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Tim McLain

Tim McLain Senior Marketing Manager

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5 Online Marketing Metrics to Rule Them All

Big data. Two words you’ve been hearing a lot lately. What does it mean to a dealer? Complexity, confusion and frustration.

Case in point: You’re spending thousands every month on a litany of marketing activities. Your vendors are drowning you in data to measure success. Still, you’re left wondering: “How much impact is it really having on my bottom line?”

I’ve worked with hundreds of dealers to help them be found in their local market and sell more. With terabytes of marketing results data at my fingertips, and happy dealers who’ve consistently increased monthly sales, I present these five marketing metrics that deliver game-changing results. 

#1 Advertising Position

If you’re like most dealers, you’re spending thousands of dollars every month on digital advertising. That investment should be consistently driving custom-crafted marketing messages into the top three positions at the top of search engine results in your target markets.

As Ricky Bobby said in Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

How important is it to be on top? In search marketing, the difference between first and second is massive. According to and Kantar Media, consumers click the first sponsored ad 59% of the time, the second 15%. The third? Just 9%.

A surefire recipe for ceding your local market to the competition is not to pay attention to search marketing. Google researched how organic and paid search results work together and concluded that turning off paid search ads resulted in an 89% drop in website traffic.

The inescapable conclusion: Search advertising position is a top metric for measuring success. Your ads must appear “above the fold” as often as possible to improve visibility and the probability of a conversion.

My mantra of dealer digital success: Your customized digital search ads written with clear calls to action and trackable phone numbers must appear in the top sponsored positions (above the fold) at least 60% of the time in your local market. And your display advertisements must generate consistent conversions so you get the maximum number of opportunities to turn online visibility into sales. 

#2 Share of Voice 

A close runner-up to ad position is, simply, measuring how often your ads appear, period. Shoppers are conducting more than 11 hours of research over a period of weeks or months before buying. Are you showing up?

Google your top brands, models and services. Are you showing up in the top positions, every time? If you show up two times out of 10, that’s a 20% “share of voice” in your market. Your competition is eating your lunch. Your advertising partner should be delivering your ads into the top positions 60-70% of the time. 

And don’t forget bing and Yahoo. Together, they account for about 27% of all search traffic, and are largely ignored by many advertisers.

#3 Advertising Impressions

Next, look at your impression level. Impressions are simply the number of times your ad is served in a viewer’s browser.

The more times your ads appear in front of qualified buyers across multiple devices and marketing tactics, the more likely you are to score a sale. The average consumer takes action after being exposed to marketing messages 10-20 times.

To boost impressions beyond search, display and mobile placements, consider funneling more of your marketing dollars into YouTube pre-roll videos and sponsored stories on Facebook. 

#4 Measurable Goals: Clicks, Calls, Conversions

Your digital marketing mix should deliver quantified results that match your goals. It’s important to consider all traffic sources and conversion metrics together, sharing attribution for each lead. Resist the “last-in wins” mentality, which gives the credit to the last marketing message seen by a buyer. Each of your tactics assists the others.

Clicks: Chasing the most clicks possible is misguided. Instead, focus on getting maximum qualified clicks. Run campaigns for specific keyword categories that indicate purchase intent. Aim for quality traffic, not quantity.

Resist the urge to get caught up in raw click counts from display ads. Traditionally, it’s been difficult to measure whether a click to your site was generated by a series of keyword searches alone, or whether display banners influenced the click. 

Your Google analytics data also includes view-through conversions (VTC). VTCs occur when a shopper sees an image (banner) ad, then later completes a conversion on your site. Also look at click-through conversions, which happen when a customer previously clicked on an ad and completed a conversion.

Calls: Call tracking is another important tactic. How much BDC call traffic is your digital advertising generating? Embed trackable phone numbers in your ads, and record calls. Decide whether a 30-, 60- or 90-second or longer call is considered a conversion. How many calls resulted in a test drive or sale?

Conversions: Finally, look at every conversion metric you can get your hands on. Which tactics led to specific actions? Some examples include tracked calls (including mobile click to call), content page emails, test drive requests or downloads, trade-in requests, etc. These numbers and types of conversions will be different for each dealer based on their goals, website, tracking abilities and more. 

#5 Not Cost Per Click

Some quick thoughts on cost per click (CPC). While it’s critical to work with a vendor who can effectively stretch your marketing investment to the max every month without sinking the budget or overpaying for each click, it’s unhealthy to focus all of your attention simply on the cost of each interaction. It doesn’t matter whether each “click” costs $.49 or $10 if you’re not converting clicks into measurable goals.


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