If you’re an auto dealer, you have probably heard of Vehicle Listing Ads, or better known as VLAs. VLAs are a very new and unique campaign type when it comes to listing your inventory for sale. They can be very beneficial in terms of results, but why does it take so long for your agency to get them setup and turned on? The short answer is GOOGLE.

When setting up VLAs there is a lot of “Hurry Up And Wait.” The following paragraphs will detail each step to setting up VLAs and the time it takes to wait on Google.

First, the whole process can’t be done without a Merchant Center account. Merchant Center has been around for years and is utilized by E-Commerce companies as a way to help sell their products. Basically, this is the account that will feed Google Ads. But in order to feed Google Ads, you have to first set up the Merchant Center correctly.

After you create the account you will notice that Vehicle Listing Ads is not a product that is available. Vehicle Listing Ads is not available to every Merchant Center account thus it’s not an option. To get this as an option you will have to contact Google support. There are several ways to do so, the most common being filling out the VLA request form. This is the first waiting period. It can Google up to 2 weeks to approve your request through this form. I have found a loophole in this process by contacting them directly via their Chat solution instead of filling out this form. Typically I am seeing approval in about 48 hours.

While you’re waiting for VLAs to be approved on your account there are steps that can be taken to continue the process.

  • Fill out Business information
  • Verify and Claim your website
  • Link Your GBP account
  • Link Your Ads Account

Filling Out Your Business Information

 This is a pretty simple step and doesn’t take too long to complete. It’s just basic Name, Address, Phone number information. It will ask for a phone number to verify the account. Your cell phone number is fine as it will text you a confirmation code you will need to enter.

Verify & Claim Your Website

Your website can only be claimed by one Merchant Center at time. In order to claim a website the easiest way to send a unique code to your website vendor. When your agency sends you the code to send to your website vendor, let’s admit that sometimes you don’t send that in a timely manner. This is the second step that can take some time. Your agency is at the mercy of you to send that code to your website vendor, then at the mercy of your website vendor uploading that code correctly. As long as action is taken swiftly this can generally be completed in a day or two.

Linking GBP and Ads Accounts

As long as admin access is granted to your agency to both your GBP and Ads accounts this is another simple task. If your agency does not have admin access they cannot move on until access is granted.
At this point Google should have approved your request to run VLAs and all of the Linking and Verifying has been completed. The next step is to create an inventory feed that can be imported into the Merchant Center account. Creating the feed and importing is an easy step. But here is where we’re waiting on Google again. It can take up to 2 weeks for Google to approve the feed, and that’s if it doesn’t fall into their algorithm bug.

Currently, there is a bug in their algorithm that is approving the feeds. We’ve been told by Google that it is affecting about 50% of Merchant Center accounts. This bug is misidentifying information, such as pricing and landing pages. The Merchant Center account has to match exactly the website or the feed will be denied. The bug is sometimes saying that 100% of the vehicles don’t match when in fact they do. Unfortunately, there is nothing support can do at this time but wait for the engineers to fix the algorithm. If your feed falls into this bug you will be waiting until the bug is fixed. At the time of this writing it has been 6 weeks that Google has been working on this bug.

Once you finally get the GREEN light that your feed is approved, that’s it, no more waiting. Create your campaign and watch it deliver amazing results.

If you find yourself wondering why your agency doesn’t have VLAs turned on yet, just remember it can take up to 4 weeks from start to finish as long as you don’t fall for the bug. To learn more about VLAs or to get them setup for your dealership contact PCG Digital for more information!

Jacob Moody
Jacob Moody
Jacob is a Google Specialist with PCG Digital. He has worked in the automotive industry for 7 plus years. Jacob was a Marketing Director for a Chevrolet Buick Dealer Group before coming to PCG. He is the father of 4 beautiful girls and loves to take each one of them fishing and hunting every chance he gets.
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