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SalesThere are a lot of numbers (and names for these numbers) being thrown at car dealers that they "should" monitor to understand the effectiveness of their websites.  Conversion rates, indexed pages, bounce rates, stickiness, click thrus - all are being tossed around and used to highlight the prowess of websites and lead providers.

Are they important?  Usually, yes.  Are they the bottom-line indicator of the health and effectiveness of a website?  Absolutely not.

In the end, the only questions that really matter are:

"Am I getting more leads?"

"Am I turning more leads into sales?"

Your dealership could have the greatest conversion rate in the world with 0% bounce and 15,000 indexed pages, but if it isn't converting MORE leads that turn into MORE sales, it's all just smoke and mirrors.  Here is a breakdown of the subtle techniques used to promote websites and ways to get to the real meat:

Conversions vs Conversion Rates

Depending on who you are talking to, conversions and conversion rates can have different meanings.  For the sake of this article, let's say that "Conversions" occur when a website visitor becomes a valid lead, whether through form submission, email, or phone call.  In that case, "Conversion Rate" would be the percentage of Conversions compared to the number of "Unique Visitors" to a website.

The biggest "smoke and mirrors" technique in this regard has to do with the concept that Conversion Rate is the most important aspect of a website.  That's just not true.  It is a good indicator, but a properly marketed and optimized websites may actually see a decrease in conversion rate over time.  Why?  As a properly optimized website matures and starts to draw traffic from an expanding market area, the increased traffic from far away will reduce the conversion RATE.  It will, however, increase the Conversions themselves.  While local leads will not go down, distant leads and traffic will go up, resulting in more sales.  That's what's important.

Indexed Pages

This is a tricky one because so many website providers are latching onto the concept that higher indexed pages equals more leads.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There are advantages and disadvantages regarding SEO with having a lot of indexed pages.  In the end, it doesn't matter how many pages are indexed.  Again, the only thing that matters is leads.

There are many low-indexed-page websites that convert a tremendous amount of leads and tons of high-indexed-page websites that convert very, very little.  High-indexing versus low-indexing is a question of SEO strategy as well as opportunities for conversion, but that doesn't mean that high-indexed-page websites generate more leads.  They are two different things altogether.

Stickiness

It's the new buzz word in the car business.  "Our websites are sticky!"

Again, there are definitely advantages to having visitors spend more time on a website, but it doesn't matter how long they stay on a site when it comes down to it.  A lead that comes from someone who spends 1 minute on a site is no different from a lead that comes from someone who spends 10 minutes on a site.  A lead is a lead.

Just about every vendor is touting video as one way to make a site sticky.  There are definite benefits for having the right videos on a website, but if it doesn't help to convert a visitor into a lead, it's worthless.

More, more, and more

This article could go on forever.  It won't simply because the point is made.  Car dealer websites are designed to generate leads.  Period.  Leads are geared towards driving sales. Period.  While there are dozens of factors that need to be considered when deciding on a website provider, do not lose site of the two most important words:

Leads.

Sales.

Period.

* * *

Read more by Jim Bradford on Driving Sales.

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