Google drops shopping pilot, tests options

New metrics for effectiveness of display ads

Stonehouse: Finding more mobile shoppers.

Google has discontinued an auto shopping pilot program for dealerships in the San Francisco area but continues to roll out marketing products for automakers and dealers.

For about two years, as part of the pilot, Google posted the vehicle inventory of certain Bay Area dealers. Shoppers negotiated anonymously with participating dealers by e-mail.

But dealers complained about not having direct contact with shoppers. The program, called Google Cars, was dropped in January.

Meantime, Google continues to roll out marketing tools for dealers. For instance, with so-called brand lift surveys, dealers can measure the effectiveness of Google display ads and YouTube postings, said Kim Stonehouse, Google industry development manager for automotive.

The surveys are available across industries and include options to gauge consumers' recall of ads, she said.

Also, automakers and dealers are finding more mobile shoppers on Google because of "enhanced campaigns," Stonehouse said.

Google calls them enhanced because, under a policy change last summer, the tech giant required advertisers using paid-search campaigns to buy key words and phrases together for desktop and mobile users, not separately.

Paid search is a popular form of advertising on Google, in which stores bid against each other on frequent car-shopping search phrases, such as "Ford Fiesta Omaha," for position atop a Google search.

"We're seeing strong adoption," Stonehouse, 31, said of enhanced campaigns by auto retailers.

Greg May Chevrolet in West, Texas, near Waco, dominated mobile search on Google until the advent of enhanced campaigns, said owner Greg May. Before July, when all his rivals had to convert to the platform, May said the store's paid-search mobile ads were seen by 86 percent of Chevrolet mobile shoppers because a lack of competition gave him top position on many Chevrolet searches.

But recently that so-called "share of voice" on mobile searches has dropped to 37 percent, still a strong showing but not stratospheric, because enhanced campaigns had coaxed newcomers into the fray, said Jim Flint, president of Local Search Group, which manages paid search advertising for the store.

Paid search also is known as pay-per-click because the advertiser only pays for the advertising if a consumer clicks on the link that takes the shopper to the dealer's Web site.

What dealers won't see from Google, at least in the foreseeable future, is the Google Cars shopping network.

"We are concluding the car search beta in the San Francisco Bay Area as we focus on building the next version of our experience for car-related searches," said a written statement from Google. "We remain committed to the space and look forward to sharing more news soon."

You can reach David Barkholz at -- Follow David on Twitter: @barkholzatan



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