Automotive search terms are not as static as many would have you believe. There is a core of terms that you should always optimize for such as your dealership name, brand and city name, model and city,used dealer city name and hopefully your content and linking strategies will allow you to pull in from neighboring cities and states.
While I see errors almost daily in dealer pay per click marketing initiatives such as buying terms for the dealer (running the campaign) name and city, brand and city dealer combos. If your directory and map listings are well optimized then you are spending money unnecessarily. Of course exceptions abound with the biggest being that your competitors are buying your name and keyword combos. If your campaign is set up properly and your site content is optimized properly you should be able to take the top spot for these basic terms.
I have been told by dealers that their SEM provider actually suggested buying these terms and after reviewing the campaigns it was a waste for the dealer(s). Due to the fact that there was no competition in place for their primary terms and they were well optimized for these searches already.
Someone wanting to buy a Ford F150 will not be typing in terms such as Boston Ford dealer they will probably be typing in terms such as "Ford F150 rebates", "Ford F150leasing programs", "Ford F150 finance specials", "Ford F150 prices", "Ford F150 inventory Boston" or "down payment needed to buy a Ford F150". Buying the broad match "Ford" in your pay per click campaign will bring traffic for these terms but it can also bring traffic for "used ford truck bumper", "model T Ford", "Henry Ford" and "Harrison Ford". Buying "Ford F150" can further complicate the problem and raise your cost as well. It can potentially bring in traffic for "towing capacity for 1987 Ford F150", "what is the coffee can under the hood of a Ford F150 for", "used Ford F150 parts" all terms you do not need to waste search budget on and will increase your expenses as your bounce rate rises because your quality score goes into the tank for not delivering content relative to the search and your time on site drops.
Consumers may think that a dealers website should have this information and it probably should, but if it does not have the requested info and a great call to action to opt in for follow up then it is a waste of a dealers marketing budget.
The longtails are cheaper clicks and easier to optimize for quality score. Thus driving down cost or expanding reach on the same budget. From a search engine optimization point of view longtail searches traffic will increase traffic exponentially over a period of time. High converting traffic comes from longer tail searches, because people using longer search phrases are generally looking for the answer to a very specific question or need.
The problem lies in identifying these "long tail" searches as Jared mentioned in the comments of this post. He asked for some resources for keyword research sand here is the short list of some of the tools I use when working with clients and my own properties.
Word Tracker for identifying keywords and search phrases with low competion and enough search engine volume to justify encorporating them into a search engine optimization or search engine marketing plan. They give some great videos and have a 7 day free trial.
Keyword Spy for exploring the sem efforts of my competition it will also help you track your competitions search positions and keywords in the organic listings.
Adwords has some built in research tools, but if you are only using adwords for PPC you are missing a universe of low cost promotion tools. Their tool is structured to help them sell a larger spend.
Becareful if you visit any of those links above and seek enhanced knowledge it will open your eyes to a whole new universe of search engine marketing.
Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions about your search engine campaigns.
SEGA Systems, LLC
"Without Traffic Everything Fails"