Paid Search: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.
By: Rich Delancey



“Everyone tells me that my Dealership’s Digital program is bad, but when I Google my name I come right up.”


If I had a dollar for every time I heard a variation of the preceding sentence, I could buy a really nice Tiara Yacht……….dingy.  While I wouldn’t have enough money for the mother ship, the point remains that most dealers today feel that they are in pretty good shape when it comes to their digital advertising, when in reality, they have work to do.  While some dealers are in good shape, others have no idea how big of a problem they have.  During the days of Yellow Pages, it was much easier.  You could simply open a phone book and see your ad.  Sometimes the Yellow Page salesman would convince you to place two ads, one under Marine Dealer and one under Boat Dealer. Either way it was simple to buy, simple to monitor and simple to track.


Digital advertising, while similar in some ways to the Yellow Pages, is a lot more complex.  The reasons around the complexity have to do with how people search for information.  When I was going to school in the 1980’s we were taught to use the card catalog.  If we wanted to research motor boats we would look up a boat, and go check out the book to see if it had what we wanted. 


Today when someone wants to research motor boats, they Google a lot more than the

word “boat”. Long tail search terms, as they are referred to, are becoming more common than ever. For example, Regal Boats recently had this search term show up on their google report:


“regal boat that carries 12 passengers is under $90,000 is fast is in black or red but not white is at a dealer near me is on sale.” 


Putting grammar aside, this 28-word search phrase highlights just how personal search has become.  Could you imagine a 28-word phrase in the old card catalog?


So, the question should not be “Does your dealership come up on the first page of Google when your name is searched?”  But rather “How well do you show up when someone searches a model, brand, or service that you offer.” I live in Tampa, Florida and have been looking at the 212 Limited Yamaha Wake Boat. When I googled “Price of the Yamaha 212 Limited Boat” not one dealer showed up on the first page of google in either the paid or the organic rankings. Instead, three insurance companies, Boat Trader,,, NADA, Yamaha Corporate, and two review sites were all I had to choose from. Now, I know there is a huge Yamaha dealer less than 6 miles from my house, but with today’s “if you read it on the internet it must be true” culture, the average consumer might think that they don’t carry the 212 Limited.


The neat thing about the internet is that you don’t have to be an expert to know if your dealership has a good presence.  Put your consumer hat on and do some searches. I would suggest you use the Google Ad Preview tool,

The tool will show you a clean search like a customer would see.  It is important to use Google’s Ad Preview tool as your own personal computer would have a long history of marine searches which could alter results, but we will save that topic for another post on another day.  Once you have the preview tool open, set your geography and start searching the way customers talk to you.  Try both simple phrases like “Wake Boat” and more complex phrases like “monthly payment on Yamaha 190 FSH boat.”  See for yourself, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Once you know where you are strong or where you are weak, you can begin to work with your vendors in a more informed manner.


If you show up on the page, it is important to note where you show up.  Anything beyond page one of Google is like not showing up at all.  If you are on page two or three you won’t get any traffic from the listing.  You should also consider the location of your ads; are your paid ads in the top three positions or at the bottom of the page?  If they are at the bottom of the page they are worthless and not worth the time or expense. 


It’s important to note that 85% of the clicks on a Google results page come from what is called “above the fold”, meaning you don’t have to scroll down to find the listing.  The above the fold section is dominated by paid ads.  The paradigm that people skip the paid ads in favor of the organic listings is like saying people skip iTunes in favor of an 8 track tape.  Recent research shows that consumers do not care if the listings are paid or not, they simply want answers to their questions.


So, my friends, it’s time to take your digital destiny in your own hands.  Get out and learn the truth first-hand.  This topic and a lot of others will be covered during my presentation at MDCE. I look forward to meeting you there, and talking digital with you.


Editor’s Note: The Marine Dealer Conference & Expo will take place December 10-13, 2017 in Orlando, Fla. If you find value in this blog post, just think of the value you could receive at MDCE.

Get registered here.

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