The best way determine the cost of a market is to do your own search for some key words. Try your make and city for starters. If there are a lot of dealers or third party lead providers at the top of the page, the market will be more expensive. Online the automotive category is generally on the ‘top five most expensive terms’ list every time. Why? People go online to get their information. You can also expect the vehicle make to be more expensive if it is doing well offline.
Once you have established goals and are clearly able to track and measure them (analytics or conversion tracking), then I recommend weighing your available budget against the Cost-Per-Click (CPC) pricing for your industry. If you are in a very competitive market, chances are the keyword bidding is escalated, and CPC prices or bids will be high. In a less competitive market or with keywords without much competition, a much lower budget is required.
Do not despair if your advertising budget will not initially allow total coverage in the engines. You can still actively participate in CPC advertising and achieve positive ROI, sales and leads. The difference here is that you will not achieve full or 100 percent exposure on all of your keywords within the campaign. Your ads will be dispersed throughout the day as evenly as the Search Engines can space them out, based upon what you’re willing to spend. Under this advertising model, it is very likely that you will try to search for your words and still not see your site. It is important to know that since it is a keyword driven program, you are still appearing to people searching for you, who are targeted and likely to convert. If it works and becomes ROI positive for you, there is more traffic to direct to your site.
Realistically, there is still a learning curve that you have to endure. When Web sites first hit the market everyone was trying to figure out what style and look to choose. Then came the evolution of sites that focused on conversion of visitors and measurement of those conversions. The same is true in online advertising, but a lot more factors are involved. The search market can go up or down for your make. Your site also plays a big role in whether Web surfers are converted to buyers. A poorly designed site with no content and incomplete inventory descriptions isn’t going to get you more conversions.
My last piece of advice is when determining your budget; Search Engine Marketing is like the old saying: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” You have to be ready to sell cars and communicate with customers. So many people today are measuring the value of search marketing by the amount of clicks they get to their site. Technically, I could send a million people to your site today, but they wouldn’t matter if they didn’t result in a sold car or scheduled service. The goal is to get good, quality traffic and folks that are in the buying funnel. Good luck and know that it works.