WordStream Drives PPC Efficiency For Automotive Industry

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Customer Success Story: Sentry Auto Group

Sentry Auto Group is a family-owned and -operated group of automobile dealerships located throughout Massachusetts and serving the Ford, Mazda, Kia, Lincoln and Mercury automobile brands. In addition to selling new and pre-owned cars, the dealerships offer collision and paint repair staffed with the most qualified technicians and state-of-the-art equipment; parts and services; and on-site rentals for the convenience of customers.

Background & Search Marketing Goals

In an industry where audiences are bombarded with advertisements from manufacturers to dealers, Sentry Auto Group needed a more effective way to reach the right prospects at the right time in the purchasing process. No longer able to accomplish that with TV or radio ads alone, Sentry added pay-per-click (PPC) to its advertising mix and opened its first Google AdWords account with three major goals in mind: to drive traffic directly to its own site rather than rely on third-party leads; to increase awareness of all four dealer locations; and to maximize return on investment for advertising campaigns.  


Chris Lemley, president of Sentry Auto Group, led the team in the Google AdWords campaign launch, with the initial idea that they could devise their own list of straightforward keywords and corresponding text ads. What he later discovered was that the keywords the team selected were not the actual keywords his prospects were using in online search queries to find local auto dealerships. 

Lemley also discovered that much of the regular work involved in monitoring and adjusting his PPC campaign was extremely tedious. There simply wasn’t enough time in the day for the marketing team to dedicate to critical tasks including continuously uncovering new keywords, segmenting ad groups and authoring relevant corresponding text ads. Instead, the team was forced to guess what keywords would work, let the campaign run and periodically check results. The repetition was monotonous and unrewarding to a team whose resources were better spent focusing on more strategic elements of their marketing and advertising programs. Consequently, PPC results were disappointing. 

The lack of resources coupled with mediocre results proved the need for a more advanced solution.  Low Quality Scores and sluggish click-through rates motivated Lemley and his team to find a search engine marketing (SEM) resource that could address these issues and help them reach their marketing goals for PPC advertising.

Meeting the Challenges with WordStream’s Keyword Management Solution

Sentry Auto Group turned to WordStream to make its Google AdWords campaign a success.  

WordStream is a provider of hosted keyword management solutions that simplify and streamline the processes involved in optimizing paid and organic search marketing. WordStream’s patented tools enable search marketers to efficiently and effectively accomplish the most important – and time-consuming – PPC tasks, including keyword discovery, keyword grouping and organization, negative keyword discovery, ad text authoring and campaign management. WordStream customers experience increased productivity, relevance and value of their SEO and PPC efforts for more return on marketing investment.

Robert Stanley served as the account representative for Sentry Auto Group. Stanley’s role was to work with Sentry to set up its account and get the team started. Stanley identified an initial set of keywords by leveraging Sentry’s private website data, including keywords pulled from Google Analytics data – providing a far more accurate and relevant base of real, usable keyword information. The process was easy and it took only a few hours to set up completely new ad groups.

According to Stanley, “Clients seem to expect, perhaps from prior experience, that adopting a new process will require a long lead time and run up an expensive tab of billable hours. Sentry Auto Group was pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to set up their account in one afternoon and continue to serve as an accessible resource to instruct them on how to take full advantage of all of the available benefits across our PPC tools.”

Continuous, Relevant Keyword Discovery

By including just a few lines of JavaScript code on the footer of Sentry’s website, WordStream was able to automatically capture new keywords every time someone visited the site. The difference for Sentry was the ability to uncover keywords that were actually bringing customers to the website, rather than waste time guessing what keywords would drive traffic.  

Speaking to the timesaving benefit of the tool, Lemley noted, “Unlike generic keyword tools that we’ve tried in the past, WordStream’s Keyword Discovery Tool provided us with an exclusive database of keywords highly specific to our business.  It took the guessing game out of the equation for us and freed our time from having to dedicate hours a day to the tedious task of coming up with new and relevant keywords.”

Now Lemley can use the Keyword Discovery Tool to find proven, qualified keywords and adjust his PPC campaign accordingly. For example, he discovered that keywords including only the model name, such as “Ford Explorer,” did not generate as many leads as more specific and geographically related keywords such as “Ford dealerships in Boston.” This actionable intelligence prompted Lemley to create several new ad groups focusing on location versus models.

Segmenting Keywords

As keywords are discovered, WordStream automatically funnels them into keywords and ad groups already set up in the account. Since finding large numbers of specific keywords and grouping them together into related keyword segments is the key to continuously maximizing Quality Score in high-performing PPC campaigns, Sentry Auto Group was able to apply intelligent keyword grouping filters to all of the keywords in its campaign and segment groups to the lowest common denominator.  

For example, Sentry discovered that one ad group contained keywords that spanned across all dealer locations. The wide array of keywords was hurting Sentry’s Quality Score, since Google rewards ad groups with tightly related words. WordStream immediately identified the opportunity to segment one ad group into four ad groups – one for each location. The tighter ad groups enhanced performance and revived Sentry’s Quality Score.

Authoring Relevant Text Ads and Landing Pages

Creating relevant text ads to go alongside these new groupings was easy with WordStream’s ad suggestion tools. WordStream automatically suggests algorithmically relevant ad copy for Sentry by finding the keywords and phrases in each ad group that drive the most traffic. Sentry Auto Group is able to incorporate these keywords into its ad copy to create a more relevant and compelling message.  

The next piece to improving Quality Score is to create landing pages with relevant content, correlating to the keywords and ad text discovered and suggested by WordStream. Since one of Sentry’s goals is to increase the awareness of multiple dealer locations, the company added a listing of all dealerships as well as a subset list of all of the surrounding communities serviced by those locations – including this in both text ads and landing pages.  

For example, prospects conducting a search for “Worcester Mazda dealer” will see an ad for Sentry’s Mercury & Mazda Dealership. When they click on the link, they discover that Sentry has a dealership located less than 10 minutes away in the neighboring town of Shrewsbury. With these new parameters in place, Sentry is able to increase exposure to many more surrounding communities, rather than limit its prospects to only four locations.


Sentry Auto Group set out to drive traffic to its website, increase awareness of multiple dealer locations and measure ROI more effectively. By working with WordStream, the company was able to reach its goals and achieve the following results:

  • Increased click-through rate (CTR) from .32% to over 2% (where 1% is the average)
  • Decreased cost per click (CPC) from $1.75 to $1.10
  • Increased Quality Scores from 2/10 to 7/10 on average
  • Increased number of bidded keywords from 300 to 1,600 in one month

End result: More than double the Web traffic for the same amount of money!

Lemley reported, “I’m happy because I’m spending the same amount of money and more than doubling the traffic to my website.  Don’t tell this to my competitors, but using WordStream is really a no-brainer for any business spending a significant amount on pay-per-click advertising.”

WordStream continues to enable companies like Sentry Auto Group and to reach levels of productivity, value and relevancy unattainable with typical search engine marketing tools by providing the sertvices of an AdWords Consultant. WordStream’s keyword management solutions vastly increase the effectiveness of keyword discovery, keyword grouping, ad authoring and other PPC processes, maximizing search engine marketing and search engine optimization success.