How a test model is driving SEAT and CUPRA’s search marketing performance

“Will we ever be able to put search marketing strategy in the driver’s seat?” This is the dilemma of almost all search marketers as the community continues to remain at the mercy of Google’s algorithms and updates.

SEAT SA, the automotive multinational of the Volkswagen group based in Barcelona, ​​has innovated a test model that is driving the growth of its brands, SEAT and CUPRA in the European market. While SEAT is the young, cool and urban brand that offers strikingly designed cars and different mobility solutions, CUPRA is an unconventional brand, characterized by its innovative design and the performance of its electrified models.

We spoke with Corinne Calcabrina, Global Media Manager of SEAT SA, Sophie Santallusia, Global Paid Search and Programmatic Director, and Alejandro Sebastian, Global Search Team Lead of PHD Media Spain to discuss the “Performance Innovation Program” (the test model of SEAT SA) and its added value to businesses.

A hectic sector

Digital is a rapidly changing industry and research is always reinventing itself with new formats and ever-changing ways to create and manage accounts. The SEAT and CUPRA teams had several weaknesses:

1. Keep up with all the innovations and changes in the industry

“We needed to become the first movers who actively capitalize on opportunities as they arise. To ensure this, our teams needed to leverage the dynamics of the research space, apply best practices, and gain a technological and intelligence advantage over the competition. “

– Corinne Calcabrina, Global Media Manager at SEAT SA

2. Enhance the visibility of the team’s hard work

“While we were making all these efforts, we wanted to improve the visibility of our team. While we’re committed to becoming the top performing channel, always reinventing, working for results and efficiencies, we often miss the glitter of other channels. Adding an official scope and framework means we can report and showcase our findings. “

– Corinne Calcabrina, Global Media Manager, SEAT SA

3. Maintaining performance and improving efficiency

“As the best performing channel on a last-click attribution model, we were also facing multiple challenges. Pandemic blockages and a shortage of microchips made search performance improvements a constant and ongoing must. This meant reducing the cost per click (CPC) and improving cost per acquisition (CPA) have always been the main reasons for developing such a test model. “

– Corinne Calcabrina, Global Media Manager, SEAT SA

Putting the driver’s seat to the test: the SEAT and CUPRA Performance innovation program

SEAT SA’s “Performance Innovation Program” test model has been designed to align with the inherent love of innovation that underlies the SEAT and CUPRA brands. The test model was created centrally to keep the brand’s focus on the strength of paid search, improving cost efficiency and accelerating performance.

Corinne and her team at SEAT SA and their agency, PHD Media, examined the brand strategies for SEAT and CUPRA respectively, their performance and local needs. They have created a framework that provides structure, helps brands expand their market share, and provides central visibility into test results. They have created specific test roadmaps, based on quarterly goals that align with local markets based on their needs and strategies.

“We then applied our tests, sharing the hypothesis (highlighting the results of other markets) of what we hope to achieve and then applying the test in the main strategy.

“We had a clear timeline and timetable. We always test and learn. This allows us to have a specific position with partners, allowing us to always be part of the alpha and beta, testing new formats, always trying to improve results at the same time, ”shared Corinne.

To facilitate consistency, the SEAT SA team organized tests throughout the year, one test at a time for an ad group or campaign to maintain efficiency and get clear observations. The roadmap was created on these factors:

  • Priority for markets based on impact and workload
  • Changes made by Google to ad formats or to different functions that it sets or iterates

The grand prize of search marketing: data, automation and visual optimization

SEAT SA and PHD Media began differentiating strategies based on keyword type and defined them for each ad group. The keywords were segmented based on brand and non-brand research, their role and their respective KPIs. This data was then used during the auction. Artificial intelligence (AI) was used to segment audiences and target ads at the top of the funnel. The comparative insights of these tests were subsequently included in the company to guide the strategy.

To improve click-through rate (CTR) and lower CPCs, the SEAT SA team focused on adding visuals to ads, improving ad copies and testing new extensions. They also reduced CPAs by using bidding strategies and system AI to get the best out of their budgets.

To master its visual impact on the audience, SEAT SA has used image extensions for each ad across all its campaigns. Google has displayed these images based on multiple factors such as clicks, content, and keyword triggers to optimize those with the best performance.

From a data perspective, in Search SEAT SA used Google Search Ads (SA360) to manage and track their Google Ads and Bing Ads respectively. The datasets tracked all the major essentials of paid search:

  • Keyword conversion performance
  • Copies of announcements
  • Audience data across all custom bidding options available in SA360


The “Performance Innovation Program” model helped SEAT and CUPRA get one of their best tests which catalyzed their research performance in terms of cost per visit (CPV), one of their main KPIs which reported the top of the funnel conversions. Cost per visit (CPV) improved by 30% and cost per acquisition (CPA) improved by 37%.

SEAT SA (SEAT and CUPRA) are now equipped with new ways to infer and analyze conversions based on the market.

Sharing intelligence between different markets

After completing the testing phase, the SEAT SA team and their global partner PHD Media reported results and observations. Sharing their knowledge and insights with other markets has enabled other teams to benefit from the knowledge and skills derived from successful test prototypes. Focusing on the components that drive the results allowed the scattered teams to be challenged and facilitated constant learning while embracing changes and new features. The SEAT and CUPRA teams are now strongly positioned to outperform the competition.

Prepare for a cookie-free future

Using fewer cookies will lead to tough times and impact the search channel. SEAT and CUPRA plan to counter this issue with the use of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) to maintain performance and reach the right audience. Opening up to new visual formats such as discovery campaigns and Bing’s MMA / MSAN will also occupy an important place within search in the future, as the core of the search may evolve with more automation, less granularity and control.

More focus on measurement and a future focused on privacy

The team is testing “consent mode” with GA4 and “advanced conversion” to estimate the friction due to privacy guidelines. They also focus on identifying and designing a contingency plan for paid search items that they won’t be able to test in the near future.

“We are testing all the new solutions and features that Google is introducing to the market in terms of privacy and cookie reduction features. Specifically, our testing focuses on implementing the full suite of Google Analytics 4 (GA4), site-level coding, consent mode, and advanced conversions.

In addition, we are also testing new audiences that GA4 allows within a “privacy first” ecosystem in our paid search campaigns. We are seeing positive and promising results ”.

– Corinne Calcabrina, Global Media Manager at SEAT SA

SEAT SA and PHD Media actively focus on Google solutions for mapping privacy-compliant markets and audiences applicable to targeting segments.

They are also working to collect and connect proprietary data such as CRM audiences and customer match solutions.

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