5 Car Sites Killing it on Paid Search

Digital ad spending in the US automotive industry is on the rise and according to eMarketer, expected ad spending in 2016 will hit $8.71 billion. Furthermore, when looking at digital ad spending by industry, automotive ranks second, right behind retail and ahead of financial services.

Of the online traffic to car sites, PPC advertising accounts for 6.5% of the industry’s traffic compared to just 1.7% for display ads. Comparatively, in an industry such as Finance, paid traffic accounts for only 0.9% while display ads are a meager 0.4%.

auto industry trafficOn these crowded digital roads, some automotive sites have been outperforming others when it comes to PPC visits. Discover below 5 automotive websites that have been killing it on paid search traffic.

Kelley Blue Book

The Kelley Blue Book (KBB) is the formative automotive appraisal guide and the brand is extremely well known in the US, with a large digital presence. Over the period from January to July 2016, kbb.com had 149.5 million visits on desktop and mobile web, averaging over 21 million visits a month.

During this period, 56% of KBB’s desktop traffic came via search and 12% of their search traffic was from various PPC campaigns. These PPC campaigns have been ramped up significantly since the start of 2016, and when comparing paid search traffic from January to July, KBB had an increase of 161%.

kbb ppc



One of the biggest names in the auto industry, CarGurus has been killing it on paid search recently and, as a result, has seen a massive growth in overall search traffic. Between January and July 2016, cargurus.com saw 238 million US combined visits, with peak traffic coming in March (38.1 million visits).

cargurus ppc

In January 2016, paid search accounted for 3% of CarGuru’s desktop traffic, bringing the site 270,000 paid search visits.  More recently, in July 2016, paid search accounted for 6.2% of desktop visits, and paid search traffic soared to 682,000.

Of these paid search terms, “cargurus” led the way with 3.25% of the traffic share, followed by “car guru” and “used cars”. Using Keyword Analysis we can discover that 5 websites compete over paid traffic for “used cars” and in July, cargurus.com was narrowly beaten by cars.com – 30.42% to 30.04%. However, for cars.com paid search is a smaller overall share of their desktop traffic, and accounts for just 2% of visits.

cargurus keywords


880%. That’s how much Ford increased their desktop paid search traffic between January and July 2016. Paid search has become a vital traffic source for the car maker and in July, paid search accounted for 10.2% of ford.com’s total US desktop traffic.

Most of this paid traffic comes from the single keyword “ford” and of the top 10 keywords, 9 have the word ‘ford’ somewhere in the term (the lone exception being “mustang”). When looking at Keyword Analysis in July, ford got 93.4% of paid traffic from “ford”, compared to January 2016 when Ford only got 83.7%. With this impressive increase, it’s safe to say Ford has shifted its PPC strategy into high gear.

ford ppc


Unlike Ford, Edmunds‘ digital strategy has consistently involved paying for a large chunk of their search traffic. Recently, however, Edmunds has revved up paid search campaigns and in July 2016, paid search accounted for 5% of desktop traffic, roughly the same percentage the site received from e-mail, social media, and display ads combined.


Looking down the list of Edmunds’ top paid search terms, “honda odyssey 2017” ranked 6th in July, with an average CPC of $4.66. This price tag made “honda odyssey 2017” Edmund’s 6th most expensive keyword and in July, they managed to amass 71% of the US desktop traffic from this term, beating out many local car dealer sites.

edmunds ppc honda odyssey


Noticeably absent from the above graph is Honda’s official website honda.com, whose PPC marketing strategy involves paying for more generic search terms, often without a year attached to them. For example, “honda motorcycles” brought Honda 0.7% of their paid traffic in July, and looking at Keyword Analysis, we can discover that Honda won 97% of paid search traffic for this keyword in July compared to 87%  in January.
honda keywordsSince January, PPC traffic to honda.com has been trending upwards, and more recently, Honda has been killing it on paid search traffic, reaching 452,000 paid search visits in July. This has meant that paid search traffic accounts for 10.1% of Honda’s US desktop visits. If paid traffic continues to rise, it could soon beat out referral traffic, which accounts for 12.9% of honda.com’s desktop traffic.

honda ppc

For more on digital strategies within the automotive industry, download our Auto Industry Report:

                                  Click here to download the report


About the Author -

Joseph is a Digital Insights and Content Manager at SimilarWeb. He has experience in content writing, social media, and analytics. When not tracking digital trends and creating online content, Joseph enjoys hiking, basketball, pickling, and Canadian alternative music.

Discover the secrets of online success