Building new campaigns is one of the most common requests we get from clients here at PCG. But how long does it take for the new campaign to work?

This question is one we hear often, and we are asked that question often enough to warrant a blog post. Unfortunately, like many questions – the answer is, “it depends”.

If I could get a t-shirt saying “it depends” I would. However, if I am forced to give an answer, I would say on average it takes about 4-6 months to get reliable results from PPC, especially in the automotive industry. The key phrase here being “reliable”.

Here is the thing, PPC can, in theory, start delivering overnight. However, in the initial period most of what is happening is data collecting. We simply don’t have enough statistics to make intelligent assessments one way or another.

So why does it take so long to get results? There are a few reasons.

First and foremost, automotive dealership spend is typically on the lower end compared to other industries and larger advertisers who also appear on some overlapping automotive terms. A typical rule of thumb on any given keyword is 100 clicks or more with no conversions. This means if the keyword has 100 clicks and no conversions then the keyword should be paused. In most of the accounts I manage, any given keyword doesn’t reach that level for months and sometimes it can take up to a year.

Here is a table based on all the clients I manage at PCG. I ran a report for any keyword that contains the word “dealership” so an example would be “honda dealership” or “nissan dealership”. I did this to level the playing field for analysis as well as to remove any dealerships that bid on their brand name.

You may wonder how many keywords in total across all of my clients contain the word “dealership” and that answer is a bit depressing. Currently, there are 266,974 keywords across all my clients that contain the word “dealership”. However, this includes keywords such as “ford f150 dealership”, “honda accord dealership” and so on.

Sadly, the conclusion remains the same. Collecting enough data in PPC for automotive results takes months of waiting just to get enough data to be confident enough to make decisions.

Now it is not all bad news. There are other tactics in lieu of insignificant data. For one I can make decisions at the ad group level (ad groups contain multiple keywords) or at the campaign level. While not ideal, moving up a tier for decision making can lead to faster decisions. I can also lower the bar for determining success and use fewer clicks (50 clicks) in a longer timeframe (180 days). Throughout my 10 years of experience I can quickly decide when a campaign is not successful.

Another option is to change the success metrics.  I can use cost vs clicks as a for a determination of performance.  For example, if a keyword has spent over $100 with no conversions, then I can pause that keyword.  This can result in faster data collection as cost-per-click is generally over $1 for a good portion of the quality generic keywords in a strong account.

As much as we want to see results as quickly as possible, PPC is not a fast-working machine. While the landscape has evolved and gotten faster and arguably PPC is the fastest channel for data collection, decision making takes months. If you want to rush and mix accurate data with speed, it is best to find an agency with experienced PPC managers and industry knowledge. While not a perfect system, here at PCG we understand the automotive space and can balance data with decisions when necessary.

Sarah Stemen
Sarah Stemen
Sarah Stemen is a Paid Search Strategist at PCG. She has been working in digital marketing since 2007. She has worked at large companies such as Nationwide Insurance and BMW Financial Services and has also worked on the agency side before joining PCG. What she loves most about her job is testing and engaging in high-level strategic conversations with clients to impact all other advertising channels. When Sarah isn't working you can find her weight lifting or taking care of her 3 kids.
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