I created a video that gives a brief overview of the Google Cars program, officially called the Google Commercial Unit For Cars (CUFC). A few more details on the program are now available but dealers still have a number of questions left unanswered.
Take a minute to watch the video and see my comments at the bottom of this page. I've outlined some of my questions and concerns about leveraging this new advertising product.
The Impact of Google Cars
The Google Cars program introduces some significant changes for automotive digital marketing strategy. I've listed a few lines of questioning and research that came to mind.
Page One Interception - It will be interesting to see how much "low sales funnel" search traffic will be intercepted with this new ad format. It is clear that having cars at the top of a SERP will attract consumer clicks, but the frequency at which this ad unit appears is still unclear.
Examples of Low Sales Funnel Keywords - You may be wondering what Google thinks is a low sales funnel keyword. Meaning, a person that has decided on a car or model, so here are a few examples: BMW Prices, Buy a new Ford F-150, New Toyota Highlander inventory, MINI dealers Mountain View .
Bidding Strategies For Participating Dealers - If dealers can increase their bids for leads based on certain models of cars, will that change the position that their cars will appear in the ad unit? Will a dealer be able to outbid his competitors so that only their cars appear in the sample of vehicles shown on page one?
Similar Cars Feature - Will Google introduce a "similar cars" feature that would allow dealers to conquest searches for competing brands. For example, if a local consumer types "2012 Toyota Camry" will the inventory search listing or VDP pages have Honda Civic shown if the bidding is sufficient?
Lead & Calls From A Proxy - It will be interesting to discuss how CRM and lead workflow processes will be changed since there will be a limit on how many times a consumer can be contacted via the Google proxy system. It would seem that dealers with strong Internet/BDC processes would be the winner here. Keep in mind that if the dealer does not get the consumers phone or email directly from the consumer, they will not be provided that information through Google Cars.
Pay Per Lead Models - In some states, a pay-per-lead model may not be legal so it will be interesting to see how the program will be modified to comply with state regulations.
Access to DMS - Unlike the controversy associated with TrueCar's initial business model, the dealership's new car inventory is all that is pulled from the DMS. The pull is very similar to what is pulled to list cars on Autotrader.com or Cars.com. Customer contact and sales data is not pulled because Google Cars is not based on sold cars, like was the case with TrueCar initially.
Regional Price Paid - I would like to see more clarification on how this number is calculated.
Getting More Answers
The BETA testing of Google Cars is limited to the San Francisco Bay area for now. Dealers in the program have signed a strict agreement not to discuss the program at this time. As far as getting specific answers from Google, I don't expect that will be easier either since the product and program is still in testing phases.
Of course, you can send me your contact information and I'll add you to my notification list on Google Cars. Just click on this email link to be added: firstname.lastname@example.org
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P.S. There will be six workshops at AutoCon 2012 dedicated to the latest products and strategies for paid search. Members of the Google team will be part of the conference so it will be a great time to get questions answers and clearer direction on Google's product for car dealers.