Car salesman handing new car keys to customer

How-to Guide for Google’s New Auto Ads (aka Vehicle Listing Ads)

*** UPDATE: Due to the recent influx of inquiries regarding Google’s new Vehicle Ad beta program, we have a team standing by for your questions. Connect with us to learn more about our VA partnership and custom onboarding and support.

Gif Animation of Google Business Profile of exterior photos

One of Google’s most recent and significant updates of 2022 is the ability to advertise auto inventory on search. Auto advertising is paired with the latest ability to post new and used car inventory to Google Business Profile.  Officially from Google, all U.S. auto dealers can now take advantage of the Vehicle Listing Ad program. 

Auto dealers can pay for their inventory to appear ahead of their competitors through the Google Vehicle Ad program. 

On March 11, 2022, Google announced that their Vehicle Listing Advertisement program is now available in the U.S. – More counties are coming soon!

More than 95% of vehicle purchasers use online search to aid in finding information. There is no better time for Google to launch an ad program to assist dealers in putting their best inventory in front of their target market. 

dbaPlatform had the honor of participating in their Alpha pilot program, which helped us master Google’s newly launched beta program. Our team knows our way around Google’s vehicle ads and how to make the program beneficial for your auto dealers. Google vehicle ads are a new ad format via search that allows users to see auto inventory from nearby dealers. Let’s dive into what this means, how you can leverage it to benefit your dealer locations, and how to get started.

dbaPlatform's April Webinar showcasing Vehicle Listing Ads placement

On April 21, 2022 dbaPlatform hosted a webinar talking about Google and Bing’s vehicle ads and new ways to promote auto inventory online. To access the webinar, go here!

*** CAUTION: Google Vehicle Ads setup is more complex than it might seem. Don’t try this at home – JK. But seriously, this process is multi-step, precise, and manual.  You may need a partner that understands the complexity of Google Vehicle Ads, errors, and troubleshooting. Schedule a conversation with one of our Specialists to learn the ins and outs.

Gif Animation of Google Business Profile of exterior photos

Vehicle Ads on Google

Vehicle ads are a performance-focused, lower-funnel ad format that enables auto advertisers to promote their inventory of vehicles to interested users shopping for vehicles online.

For example, if someone searches for a used Honda Civic, they will see auto inventory in their area. What’s new is that auto dealers can now participate in Google vehicle ads to have their inventory appear first. Take a look at what consumers might see when searching for vehicles near them.

    Image example of Google Vehicle Ads

    When searching, users will see a variety of information, including things like 

    • Location
    • Make
    • Model
    • Price 
    • Mileage

    The vehicle preview gives potential customers a substantial amount of data to pique their interest and hopefully want more information from the dealership. Selecting a vehicle will transfer the potential buyer to the vehicle description page on the dealer’s website. Then, they will fill out a lead form or find a dealership’s contact information to move forward in the buyer journey.

    There are conversion tracking capabilities, with the autonomy of measuring units such as leads and store visits. Tracking capabilities will demonstrate advertisement success and traffic for each dealership.

    The Most Recent Changes to VLA

    Before Google’s announcement, their ad program was not available to the general public. Now, the program is accessible to all dealerships in the U.S., and Google anticipates more countries coming soon. 

    What hasn’t changed? The very manual, tedious, and time-consuming process of Google vehicle ads. There are many steps to get started, and running across errors and roadblocks is bound to happen. Every dealership has to have various items connected and listed through Google, which opens the door to a high error rate, resulting in inventory ads not populating for dealerships on the search engine results page (SERP).

    The Benefits of Vehicle Listing Ads

    The most obvious benefit is that on-lot inventory will appear in web searches for nearby queries. Industry is highly competitive, getting an edge is critical. Here are a few benefits of running ads through Google and other search engines for vehicles. 

    • Bring local dealerships online.
    • Meet customers where they are (online) by appearing with top billing on search results pages
    • Promote on-lot inventories.
    • Give online browsers the ability to see inventory on their terms.
    • Highlight dealership’s options and availability.
    • Measure success through ad performance.
    • Gain valuable data on the impact of online ads and their influence over online and in-store purchases.

    The Vehicle Listing Ads program has been generating great results like this:

    Statistics of Google Vehicle Listing Ads program results

    Book a discovery call to learn more about vehicle listing ads, and if they are a good fit for your auto dealers.

    How To Configure Your Account & Vehicle Ads Correctly

    If you don’t care how it works or are ready to get started, jump down to the next section and let us do the heavy lifting. 

