12 Automotive Marketing Tactics to Sell More Cars Online

  • 11 min read

The automotive industry has undergone significant changes in the past year, among others due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rise of online car sales and the evolution of digital marketing techniques has become even more important for car dealerships and manufacturers to remain competitive in the online marketplace.

With so many potential customers browsing and buying cars online, it's essential to have effective marketing strategies in place that can attract and convert these prospects into buying customers. 

In this article, we'll explore twelve proven automotive marketing strategies that can help you sell more cars online, from optimizing your website for search engines to leveraging social media and customer reviews. By implementing these strategies, you can increase your online visibility, improve your lead generation efforts, and ultimately drive more sales for your car dealership.

What is automotive marketing?

The practice of automotive marketing has a long history, dating back to 1898 when the first advertisement for a car appeared.

Nowadays, the message that is supposed to reach a potential customer and the way in which it is supposed to get there is certainly very different. Many automotive marketing efforts have shifted from the “physical” to “digital” operations.


The first ad for a car/ Source: Printmag

Automotive marketing refers to the promotion and advertising of products related to the automotive industry. The goal of it is to establish contact between car dealerships and potential car buyers, whether they are actively searching for a vehicle or still in the research phase. 

It applies to all businesses and companies that operate in the automotive industry, including dealerships, manufactures, part manufactures, resellers, part retailers, as well as service providers such as mechanics, inspectors, detailers, and technicians.

By employing car dealer marketing strategies, you can make potential customers aware of your business and establish your brand in their minds, increasing the likelihood that they will consider your company when they are ready to buy a product or service.

The importance of implementing online marketing strategy in the automotive industry

The competition in the automotive industry is getting stronger every year and without the proper planning, it might be hard to gain enough visibility online.

Creating an online automotive marketing strategy helps you to prepare for long-term advertising and engagement initiatives, allowing you to determine which content and messages to present at appropriate times. This approach enables you to focus on your target audience and capture their attention when they are most receptive to making purchasing decisions. 

By planning your automotive marketing strategy, you can also optimize your budget by identifying the most effective times and channels for promoting your cars to maximize awareness and engagement rate.

1. Get to know your target audience

Having a comprehensive understanding of your audience can help you create highly targeted automotive marketing campaigns to get better leads and increase conversions. It is important to identify and analyze your target customers to ensure that you are creating the right materials and promoting them in the most effective channels.

You can start by learning things about your audience, like their geographic location, age, gender, and other basic factors. Find out what your audience’s interests are, what they do in their free time, what they do for living, and where they like spending time online.

If you are selling luxury sports cars, it may not be worthwhile to advertise your vehicles for budget-conscious shoppers. People who are thinking about buying a new car have very different worries, questions, things they want, and things they need. Your customers who purchase a Porsche and BMW are perhaps more interested in having heated seats and a leather interior, but those who buy a used car or more budget-friendly brand are probably more concerned about longevity and mileage.

Similarly, if you are marketing auto parts to repair shops, it would not make sense to promote your products on social media platforms that are primarily used by teenagers. 


Target audience for Automotive/ Source: SearchEngineJournal

A comprehensive analysis of your target audience can help you allocate your marketing budget more wisely and increase the likelihood of attracting potential customers who are most likely to be interested in your products or services. If needed, you might have to divide your audiences into a few different campaigns to make sure you're delivering the appropriate message to the correct potential customer. Google's or Facebook's targeting options could be useful in achieving this.

2. Follow SEO best practises

It is crucial for your automotive marketing success to be among the top search results on Google, as people rarely scroll to the bottom of the search engine results page (SERP). 

To ensure that your dealership is easily visible to potential car buyers who search online, it is crucial to optimize your dealership website to rank on the first page of search engine results.

The first few listings get the most clicks. In fact, the top position in Google gets 33% of all search traffic for the particular keyword.

It is advisable to invest in content marketing, particularly in video marketing on platforms such as YouTube. Video content is becoming increasingly popular because it is easy to understand, does not require extensive reading, and provides an excellent visual representation of the products or services being offered.

Also, make sure your website is SEO-optimized. You don't have to invest in a complex website design with various advanced features. Instead, focus on making it user-friendly, fast-loading, and informative, providing useful information beyond just your contact details.

Regularly update your website with blog posts that contain relevant keywords related to your business and what potential customers are searching for.

3. Invest in online automotive advertising - it’s the future!

Organic traffic works great until a certain point but it may not be enough if your competitors are running paid ads. By not engaging in paid advertising, you may miss out on many potential customers.

In fact, car dealers are present on approximately 2.4 paid channels, which is significantly lower than the eCommerce industry average of 3.2 channels. This means that if you extend to at least 3 channels - you are already ahead of most of your competitors

Paid advertising can help increase the reach of your content, show your automotive ads to a wider audience or feature your name on channels where your offer is not usually visible. In the automotive industry it’s mostly done through search engines and social media but also can be in the form of website banner ads.

It's crucial to select the right paid advertising channels for your company based on your budget and audience behavior. You should invest in advertising space in locations where you're confident that your target audience will see it.


