feed) is crucial to the success of your Vehicle Ads

Unlike conventional search ads, these ads rely on a stock feed submitted to Google Merchant Centre (GMC)

Providing detailed and accurate information in your feed is crucial for matching your cars with relevant search queries.

Mandatory Attributes

  • Google Product Category: Use Vehicles & Parts > Vehicles > Motor Vehicles > Cars, Trucks & Vans
  • Vehicle Fulfillment: Acceptable options include in-store, ship-to-store, and online
  • VIN: Vehicle identification number (VRM for UK accepted)
  • ID: Internal stock identifier or VIN is acceptable
  • Store Code: Each code must match the store codes submitted within your dealership’s Google Business Profile
  • Image Link: URL of the vehicle you are promoting
  • Link Template: URL parameter added to your vehicle’s landing page that includes your store code, ex: localisemotors.co.uk/101?store={store code}
  • Link: Only required for online-only ads. It is a link to the landing page on your desktop website that includes specific vehicle details.
  • Price: This must match the price on your vehicle’s landing page
  • Vehicle MSRP: The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is required for new cars and optional for used vehicles
  • Condition: Accepted values are used, or new
  • Brand: Name of the car’s manufacturer
  • Model: The model of the car you wish to promote, without mention of the trim level
  • Year: The vehicle’s model year
  • Mileage: Ensure you include the mileage in both kilometres and miles
  • Colour: You can submit up to three colours separated by “/”

Recommended Extras

To enhance ad effectiveness, include additional information like:

  • Title
  • Product Type
  • Additional image link
  • Mobile link template
  • Mobile link
  • Ads redirect
  • Certified pre-owned
  • Trim
  • Vehicle option
  • Body style
  • Engine
  • Description
  • Custom label
  • Included destination
  • Excluded destination

Maximising Outcomes with Google Vehicle Ads

 
  1. Providing a rich stock feed: The more information you provide, the more likely your car will be advertised when a user searches a make and model.
  2. Optimise your website: Your website should be fast and fully optimised for mobile and desktop. To ensure your stock is fully optimised for the new ad format, your vehicle description pages should have all key info such as dealership name, dealership location, vehicle price, MSRP (for new vehicles), VIN, mileage (for used vehicles) availability and price.
  3. Tracking High-Value Conversions: Your event and conversion set up in GA4 is essential. Focus on tracking meaningful actions like form submissions, phone calls, and chats rather than just page views.
  4. Allocating an Adequate Budget: Google suggests a healthy budget per location per month for effective campaign performance.
  5. Refining Your stock Feeds: Continuously update and optimise your feeds with clear, relevant information to improve ad relevance and performance.
  6. Segmenting Campaign Structures: Tailor your campaigns based on inventory types (new/used/CPO), makes, models, or price ranges for better budget and performance control.
  7. Dominating the SERP: Combine vehicle ads with traditional search ads for a comprehensive online presence.

Embrace Google Vehicle Ads with Localise

Simplifying Your Digital Marketing: While Google Vehicle Ads offers an exciting opportunity for car dealerships to enhance their online presence, managing this new ad format can be daunting.

As a Google Trusted Partner, we specialise in streamlining this process, ensuring your dealership stays ahead in the competitive online car sales market. Let us handle the intricacies of Google Vehicle Ads, allowing you to focus on what you do best – selling cars.

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