The Pros and Cons of Search Conquesting for Car Dealerships

Marketing online is absolutely essential for car dealerships of all types, sizes, and locations. The majority of car buyers start their buying experience online, and you want yours to be the website they find when they begin that search.

Nancy Rothman

So how do you ensure that your dealership or company shows up in the search results of customers who actually have value to your business? One of the ways is through search conquesting, a potentially powerful yet controversial strategy for search engine marketing.

What is Search Conquesting?

To understand what search conquesting is and how it works, you first have to understand how search engine marketing works in general. When you enter a search query into Google, a list of results appears based on that search. Often, the top few results are paid ads— companies have paid Google to appear in search results when users entered specific keywords or phrases. For car dealerships, this phrase might be ‘car dealerships near me’ or ‘Nissan dealerships in Denver.’

So, what is search conquesting? Instead of choosing a general keyword to target with your ad, search conquesting involves you targeting the name of one of your competitors.

For example, let’s say that your primary competitor is Dave’s Car Dealership across town. With search conquesting, you would create an ad for your business that would appear when people searched for your competitor’s name. A car buyer enters ‘Dave’s car dealership’ into their search engine, and your dealership appears as one of the paid results.

How Search Conquesting Works

Search conquesting is used as a targeted way to reach qualified leads before they can be landed by your competitors. Because competing dealerships are often very similar, you can generally bet that if someone is searching for your competitor, they would likely make a great customer for you.

Conquesting has other benefits as well, but it can also have some significant downsides if handled incorrectly.

Pros of Search Conquesting

Here are some of the reasons why many car dealerships and other companies use search conquesting as part of their search engine marketing plan.

Increase Your Brand Awareness

When executed effectively, conquesting can have the power to increase the visibility of your dealership— particularly when it comes to customers who haven’t made a decision about where to buy and might be ‘on the fence’ about their decisions.

Even if a user ultimately clicks off of your website, you’ve grown your remarketing list through website cookies and can target those customers for remarketing later.

Know Exactly What You Have to Beat

When you build your search engine advertisements around generalized keywords like ‘car dealership in [CITY], your message has to compete with all of the messages of all the other dealerships that will show up in search results for that query.

With search conquesting, there’s just one message you have to beat— whichever one your competitor displays when their name is put into a search engine. This can help narrow your focus and create a strong, bold, and specific message to make a stronger impression than your competitor’s message.

Less Keyword Competition

Let’s say you’re a car dealership in Illinois. You might want to target your ads to keywords like ‘car dealerships in Illinois.’ But that keyword will have a lot of competition from hundreds of dealers all over the state.

By targeting a specific, direct competitor with your keywords, you’re not only narrowing your audience to very qualified leads (most people search for a specific car dealership only when they’re serious about buying), but you’re also targeting the most valuable customers— those that you may be able to steal away from your competitor.

Cons of Search Conquesting

Search conquesting can be effective, but it does have its potential downsides— and they can be significant. Here are a few of the cons of search conquesting for car dealerships.

Potential Competitor Response

One challenge that you may come across when you start search conquesting is that your competitors will take notice. They may respond by creating an equal and opposite response. If they’re a larger dealership or company, they may have the resources to launch an even more aggressive and widespread conquesting campaign.

Meanwhile, if your competitor is already bidding on their own branded terms, you’ll almost always show up in a lower position in search rankings.

Can Be Costly

Google and other search engines rank the ‘quality’ of your search ad based on a range of factors. One of the biggest factors is how often the search term appears on your website. Obviously, your competitor’s brand name is unlikely to appear on your website much, if at all.

As a result, you’ll likely have to pay more for each ad or click through to your site. This is how Google manages pricing for search engine advertising— the ‘higher quality’ they determine your ad to be (meaning, the more likely it is to be what a user is looking for in their search), the less you have to pay for each ad.

In some cases, your ad spent might have been better placed in other locations, like Facebook or YouTube, resulting in less waste.

Difficulty Following Google Ad Policies

Remember— Google and other search engines have strict rules about the management of trademarks. If your competitor’s name is trademarked, you can’t even mention their name in your ad text or display URL. That means you can’t bid on a competitor’s name, then run an ad that says ‘Why our brand is better than ‘Brand X.’”

If you do, you could be penalized or even face legal action. Understanding the rules of search engine marketing is essential.

(There are some exceptions— for example, if you’re an authorized reseller, informational website centered around a brand, or an authorized advertiser).

For an audit on your dealership and how conquesting could work for you, contact us today.

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