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What the HEC is Going on With Google Ads?

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There is good news and less-than good news, but it’s not sufficient cause for the hype we’re seeing on the topic. So, take a deep breath. We’re here to tell you it’s going to be ok.

What is HEC anyways?

Google Ads is making some big changes to how it will allow advertisers to target audiences in areas of Housing, Employment, and Credit. 

In the words of Google themselves, “In an effort by Google to improve inclusivity for users disproportionately affected by societal biases; housing, employment, and credit products or services can no longer be targeted to audiences based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP code.

Let’s Start with the Good News 

Fortunately, for Google and its advertisers, Zip Code targeting is not the only way to target a location. Location targeting is still very much in play. Radius, city, metro, and state targeting aren’t going anywhere! Facebook made this change in March of 2019, and it hasn’t slowed their ability to message the correct audience. Essentially, experienced digital marketers will adjust their strategy to achieve the same results. 

Like many of us who live and breathe digital marketing on a daily basis, we want to show the most relevant ads to the best audience we can define. This allows the best result (sales) for the least amount of investment (time and money). Essentially, finding our dealers their ideal future customers.

Exclusion Isn’t a 4-Letter Word

Because we are in the Information Age, we often forget to strategize on “who is not our customer?” To put it in perspective, would you continue to spend money in locations where you don’t see positive traction? By no means! 

With this new policy, Google ads will still be allowed to EXCLUDE based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or zip code. I know this seems counterintuitive or, as my grandpa would say, “that was a long way for a short walk.” But, the overall good news is that: “The sky is not falling!” Targeting still exists. The strategy, implementation, and execution is and will always be changing. We’ve just got to pivot and adapt. Just know that your people, PureCars, are on top of it all and working to improve your marketing efficiency with the best data.

What Does That Mean for the Automotive Dealer?

On Oct 19, 2020 – Google will disapprove search ads that fall within their “credit” policy, any ad that is disapproved will automatically be paused. This can come across as quite scary, which is understandable. I’m sure that I would have a similar reaction if I were a dealer or the head of marketing for an automotive group.

However, with everything that 2020 has brought our way, this is NOT the time to panic. The fear-mongering, parasitic vendors, are going to try to convince you that “the sky is falling!”, but rest assured, this is no surprise to anyone at PureCars.

What Does Google Mean by “Credit”?

This policy’s impact will be on ads that mention car loans, or more specifically, requiring credit approval. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Credit products, services, credit offers, an extension of credit, or selective credit offers depend on creditworthiness
  • Any agreement between a lender and a borrower, where the borrower promises to repay the lender at a later date, generally with interest, to acquire a product or receive something of value
  • Any installment payment that references a requirement of a credit check, product and services available contingent on creditworthiness, and/or where interest/APR payments are included

Advertisers will have to remove bid adjustments on gender, age, parental status, marital status, and zip code targeting from impacted campaigns. 

What Happens When a Dealer Doesn’t Comply With Google’s New Policy? 

PureCars admires our dealers. You are a group of innovative, non-conforming, and courageous entrepreneurs, and this question is at the top of everyone’s mind. This is why my answer comes with great caution. 

Don’t poke the bear! If we do not accept the terms and update the ads, they will stop running, and we will be unable to create new ones. While it is understood that this is an inconvenience for certain, by complying, your ads will continue to run while other dealers are flagged and inactive. 

We understand exactly what’s needed for ads to be compliant and how to navigate these changes in ways that are least impactful to performance and results for our dealers.

How Does Google Deem A Campaign Under the Umbrella of Credit Policy?

Google will analyze each ad and the landing page associated with it to determine if it violates the credit policy. While you can have “some” credit-related information in the ad and on the landing page, it cannot be the “majority”.

If you are like me, this level of ambiguity is enough to throw your hands up and scream, “WHAT THE HEC DOES THAT MEAN?” It becomes complicated to play by the rules when you are not exactly sure what the rules will be. 

At this point, the best estimate of this distinction is going to come from your ad and landing page’s intent. For example, ask this question of your campaigns “are we selling vehicles?” or “are we selling vehicles’ financing?

Should I Stop Advertising With Google?

No. While this all may sound daunting, it’s not a reason to panic or stop advertising on Google. Paid Search is still essential for capturing demand, which is always where your first ad dollars should be spent, and that likely won’t change anytime soon.  

Since the policy has not taken effect, we remain alert and prepared to pivot quickly for our dealers’ benefit.

Brad McMahan

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