Dealership Marketing

Is PPC a window to all visitor behavior?

Every customer who arrives at your site has a unique experience.  If you don’t take the time to understand the multitude of possible experiences on your site, you might be missing enormous amounts of opportunity.  Ask yourself a simple question:  “What are the different problems I can solve for my customers?”  You’ll find out quickly that the many solutions you offer your clients are not found on your site.  This is the basic premise behind search personas.  To read more on search personas, check out Marketing in the Age of Google.

Paid search allows us to segment data to better observe these funnels of customers and understand how they behave differently, therefore justifying the need to treat them differently.  We separated Used, New and Service customers and dove into the data.

We looked for high-level indicators of behavior:  Page views per visit and Calls per form submission.  Page views:

Used and New customers behaved very much alike, visiting 2 and 3 pages per visit respectfully and landing solidly at 3 calls per form submission.

To be fair, the difference between new and used shoppers seems pretty small.  But we’re talking an average of one less page view over a full month’s worth of clicks to all of the dealers who use our paid search.  That’s pretty significant.  I think the explanation for the difference is pretty simple.  There are a lot of extra tools and resources for the new car customer. Build and research tools and reviews are definitely contributors here.

Service customers came in at 2 page views per visit and a whopping 20:1 call to form ratio.

The service customer showed their preference for the phone loud and clear.  This is a confirmation of our gut instincts, but it’s certainly good to see it on paper.  We are seeing that service customers only view 2 pages per visit.

Might the lower page views per service customer visit be attributed to dealers focusing very little attention on fixed ops?

Now the number that everyone talks about is conversion.   We looked at conversion across all of the keywords in the new, used and service departments:

12% is a good number, I was pleased to see that.  There is more to this story though.

There is a set of keywords that cannot be attributed to a specific profit center.  Things like the dealership name fit into this category and these keywords tend to do a lot of heavy lifting… they drive a lot of traffic.  Because searchers who use dealership name cannot be deep linked to a profit center, the page views per visit goes up to 5.  Calls per form rises to 5:1 as this is a grouping of sales and service customers.

The interesting story unfolds with a look at conversion on dealership terms however:

18%.  This is a pretty big number in the conversion world. Given what we know about used and new sales performance though, I think there is a story here.  Customers do their research, move up and down the purchase funnel considering different makes/models etc.  During this process they are taking in advertisements from all of the local dealers. When it’s time to make the leap to leaving a lead what do they do?  They Google the Dealership name, head to the site and contact the dealership.  Proof.

There are certainly other stories to be told here and I would love to hear other perspectives on what folks take from this data.

What does this mean to the dealer: Advertise on your name, regardless of the medium.  Too many people ask “Why should I bid on my name in paid search, we’re #1 in organic?”

Answer: Yes, the number of people who click on the dealership name in PPC is much less compared to the number of people who click on the organic listing.  However, the conversion rate on the people who clicked the PPC ad is 4 times higher.  To take this a step further, PPC is a quick and easy way to capture all those customers who may misspell your dealership’s name.  Google does a good job of trying to correct searchers’ mistakes, but they’re not perfect.

I can only say all of this because PPC gives us the most accurate view of our visitors’ behavior.  Is it a clearer window to your visitors?  I would say yes.

Excellent information, Matt! The control attributed to PPC can never be disputed - turn it on, turn it off, target specifically, create landing pages - those are the things that I love about PPC.

Regarding buying ads for the dealership name, my only warning to dealers would be to make certain that those particular keywords are parsed separately in reports. There are some companies out there that use dealer name keywords to inflate their performance. These are normally companies who charge $X for Y traffic and end up pocketing a lot of the dealer's spend.

For example, they may say, "The average cost per visitor on all of the individual keyword is $1.45. Our relationship with Google allows us to charge $1.10 per visitor, so we'll charge you $2200 for 2000 visitors."

