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Lessons from Google's Dealer Guidebook 2.5: Part 1


The Google Dealer Guidebook has served as a Rosetta Stone for how dealers should navigate Google effectively and efficiently. Google can be a sea of algorithms and data, and without a working knowledge of what is needed and how to be successful, dealers have to defer to agencies and third parties for their understanding.

We have heard the overused phrases of “The changing landscape,”  “The new normal,” and the like. And as annoying as they may seem, there is some truth to them. Our customers have changed, their path to purchase has new off-ramps, and we need to be at the head of the pack when it comes to understanding this and creating the optimal experience for them. 


This is where the Dealer Guidebook 2.5 becomes incredibly valuable.


This post-COVID document shares research and data on how 2020 became a pressure-cooker for change, shares the data collected, and then finishes with a checklist of what you should have in place for success. 


Here are a few takeaways from the newest edition of the Dealer Guidebook 2.5. There is also a code for the full Guidebook below.

Takeaway 1: People are increasingly buying online 


This trend has been increasing in the past 5 years, but 2020 threw this into full motion. When discussing the online retail process with dealerships and some of the steps we should be taking for the consumer, one of the first things a GM asks me is “How many people are really buying a car completely online?”  This is a valid question, and here is the answer:


10% of the vehicles sold in the first half of 2020 were online. 

1% purchased a car online in 2018.


10% of the population is enough to take notice--and the increase in just a few short years demonstrates the trajectory of the customer buying process. 


Takeaway 2: People want more online buying options


One thing COVID taught us was that we can buy anything--I mean ANYTHING online. Groceries, medicines, wine--anything. And the shop from home experience that we were forced into really stuck. If there is something I need, and I know I have a busy day, I pick up my phone, order it, and trust that it will be on my doorstep when I need it. 


The ease of shopping has become that simple. So, why are we reluctant to create our own online buying experience at our dealerships?


65% of recent new vehicle purchases excerpt more online options for vehicles after COVID-19. 


Shoppers are looking for and expecting the Amazon experience, and we have not been able to deliver on a consistent scale in the automotive industry. Even scheduling a service appointment online can be frustrating and cause a customer to abandon the scheduling tool. Purchasing is even more frustrating.


If 65% of people are looking for a streamlined path to purchase, it is time to really develop this. There are some steps you can take to formalize your process and create as frictionless an experience as possible:

  • Know, develop, and brand your center’s online shopping/buying process. If you are uncertain what this looks like, google Buy a “Brand” online near me” and review the information that comes up. You may be shocked that your competition is one step ahead.
  • Create landing pages that outline your process for your customers. They need to know and understand the steps they can take. Some will want to take a few and then come into the dealership. Some will want to have you deliver the car to their home and sign the papers then. Know what you can do, and lay it out for the customers
  • Create a video educating the customer on the ease of the process
  • Create ads in paid search and social that highlight this ease of experience. 

It is time to meet the customers where they are and understand how they want to shop. If you figure this out, you will be ahead of the majority of your competitors.


Takeaway 3: People discover you online


You may live in a small town, or you may live in a big city. You may have had the dealership in the family for 50 years, or you may be a new rooftop in the area.


Regardless of these factors, one thing levels the playing field--


65% of shoppers discover their purchasing dealership online.


You are hard pressed to find many people without a phone in their hand, and this is what they are searching on the majority of the time. And as they search, you want to make sure that you are showing up on both mobile and  desktop. Using tools like can help mimic the search experience for customers in varied zip codes and let you see what they might see without the search history attached to your computer. 


I would search “Buy a 2021+ Make+ Model Online Near Me” in your PMA and see what shows up. You should have paid search ads, and you should also show up organically. If you are not, look at Takeaway 2 again and implement some of the suggestions discussed. That will definitely help.


What Now?


This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the depth of knowledge and help in the 2021 Dealer Guidebook 2.5. Take a moment and download it from Google here, or use the QR code to access your guidebook. Next week we will look at the video component of 2.5!




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