How To Demystify the Origins of Your Website Traffic

At every digital marketing conference I attend, there are multiple presentations filled with dealers asking where online traffic is coming from. The truth is this information is readily available to you — if you know where to look.

If Internet shoppers don’t look at your cars online, they are unlikely to come to your showroom to buy a car. That’s why it’s not enough to know how much traffic you’re getting — you need to know how online shoppers are reaching you.

Typically, there are three top sources of traffic:

  1. Direct traffic. This is your best source of traffic. Because these are the shoppers that entered your website address to go directly to your site, they bypass any opportunity for your competitors to intercept them. Some of this traffic may come from returning customers, but it’s often driven by other forms of advertising. That’s why direct traffic is a great way to gain insight regarding how your traditional and digital ads are working. It’s also a critical reminder to emphasize your website address in your advertising materials.
  2. Organic search. These are visitors who find you through search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. This traffic typically comes from two sources:
    • Those who typed your company name into a search engine, which means they were familiar with your brand
    • Those who typed a term that led them to your website, such as “Phoenix Chevrolet dealers,” indicating strong search engine optimization performance for that term. I’ll talk more about this in a future post.
  3. Search engine marketing. These are the sponsored links that appear above and to the right of organic search results (Google AdWords are the most popular type). This is an underleveraged opportunity for dealers that we’ll dive into in my next post.

If you’re interested in finding out the sources of your website traffic, talk to your vendor about how to use Google Analytics, which can tell you where the traffic from your site is coming from. You can then go into the dealer analytic portals of Autotrader.com, Cars.com and other sites to compare with each other and your website. Since this can be labor intensive it’s easiest to have it in one place with a tool such as MAX that combines the various sources in one location to help you measure and manage your online traffic.

My next post will cover optimizing spend and testing.

How To Increase Profitability By Reducing Time-To-Market

Every dealer knows that the inventory that turns the fastest is often the most profitable. This is compounded by the carrying cost of the vehicle (often cited as $10 to $25 per day), for both reasons, the longer a car remains in inventory, the more it eats into your profits.

That’s why it’s critical to measure and improve “Time-to-Market”, or how long it takes for a car to get through the service department and become fully merchandised online. But for many dealers, the problem goes undetected because they fall into two common traps:

  • First, cars spend too much time in the service department. We all know that the customers of pre-owned vehicles are the service department’s top customers. But we also know that because the service department is focused on serving retail customers, this can lead to inventory that moves through the reconditioning process slowly, resulting in expensive fresh inventory. For many dealers, it’s hard to maintain visibility on this process, which makes it difficult to manage.
  • Second, the handoff to digital marketing is too slow. When a car completes reconditioning, too often there’s lag in getting vehicles fully merchandised online.

It’s obvious that a vehicle unavailable for sale prevents a quick turnaround. But that’s also true for a vehicle that’s available for sale but isn’t visible to consumers on the Internet. So what can you do about it?

You can’t improve what you can’t measure, and there are three easy ways to get started:

  1. Measure your “Time-to-Market”
    • Compare the date a car was received in inventory to when it was fully merchandised online. This simple metric allows you to keep a pulse on both your service activities and digital marketing efforts. Cars should make the transition from service to digital marketing in three to five days.
  2. Identify potential gaps in your current process
    • By tracking vehicles that fail to meet this goal, you can identify opportunities for the teams to work more efficiently, as well as hold people accountable for their responsibilities. There will always be outliers — vehicles waiting on a title or critical parts on order, for example. But by measuring time-to-market, you will be able to identify those outliers and focus on vehicles that had a breakdown in process.
  3. Accelerate your “Time-to-Market
    • Before a vehicle enters the service department, have the digital marketing team immediately take three exterior photos and post them online immediately (in states where this is appropriate). This will help speed the process of getting a vehicle fully merchandised online once it’s reconditioned.

Remember: if you measure it, you can manage it. A number of tools, including MAX, make it easy to monitor these metrics. Just make sure you set up alerts that keep this information in front of you on a regular basis. Once you get a handle on where the bottlenecks are in your time-to-market, you’ll be able to make your digital marketing efforts more efficient, and your inventory more profitable.

My next post will cover the importance of understanding exactly where your online traffic is coming from.