Best Practices

Measuring Your Dealer Website Conversion Rate


Kevin Frye posed a question to Jeff and me the other day asking about some of the measuring devices behind a dealer website.  One of those items in question was the Conversion Rate.  In trying to answer him, I realized we may not be all measuring this statistic the same way (just like how we all measure “Internet deals” differently).

Here are the various measurement methods that I know of:

  1. Number of form submissions by email vs. your total number of unique visitors
  2. Number of form submissions by email vs. your total number of visits
  3. Number of form submissions by email vs. you number of form views
  4. Total number of leads from your website vs. your total number of unique visitors
  5. Total number of leads from your website vs. your total number of visits
  6. Most traditional definition:  number of purchases from the website vs. the total visits

I’m sure there are more ways to measure, but those seem to be the most basic….or universal.

So, when someone says the average dealer website converts at 2-3%, what does that mean?  How was that percentage derived?  Some site providers would say you need to measure the effectiveness of your forms; making number 3 the conversion rate method of measurement.  It also shows a much higher percentage when you look at things that way.

Regardless of which method you may use to measure your conversion rate, watching it is important.  A small change that makes the number go up or down might be worth looking at and either applying that change more or getting rid of it.  If you’re not watching this little statistic, shame on you, but if you are and have been, how are you measuring it?

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
  • R
  • October 2, 2008
I measure it by number of forms submitted by number of visits. This seems to measure the effectiveness of the site. Then taking it one step further I measure number of sales by number of leads, to figure out closing ratio. Couple other measurements too.

I'm not sure about the US, but here in the UK the dealers tend to demand more than just leads to visits ratio. What dealers are really after is how many SALES and revenue (aftersales etc.) has come from the website. We need to track more than just email enquiries, but also telephone calls (with trackable numbers) and footfall. Once all of these sources have been tracked they need to be linked or synched with the DMS to determine if the lead resulted in a sale or not. Then and only then can you determine the effectiveness of your website.

Email leads alone can vary in quality so 10 good leads are better than 100 poor leads. The end result is what matters.

There are other factors, such as brand awareness etc. that needs to be taken into account. One user may not buy today, but could buy in the future or even tell a friend who then buys. This type of source is hard to capture, but not impossible.

If you require more info in this area, then let me know: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>


<a href="" rel="nofollow">Automotive Technology Consultant</a>
This is an interesting topic. Many of our clients look at form submissions. However, it is very important to look at phone calls as well and even more important to separate sales calls from "other" calls such as service calls.

We like to divide all 'contacts' via phone or email into the unique visitors to the site. This unfortunately does not take into account how many people walk in to the dealership which is a good conversion and one of the most desirable.

Some providers of websites and search marketing services consider some items as "conversions" that I would personally not consider a conversion. For example, a visit to a credit app is not a conversion. Filling out an app IS a conversion however. Taking credit for a web event such as visiting a page is misleading to a dealer.

Showing how many people clicked the print button on your pages is also exciting on paper, but does it mean that they filled out a form, made a phone call, or walked in? Not in my book.

We recommend a separate sales and service number on every page of a dealers website for this reason alone. Track it all and may the best sources win.


This is the way I see it. Conversion stats are in internal measurement tool. Comparing my conversion rates with another dealer is... supersillious.

There are so many marketing variables that my pea brain has a hard time getting them all under foot.

For purposes of illustration, let's take 2 identical dealer sites (selling the same products) and Dealer1 is priced below the market and Dealer2 is above the market. Yup, Mr. Discounter wins the conversion battle because his shoppers are more likely to "reveal" themselves. Before you pounce on me, I am NOT talking volume of leads, but the conversion ratio.

Ok... Let’s compare 2 other dealers selling the same products at the same prices, but this time, Dealer#1 is Mr. High profile, big dollar media mogul while Dealer #2 is unknown. Dealer#1 wins conversions hands down. (If you can't understand why #1 beats #2, then you need to take off your Mr. Dealer hat and put on your Mr. Shopper hat and go shopping for a while [and don’t come back until you get it!])

We can go on and on and on with all the variables but why bother? It’s easy to see (for those of us who are not imagination challenged).

What are they good for??
I say conversion stats give you great info when compared to itself (i.e. looking back over time). For an intellectual exercise, you were to compare to another dealer, I say only the most basic of measurements could be used to loosely compare one dealer to another.

There. I said it. I now return you to your thread.

Great topic and I think this definately needs to change. We should make a standard for tracking these things so we can make comparisons and improve.

We are even forgetting about service, parts and bodyshop leads. When you have 10,000 unique visitors ( I only look at the unique visitors) and I get 500 new and used car email leads out of it, 100 new and used phone calls and an additional 300 service requests and 100 parts request. What is my conversion ratio now?

If I want to truly rate my website conversion, I would have to add all up and divide by the unique visitors. This means I have a conversion of 10%, but if I only look at the email leads for sales, my ratio would be only 5%. Of course taking service and parts and employment, etc out of the equation makes your numbers swing bigger month by month.

So I do think you should measure total leads vs unique visitors and possibly break it down by type of leads. All of this makes no difference though, because as long as there is no standard I cannot make comparisons except with my own website.

Same applies for closing ratios. I have developed a spreadsheet that keeps track of closing ratio by consultant, lead source and vehicle model. It also tracks the Cost per Vehicle Sold per Lead Source, AVG Gross per source and consultant etc.

But again, I cannot compare my data with others, because there is no standard in reporting. What is a duplicate lead for example? Everybody has a different opinion.

I am working on an online tool to track internet performance and I should have it ready to go in about a month or 2. I do not know how many of you would be interested in such a thing...
  • M
  • October 28, 2008
There is a tool that accomplishes what you are building already available.

So what standard does your software use to determine a duplicate lead? Does it look at the time period since the last time that prospect submitted a lead? What if the prospect is looking for a sedan in January and buys one from another dealer, then in February he is looking for an SUV, is this a new lead? What if it is 90 days out or 120 days out. What if he does not purchase a car but inquires about a different make.......


You see my point. I am sure that you thought this thing through like I have, but the biggest problem is that it should be the same for everyone.

I would really like to talk to you about this tough, because I might be spinning my wheels for nothing if your software does it already.


  • G
  • January 23, 2009
I can't help but think #4 or 5 are the way to go simply because to me, conversion rate means HOW is the website performing? Is it doing its job by converting interested people into leads? By measuring email submissions, you are necessarily eliminating the leads from the phone calls, unless of course you are including those in the count.

By measuring SALES vs web visitors, you are introducing a margin of error based on how good your appointment setting and/or closing skills are. Those are measured separately, so I have measured conversion separately as well.