What Matters When it Comes to Automotive Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is fantastic in that you can track the progress and health of your campaign quite easily. However, if you’re not properly informed or given adequate analysis, this strength of digital marketing can become a downfall. It is easy to look at a figure, deem it favorable or unfavorable and then make decisions about that campaign. The problem is, that decision may not truly reflect what the data is telling you. In this article, I want to tackle a few of the many things you should consider when analyzing the health of your digital campaign.

Ad Impressions

Many people who utilize digital marketing outlets often overlook the value of impressions but they are valuable. For reference, when I say impressions this is anytime your ad (image, text, video, etc.) is shown to a viewer through your advertising medium (could be search results, in-page content, Facebook post, and so on). Consider this from a traditional standpoint of audience impressions which are harder to measure. Essentially an impression would be equivalent to anytime someone sees your mailer, is shown one of your television ads or hears one of your radio commercials.

What’s the difference?

For starters a digital impression is much more likely the result of higher viewer intent. For instance, if someone searches for “2015 used Ford F-150” they have told you exactly what they’re looking for at that exact moment. Consider this versus placing a television ad where you’re hoping to get the right message in front of the right person at the exact right time…this is quite a bit more difficult and often requires numerous placements to try and hit the target as close as possible. Additionally, consider that almost all digital campaigns that we run are charged on a cost per click (CPC) basis. This means that impressions cost nothing in ad spend unless someone clicks on your advertisement.

Ad Clicks

The next metric used to measure campaign health is generally the number of clicks and click through rate (CTR; clicks/impressions). A click is measured anytime an ad is shown (impression) and is clicked on. The click will take users to a designated destination set by you. These two metrics are important to measure for a number of reasons, as it will give you an idea of the effectiveness of your ads, which campaigns are performing the best (if you have a campaign breakdown report) and other crucial pieces of insight.

Why do clicks matter?

When a viewer clicks on your advertisement and is driven to your landing page (or other designation) they’re essentially telling you that you’ve gained their interest enough to take the next step and see what you really have to offer them. While not every click is going to be as valuable as the next, it is important to realize that, if all else fails, you were able to get your business name in front of someone searching for information relevant to what you have to offer. For full disclosure, I will note that “mistake” clicks do happen and while there is very little that can be done to remedy this, these instances are generally a very small number of your overall click count.

Things to consider when it comes to clicks

*Not all clicks are equal. For instance, a click on a paid search ad generally takes viewers directly to a page on your site where a click on a Gmail Sponsored Promotion (GSP; email campaign) opens up a new page within Gmail displaying the details of your offer

*For your clicks to be the most effective and efficient it is important to make sure that your keyword lists and ads are relevant to what searchers’ intentions are

*A low CTR doesn’t mean a poor performing campaign per se. It is important to analyze all of the factors of the campaign including: competition, budget, relevancy, medium and many others

*To make sure that you’re not wasting clicks it is important to send click traffic to relevant pages with easy to find information about your business (especially contact info) and your products and/or services


A conversion is any measureable event or action that the user takes that is designated as favorable to the business or provider. Conversions could include visiting a certain page on a site, spending a certain amount of time on a site or page, filling out a form, calling a designated phone number and a number of additional possibilities.

Conversions: The be all end all?

First we should tackle the value or values of a conversion considering that they’re not all equal. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s say that we measure form fills and phone calls to a specific tracked phone number. Furthermore, let’s say that the forms we are tracking are inventory specific only. If a viewer makes it to your website and fills out one of these lead forms, you should now have ample information to contact that viewer with the potential to turn them into a customer. Let’s say that another user gets to your site, has a similar experience and calls your tracking number. You now have another potential customer.

So what’s missing? In the scenario above we’re only considering one approach to how users interact with the site (and as an extension, the business) when in all reality it’s more likely that there are other scenarios that will play out. So let’s look at some considerations of other scenarios.

Calls for other offerings: While our campaigns are almost exclusively aimed at vehicle sales, it’s no secret that online users are looking for contact information for other offerings that you have available such as parts or service. While these contacts aren’t the main goal, that doesn’t mean they’re not important and could turn into larger sales prospects in the future.

Online Shop Around: Let’s say that a viewer landed on your site via a paid digital campaign, saw your inventory and liked what they saw but still wanted to see what was out there for other options. After searching your competitors they determined that they were most interested in your business. They do another quick search and are provided with your Google Local Listing that has a contact number different from your tracking number. Though they still might contact you and the initial visit came from your paid search efforts, the action isn’t properly attributed and may lead you to believe your efforts aren’t as effective as they truly are.

Savvy Shopper: From personal experience, I’m far more likely to use a dealer’s site to search for initial information such as price, availability, finance options, dealer reviews, etc. to make my own judgement on if a dealership is right for me. If you make the cut, I would then visit your dealership lot, after hours, to determine if your inventory is exactly what I’m looking for to make the next step which would be to contact the dealership via phone or simply by visiting a location. It is important to note that if I visit the store and don’t mention that I was searching online it’s difficult to attribute any credit back to digital efforts. Additionally, if I were to call your dealership via a non-tracked number it is again difficult to make the proper attribution.

Lack of tracking/tracking limitations: One of the struggles we constantly run into with different site providers we work with is getting tracking parameters setup properly. This includes code not being placed accurately or across all pages of a site, code being removed during site updates and even limitations on where we can place code or even if we’re allowed to use a certain kind of code. While all of the providers we work with are usually extremely helpful, this does create potential for issues when it comes to measuring the true effectiveness of our digital marketing campaigns.

Campaign Type and Focus: Another consideration that must be made is the type of campaign you are running. There are not only many sources to choose from such as Google, Bing, Facebook, etc. but also many different options within each of those mediums. For example, looking at Google alone, you have paid search ads, display and retargeting ads, video ads such as PreRoll and Trueview and so on. It is important to know that each of these mediums and their respective services have their own value and opportunity that need to be understood when building and altering your digital marketing strategy.


What does this mean for conversion tracking?

The purpose of this information isn’t to discredit conversion tracking, in fact, we highly recommend monitoring conversions as they are an important piece of the digital marketing puzzle. Instead, the point is to note that lack of tracked conversions doesn’t necessarily mean you have a poorly performing campaign. Also, this information will provide some insight as to where your campaigns could be succeeding without you knowing it.

So now it’s your turn. You can take these ideas and get started. Compare and analyze your data, think like a consumer and find out where your digital marketing dollars are succeeding and where you should do some reallocation considerations. Additionally, I’d love to hear your thoughts about what you look at and how you analyze!

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