CarShop, the UK's leading used car supermarket group, previously relied on paid search to drive enquiries and sales to the business. Responding to the ever changing landscape of search engine marketing, CarShop teamed with Google to identify new opportunities. The result is a range of performance initiatives that are boosting traffic and sales.


  • Increase number of enquiries & sales
  • Ensure online channels hit CPE targets
  • Expand beyond SEM channels to attract new enquiries


  • Ensure ‘always open’ strategy
  • Drive incremental sales using the Google display network (GDN)
  • Understand mobile consumers and how they purchase
  • Use remarketing to target non-converters


  • Search: Incremental 57% in enquiries at stable CPE
  • Mobile: 67% lower CPE after accounting for calls
  • GDN: 5% incremental enquiries
  • Remarketing: 5% incremental enquiries
January 2014

Established in 1999, CarShop has grown to become one of the UK's leading car supermarket groups. After launching in Northampton, the company added a second branch in Cardiff in 2003, a third in Swindon in 2007, its fourth in Doncaster in 2009 and most recently a fifth in Norwich in 2012. CarShop is constantly looking for growth opportunities to consolidate and grow its position as one of the leaders in the marketplace.

Realising that people are relying heavily on search across all devices to find used cars, CarShop has been using paid search as a channel to drive enquiries and vehicle sales since 2008. With the ever changing landscape of search marketing, the company has been working even closer with Google, identifying that there were a number of other Search Engine Marketing (SEM) opportunities to drive incremental traffic and sales to the business. By incorporating all appropriate performance initiatives listed below, CarShop has been able to grow its sales from all online channels by 10% vs previous activity.

Always open on search

Searches happen all hours, everyday, whenever the consumer feels like doing so. As a business it's important to realise this and win every moment, whenever a search related to your business happens.


Previous paid search strategy meant that CarShop was only targeting users during certain hours of the day. However, realising that consumers don't search by time of day, but rather when it suits them, the company decided to target all hours of the day. This step resulted in an incremental 57% in enquiries without raising CPEs (Cost per enquiry).

Impression share

Limiting impressions due to budget caps meant that CarShop was previously not showing every time local prospects searched for used car makes and models. Ensuring that the company was appearing all the time was another factor that contributed to the 57% increase in leads from PPC (Pay per click) activities occurring at

But it didn't end there. Once CarShop's search campaigns were working to ensure it was appearing whenever people searched, and at its target cost per lead, the company then wanted to find new opportunities to drive further conversions.


CarShop also realised the growing importance of mobile as part of its search strategy. Understanding that mobile users would probably end up calling the business rather than filling out forms online, CarShop decided to track phone calls in Google analytics in order to import these as conversions into its campaigns. As a result, CarShop discovered its true CPE was 69% lower than what it was originally thought to be, enabling the company to push mobile more aggressively.

The Google Display Network

CarShop recognised that the car-buying process is a complex one, as prospects use multiple websites to refine their choice of vehicle and selling dealer. The company therefore wanted to find a way to stay on-radar during that process, in a cost-effective way.

Keyword Contextual Targeting

Keyword contextual targeting on the Google display network allows businesses to serve ads on webpages that contain specified keywords, and is one of the easiest campaigns to set up, using data from search campaigns.

CarShop used this functionality to ensure that it remained on-radar, on relevant websites. Keyword contextual targeting, combined with Conversion Optimiser, targeting a radius around each dealership, drove 5% incremental conversions at the company's targeted CPE.


On average, 97% of consumers do not convert on the first visit, which means there is a higher probability that these people will end up on competitor websites. Remarketing allows businesses to serve ads based on the user's previous onsite behaviour.

CarShop used this to tactic to target users who had been to its website, but didn't convert. As a result the company saw an increment approaching 5% in additional leads.


With complexity growing on a regular basis due to growing online channels, using automation is key to achieving success. Conversion optimiser automatically optimises to a CPE, using various signals such as browser, device, location, and time.

Although CarShop has been using conversion optimiser for a while, it continues to provide the automated support to optimise all the new performance initiatives including enhanced campaigns to a profitable CPE, which means it avoids time-consuming manual optimisations.

So, what next?

Carshop realises that consumer behaviour is constantly evolving, along with its stock mix. As a next step in driving incremental conversions, Dynamic Search Ads will be implemented in the near future to fill the gaps in the company's keyword coverage, which should lead to incremental sales as it has done for other advertisers. With the continued focus on maximising leads at a target CPE, CarShop will also be activating Remarketing lists for Search Ads, allowing the company to adapt its search strategy by adapting bids and ad text when previous visitors to the site search again.