    Auto dealers need to have their auto inventory flowing through the Google Business Profile to take advantage of this ad program. This inventory will appear under the ad section on Google. Find out how to get your inventory listed here. Once auto inventory is listed, a dealership can start setting and running ads through Google Vehicle Ads.

    Setting up your account

    Behind the scenes, there are hundreds of steps required to connect ad accounts, the inventory merchant center, the website verification, the local Google Business Profile and more. During the pilot period, dbaPlatform automated this tricky and complex inventory process. 

    Chart of Vehicle Listing Ads configuration stages

    dbaPlatform specializes in making this process as easy and roadblock free as possible. Demonstrate the scope to prepare and launch vehicle listing ads. Jump down and book a call with our team to alleviate the stress and time it takes to get started. 

    Here is an overview of all of the items that need to be completed to have an ad-ready account. 

    Vehicle inventory active on Google 

    1. dbaPlatform connects Auto Inventory to Google Business platform. See how here
    2. Website verification on Merchant Center
    3. Link Google Business Profile and Google Ads account to Merchant Center
    4. Set up conversions on VDP pages through Google Ads
    5. Configure and set up product feeds in Merchant Center
    6. Feed verified by Google (by-pass Google’s process with dbaPlatform’s instant-verification status)
    7. Google to allowlist Google Ads ID (by-pass Google’s process with dbaPlatform’s instant allowlisting capabilities)
    8. Create Vehicle Listing Ads in Google Ads account.

    Setting up your Ads

    Once account activation and set up is complete, the auto dealer will move on to setting up the ads, which includes the following steps. 

    1. Open and log in to Google Ads account
    2. Navigate to the Campaigns tab, then create a new campaign
    3. Select Create a campaign without goals guidance, then choose Shopping
    4. Ensure product feed is linked through Merchant Center (This is a part of dbaPlatform’s onboarding process)
    5. Select Smart shopping campaign at the bottom of the page
    6. Ensure Show vehicle ads is turned ON
    7. Choose a budget, campaign name, and conversions goals ($50/day is the recommended, minimum budget)
    8. Ensure conversion tracking is set up on the account level


    Here are some of the most recent and common errors we have seen while working closely with our auto ad partners.

    • Account suspended
    • Bid strategy misconfigured 
    • Feed authentication failure

    Errors can result in auto inventory and ads not running, which means potential customers are not seeing inventory on web searches. dbaPlatform offers error assistance and reporting to ensure if errors happen that our partners have the support they need and auto listings are live.

    How to Get Started

    Above we mentioned how manually tedious and time-consuming this process is, which is why we have built an automated, sturdy infrastructure to support all dealer locations. Please do NOT start the steps above until the initial onboarding meeting has taken place. If steps are done out of order it will cause time-consuming issues that will delay ads. No action is needed prior to onboarding. 

    The dealership will need to create a vehicle inventory data feed and connect it to Google Merchant Center to get started. This feed contains details about vehicle inventory like make, model, price, mileage, and condition. Google uses those details to match shoppers with the most relevant cars as they’re searching. 

    Here is a visual of all aspects that need to be set up before any vehicle ad can go live.

    Vehicle Listing Ad aspects that must be set up to get ads live

    That may seem easy enough to start, but a slew of other steps and data quality checks will slow down the process. dbaPlatform can assist in setting up vehicle listing ads. Assist Merchant Center, connect your Google Business Profile, Google Ads account, website verification, and more. 

    We know how to navigate these requirements so setting up ads and running them are a breeze. With Google Vehicle Ads program in beta status, it is vital to stay updated with changes and new requirements. We encourage you to follow this blog as we will continue to update it and book a call with our team to help you every step of the way. 

    dbaPlatform offers Vehicle Listing Advertisement program assistance starting at $80.00 per month, per location. Speak with our team today. Schedule a call by clicking here.

    Gif Animation of Google Business Profile of exterior photos


    Question: Is VLA available everywhere?

    Answer: Currently this program is only available in the United States. Google anticipates opening its ads program up to additional countries soon.

    Question: How much do Vehicle Listing Ads cost?

    Answer: Vehicle Listing Ad assistance with dbaPlatform starts at $80.00 per month per location for Enterprise. Pricing is dependent on dealer locations. Ad cost is determined in the setup of ads.

    Question: How many vehicles do we need in inventory for this program?

    Answer: There is no minimum as long as the feed receives approval in Merchant Center.

    Question: Where do VLA ads appear?

    Answer: Ads appear on Google desktop and Maps results and across other Google surfaces.

    Question: Do I need a Merchant Center account for VLA?

    Answer: Yes, Merchant Center creation is an early part of dbaPlatform’s onboarding to Vehicle Listing Ads.