Google Vehicle ad/ Google

Google Vehicle Ads is the first step

According to data from Kenshoo, 70% of potential car buyers research different vehicles using search engines first. It means this is a channel, where lots of potential future customers probably are. Google Vehicle Inventory Ads should be the first campaign type to consider. 

To make sure you your Google Automotive campaign is successful, there are some steps you should follow:

  • Optimize your Google vehicle feed. Ensure all the mandatory attributes are in place and all the values (images, headlines, additional info etc.) are fully optimized. Add as many additional attributes as you can.

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Find out how to launch a Microsoft Automotive Ads Campaign as well.

4. Take advantage of Social Media

By leveraging the potential of social media, your automotive business can reap various advantages, including better interaction with customers, acquiring a broader online audience, and enhancing brand visibility.

Nowadays, Social Media is a platform where car enthusiasts can come together, engage in discussions, and find entertainment. Many potential car buyers use popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, which generates valuable leads for businesses. Since people spend a significant amount of time on social media, there is a good chance that you could encounter your next customer through a strong social media presence

You should set up profiles on every appropriate channel. For instance, Facebook is suitable for automotive companies as it caters to a broad audience, prioritizes local advertising, and lets you share various media types. Instagram may be useful for dealerships to showcase their new inventory through visual content. 

To determine the most effective content for your target audience on selected social media platforms, try various types of content as an experiment:

  • Videos
  • Stories
  • Image Post
  • Text posts


Facebook Automotive ads/ Facebook

Automotive paid ads on social media still win!

But of course, no organic social media content will work better than paid ads. On Facebook, you have the chance to get your vehicles directly in front of the eyes of potential customers by using Facebook Automotive ads.

Facebook automotive inventory ads are an advertising solution for car dealerships that utilize Meta's artificial intelligence to assist potential car buyers in finding their next vehicle. Automotive inventory ads use information from your automotive feed, the Meta Pixel embedded on your website and users’ behavior to present dynamically the appropriate vehicles to interested individuals.

Facebook is used by 2.963 billion people around the world and you’d be surprised how many potential car buyers you can find there.

5. Remember that customer reviews are important

Car dealers and other companies in the automotive industry have a reputation for being untrustworthy and aggressive when it comes to selling cars. This negative perception makes it difficult for them to gain the trust of potential customers. If someone is searching for a car dealership on Google and comes across a website that appears to be lacking in customer satisfaction indicators, they are likely to go elsewhere to buy their car.

Gathering reviews is one of the most effective marketing strategies for the automotive industry. Moreover, it's important to not only have good reviews but to also make sure they are prominently displayed on many different platforms such as Yelp, Google, social media, and your own website. 

Car buyers nowadays place significant emphasis on reviews and are eager to both read and write them. Semrush reports that 90% of customers are more prone to believing a brand recommendation from another consumer, even if that person is unknown, than ads presented by the brand itself.

Establishing consumer trust is crucial to growing your business, given that an increasing number of customers base their decisions on online reviews. Favorable reviews can benefit your company by immediately enhancing your credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of the consumer. Automotive dealers should make it easier for customers to leave reviews. They can place a review QR Code in their store, which, when scanned, can take customers to a link page with links to all the review platforms. With the help of a secure and enterprise-grade QR Code maker, they can create dynamic and trackable review of QR Codes.


What reviews give your business

When prospective buyers perceive you as trustworthy, they are more inclined to research your business and consider purchasing from you. Furthermore, customers who perceive your business as trustworthy are more likely to have a pleasant experience when purchasing a car and recommend your dealership to others. They may even leave a positive review of their own. Therefore, a successful marketing campaign not only increases the likelihood of making sales but also enhances the visibility and reputation of your brand among potential customers.

Additionally, good reviews help you to:

  • Enhance your online presence by appearing prominently in search results across various platforms like Google and Facebook.
  • Build social proofand gain customer trust.
  • Identify areas for improvement by gathering feedback from customers and leveraging this insight to improve your business.

6. Try remarketing

Remarketing plays a crucial role in automotive marketing. As car buyers frequently compare their buying options and the sales process is often long and with twists and turns, it is essential not to miss out on potential leads during the marketing stage. One effective method to prevent losing leads is to use captivating remarketing ads to remind and encourage potential customers to stay engaged with your brand.

Both Google Vehicle ads and Facebook Automotive Inventory ads are dynamic and use info from automotive feeds. That is why remarketing is an easy process to set up on both of these platforms.

By utilizing remarketing techniques, you can decrease the bounce and abandonment rates of potential customers, ensuring that they remain engaged with your brand. This keeps your company or brand at the forefront of shoppers' minds as they work their way through the upper stages of the purchasing journey.


Remarketing process| Source: Medium

7. Bid on competitor keywords 

To effectively compete in the automotive industry, it's not enough to only bid on obvious keywords such as “Toyota Corolla Hybrid”. It's also important to develop an automotive marketing campaign that can challenge your competitors.

In the competitive automotive marketing industry, it's important to consistently display compelling ad copy whenever your competitors do. Although using your competitor's name in your ad copy or saying anything negative is not recommended, you should bid on your top competitor's brand names and create persuasive ads to encourage leads to pick you over the competition.

