What’s the difference between a vehicle listing ad (or ‘VLA’) and paid search?
It used to be that you bid on a keyword (something like ‘Ford dealer’, ‘Toyota dealer’, ‘dealerships near me’, ‘used cars for sale’). In contrast, VLA’s bear more similarities to dynamic used paid search in that (rather than being keyword based) they’re based on the inventory you have in stock.
VLAs are the ads that show up across the top of the page, typically when you perform a year / make / model search such as ‘2018 Nissan Altima for sale’. Google will show you a bunch of ads across the top of the page with images of the vehicle, and you can peruse them, before you click on any. In other words, VLA’s are relevant because they represent a result that is directly pertinent to the search performed.
However, this space is fairly dominated by third parties, making it very competitive and driving up the cost. In addition, VLA’s are starting to get more complicated because they are starting to show up for broader and broader search intentions. By this we mean that rather than ‘year / make / model for sale’, they may be showing up for something like ‘make / model for sale’, which you’re more likely to rank for organically. As a result, the VLA is effectively cannibalizing your organic search traffic to deliver paid search results, and you’re paying for something you could have had for free.
Ask your paid search vendor for more clarity on what keywords they are or are not bidding on within your VLAs, and this will help you figure out if this is happening.
So to recap:
- Vehicle listing ads are normally presented in response to a year / make / model search.
- They are a facet of paid search and are based on the inventory a dealer has in stock.
- The VLA space is incredibly competitive, making them a potentially costly alternative.
- VLAs being served up in response to non year make model searches could be cannibalizing your organic traffic.