Fuel on the Mind

By Dave Zorn | Aug 25, 2008
More Articles by Dave


I don’t have to be the first one to tell you that gas prices have been through the roof the past four or five months. Everyone and their pocketbooks knows that. My questions for this posting are these: What can we in search marketing, and SEMs with automotive clients in particular, do to keep potential car buyers interested in our client’s vehicles? and how much effect do fuel economy keywords have on our campaigns? To answer the first question, some car companies have gotten creative.

Jeep for instance offered a deal which includes gas card that gives you $2.99/gal gas for 3 years. At first glance this offer seems very enticing, but lets do the math. If you bought a Jeep that got 20 MPG and you drove it 10,000 miles a year you would need 500 gallons of gas a year. So over three years you would need 1500 gallons of gas at $2.99 a gallon for a total of $4485. But your savings really come in on every cent you pay after $2.99. Lets say gas averages around the current average gas price of $3.70, in three years you would spend $5550 on fuel. So in reality over the course of three years you would only save $1065 on gas with Jeeps deal, or if you look at it another way, $355 a year. That is nothing in the grand scheme of things, I would personally rather receive cash back at the time of purchase so I could invest my savings elsewhere. This deal also assumes that you pay your gas card bill on time in order to continue to receive the low gas prices, which I doubt everyone will judging by our nation’s current credit crisis.

A personal favorite fuel economy ad is Kia’s new television commercial in which gas pump nozzles forget where they are supposed to go into the car. This ad is obviously meant to show viewers that their cars get good mileage, but at 32 MPG they really aren’t the best. These are just a couple examples of how automotive companies have changed their advertising strategies due to the rising gas prices.

Now to answer my second question. One of clients here at Search Mojo is a well known automotive company and we have been done some testing with fuel economy ad groups for a few of our car models. We have learned that it is very difficult to create ad copy for vehicles that have decent gas mileage but aren’t class leaders. By this I mean if they aren’t class leaders we aren’t allowed to say “best”. or “class leading” ad copy because Google and the other search engines don’t allow such superlatives unless they are confirmed by a third party on the website. Also most car companies don’t like to include exact MPG numbers in their ppc ads due to legality issues that can arise. We do, however, have a large variety of keywords to use such as “good gas mileage cars” or “best mpg cars” to choose from. Remember, you can say “best” in our keywords, just not in your ad copy. We have found that are best performing fuel economy ad groups are ones that are included in campaigns of vehicle models that were already widely known to be fuel efficient vehicles. These ad groups generated significantly more quote requests and other KPIs then the other vehicle models. This all comes as no surprise.

What was a little bit surprising, and good to learn, was that fuel economy related keywords are relatively inexpensive across the board. This is great because it means, if you have the budget, it doesn’t hurt to include fuel economy ad groups in some of your campaigns for vehicles that have good but maybe not the “best” fuel economy. It appears as if high gas prices are here to stay so it might be a good idea to start emphasizing what great fuel your automotive client’s vehicles achieve.

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