As part of your keyword strategy in automotive marketing, you can bid on specific terms that other dealers commonly use to persuade online shoppers to purchase a car. Previously, Google had a policy against bidding on competitor keywords, but they have since lifted the rule for the entire platform, allowing you to bid freely.

8. Update systematically your negative keyword list

In digital marketing, negative keywords are utilized to optimize ad spending. By using negative keywords, your digital marketers can prevent your business and related media from appearing in front of consumers who search for specific words or phrases on the internet and social media platforms.

Sometimes, the current pay-per-click (PPC) rate in marketing may be too high for your budget. Omitting a specific word or phrase from your online automotive marketing campaigns is not enough. It still will not prevent your ads from appearing to potential buyers who search for vehicles using those terms.

Adding negative keywords enables you to focus on the keywords you want to target and avoid those that are irrelevant

Although it may seem like a time-consuming task, searching through your search query report is vital, particularly in the automotive industry. If your car ads appear for irrelevant search terms, it can harm your business's reputation. Thus, it is essential to be mindful of setting up negative keywords to prevent irrelevant search queries and save you money.

Good tip:

In car advertising, it is quite common for ads for real vehicles to appear in searches for toy cars. To avoid this, use a negative keyword strategy.


9. Follow car-buying trends and adjust your car dealer marketing accordingly

It’s important to regularly adjust your automotive marketing campaigns for trends in the automotive advertising and industry in general. You can gather valuable insights by subscribing to industry newsletters and blogs, checking out relevant reports, and following relevant social media accounts.

An emerging trend is that more people research cars online and rely on reputable auto review sites before contacting dealerships. With the rise of the digital age, traditional marketing strategies are no longer as effective for automotive marketing. 

Automotive marketing must now be more digital and utilize content marketing, video marketing, PPC campaigns, and other online media to capture potential customers during their initial online searches and convince them to buy.

These new digital marketing channels require a different budget than traditional automotive marketing. By using recent car buying data, automotive marketers can predict future trends and guide buyers toward their company's offerings.

To better understand the competitive landscape in the automotive industry, for example, we recommend taking a look at the Feed Marketing Report. In it you can find many interesting facts about advertising and channel presence in the automotive industry.

10. Surprise your customers with unique offers

Many car dealerships have similar sales and perks for holidays, making it difficult to stand out from competitors. To differentiate your brand, consider researching your target audience, location, and company values to develop unique ideas. Offer something that will make people view your company differently and set you apart from the rest.

Avoid using the same outdated sales strategy all the time. Instead, come up with original incentives and offers to attract potential customers.

Create contests and incorporate time-limited offers into your marketing plan to create a sense of urgency and encourage potential customers to take action quickly. Give some discounts to new car buyers or offer free oil changes for a limited time.

Also consider partnering with other organizations to increase your car dealership's visibility. Search for potential partners who can put in a good word about your business.



11. Automate your automotive marketing 

Marketing automation can significantly simplify marketing workflows for businesses in the automotive industry by automating them. 

This includes everything from generating initial interest to a complete nurturing campaign, leading to a final purchase. The use of automation helps to create a seamless and effortless experience for both the auto-seller and their customers. 

Examples of automation for the automotive industry include:

  • Lead-nurturing automation

With marketing automation, you can configure each nurturing action to occur based on a triggered action, such as a form submission, ad click, or showroom booking. This approach ensures that you don't miss any opportunities to engage with a lead by delivering the appropriate content at the right moment.

  • Automated feeds for PPC campaigns

If you run multiple automotive marketing campaigns, it takes a lot of time to prepare product feeds and optimize each product for each channel. Unfortunately, each platform has its own requirements. And the more products you sell, the harder it will be to avoid errors, which can cause rejection of your products or delay in running different ad campaigns online. 

By investing in a feed automation software, you can automate the creation of feeds for remarketing, social media ads, display ads and many more.

Check out our case study, where digital agency Norte Digital describes in detail how it managed to increase its client's conversions by 620% with automated text ads.

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  • And many more!

In reality, you can automate most processes in automotive marketing. You can create email marketing campaigns, use analytics tools for automation and invest in a platform that stores all your contacts. You just need to find the right tools for your business, which will make your life much easier!



12. Combine digital automotive marketing with traditional car dealer marketing

While digital marketing is important and can be effective for reaching a broad audience, it's also important not to overlook traditional marketing strategies. Cars are still products that in most cases need to be physically “tried out” before purchasing.

Print ads and TV commercials, for example, can still be effective forms of advertising even if they are not digital. In the automotive industry, not all potential customers are online or using social media, so it's crucial to understand your target audience and strike a balance between digital and traditional marketing strategies that will work best for your business. 

Also, some customers may see a banner showcasing your car and then check out your website to ultimately complete their car shopping online. You never know.


More and more people are buying cars online. This article outlines various approaches to improve car sales through online (mainly) automotive marketing. Some of the strategies discussed include optimizing search engine rankings, using social media and Google to run PPC ads, and using customer reviews to build trust in your brand. By implementing these strategies, automotive businesses can increase their visibility and attract more customers to their car dealership.

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