Dealership Website Optimization – What you need (and don’t need) to focus on

During Digital Dealer 24 here in Orlando I had the pleasure of sitting down Sean Welsh who is the CEO of Car Biz Done Better. We shared many common ideas and philosophies around avoiding dealer waste and understanding the root cause of why dealers overspend when it comes to operating their store. The misconception that “more is better” still exists everywhere. Whether you’re addressing issues in fixed ops, sales, or your website: the assumption that blindly adding more to fix a problem will simply compound the issue. Keep this in mind when trying to audit your own dealer website – do not be “product driven”.

What do we mean by saying “Do not be product driven”? Many websites and marketing solutions focus on the sex appeal of a product instead of its actual performance. If you’re a dealership manager, you already know the bombardment of website metrics that are fed to you to make things appear positive: SRP Views, Impressions, Bounce Rate, Direct Attribution, Unique Website Reporting Dashboards, etc. These are metrics that certainly play a component role when addressing marketing campaigns but stand in the way when trying to figure out what is actually working towards boosting your website performance. You’ll find that getting the information you need is easier than you think!

For starters, focus on these four things in Google Analytics when figuring out how to determine website and digital marketing performance: New and Used VDP Volume, Calls, Chats, and Email Leads. Peel back the layers that do not directly influence your leads. If performance is low, focus on what is and is not working. When focusing on superficial performance metrics you inadvertently focus on how much money you spent to achieve a click, not how much money you spent to produce a lead or sale.

Here is a perfect example about what we are on about. A dealer client we work with receives a Summary Report every month from a reputable 3rd party inventory host. That summary report does not aggregate long-term performance but focuses instead on the here and now data (past 30 days). When looking for long-term data this dealership was smart and created a 2-year summary report with the data he had been given by this inventory host company. Here is what we found. Between January 2016 and January 2017, performance had been relatively stable with no budget change. SRP Volume between 300,000 – 450,000, VDP Counts between 12,000 and 13,000, Average Email Leads around 50-55 per month and about 30-35 phone calls a month. Throughout 2017, this Inventory host continued to push for small increases in budget and was granted that 3 times. The dealer was now spending many thousands of dollars per month on what seemed to be a good source of website traffic and leads. When January 2018 came, the same report was created that now listed 3 years of performance. What did we see? SRP Volume was now up over 150% which sounds amazing right?? Wrong. SRP’s are the easiest “non-tangible” performance metric to achieve. VDP Counts for that entire year were unchanged, email leads still averaged 55-60 per month, and phone calls were still averaging 35 per month. The dealer’s budget was far greater than before but was underperforming on the things that matter most: Calls, Leads and VDP Volume. After realizing this pitfall, he changed course and moved that budget to a more efficient way of targeting his inventory online and optimized his website traffic accordingly.

This vetting process needs to happen for every source of referral traffic to your website. A magnifying glass needs to be held to each source of converting website traffic before you can begin the process of looking into your website to make changes. You may be working with many vendors that feed you similar metrics. Focusing on tangible conversion metrics will allow you to separate the performers from the underperformers. Not only will this save you money, but you website performance will also increase as a result.

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