Sounds like good math, but it's not. If 70% of the clicks they deliver are the dealership name and the average cost per click on those keywords is $0.30, then their actual cost is around $1290...

... which means that over 40% of your spend is being pocketed.

With that warning in mind, everything that Matt said was spot on. I would love to see the data that points to 4X better conversion rate on PPC clicks, but the conclusions all make sense. PPC = great data + additional supplemental clicks that you control.

Great post!
Great post Matt - AND I couldn't agree more with JD when it comes to buying your own name. I am not seeing the same 4X better conversion rate, but am very very happy with the results none the less.
I am not surprised at the difference in phone calls for service vs. sales. Our service customers are using the Internet instead of the phone book to find us, and they are used to calling for scheduling a service appt. On the other hand, sales customers are often still in their consideration phase and often do not want to talk to a sales rep yet, so they are more likely to submit an electronic lead. All good info Matt, now do you want to start up the debate with ppc landing zones vs. deep linking within your actual site? (had to open that can of worms, lol)
@JD & Tom - The 4X conversion shows itself on paid traffic that comes through the dealership name. I haven't looked at total conversion comparison simply because of the challenge in tracking true conversion from organic traffic.

@ Kevin - Love that you're in the conversation here. You're absolutely right about the service traffic. Those visitors need something - and need it now, making them much more likely to call. Now the debate between PPC specific microsites that gen leads VS a strong deep linking strategy is an interesting one. Without any numbers to share this morning I will tell you that I am definitely more in favor of deep linking to your own site - especially for sales customers who may need the added benefit of build and research tools or reviews to make their final decision. The content on the main site is much more robust and can serve to answer questions that an isolated landing page may not.

Now that the can of works is open... anyone gonna take the bait?
We have experienced very high conversion rates with the landing page approach - and I could argue that, but, I would love to hear what Larry Bruce has to share about this as well...
Kevin - are you just trying to stir the pot now? We bring Larry in here and we're going to have one very long comment string - lol.

I'm with Matt on the idea of primarily deep-linking to my own site that I put the most time and effort into. However, I also like the idea of un-branding myself to capture leads on a microsite for things like bad credit conversion, trade-in only pages, and other things. It would be interesting to run two PPC campaigns side by side on the same terms (one that pushes to my main site and one that pushes to a microsite) to see which one performs better. I'm sure the results would vary by market and theme, but it would definitely be interesting. Maybe da Bruce can speak more to that?
  • M
    Mike Keesee
  • November 4, 2010
I like articles like this. Keeps ideas flowing. Great job.
  • R
    Richard Valenta
  • November 4, 2010
We do read the bios...
@Mike - Keesee Thanks for the feedback Mike!

@Rich - Glad to hear it :)
Ok my first thought is that this post is more about the types of conversions than why the visitor converted or how to get more of them to convert. According to a study by TMP Directional and ComScore 46% of all lead conversions happen on the phone, and a recent MIT study in 2009 showed that a call is 22 times more likely to get a sale than any other type of conversion. So it shouldn’t be by accident that calls are respectively 3 to 1 and 20 to 1 that should be by design. As a matter of fact when we build out landing experiences for PPC campaigns we intentionally push a call over a form submission for all the reasons above and in this post.
Ok my first thought is that this post is more about the types of conversions than why the visitor converted or how to get more of them to convert. According to a study by TMP Directional and ComScore 46% of all lead conversions happen on the phone <a href="http://(," rel="nofollow">(,</a> and a recent MIT study in 2009 showed that a call is 22 times more likely to get a sale than any other type of conversion <a href="http://(" rel="nofollow">(</a>. So it shouldn&rsquo;t be by accident that calls are respectively 3 to 1 and 20 to 1 that should be by design. As a matter of fact when we build out landing experiences for PPC campaigns we intentionally push a call over a form submission for all the reasons above and in this post.

Additionally, I&#039;m not sure I would have used new, used and service as my segmentation buckets for this test. It shouldn&rsquo;t be shocking that a new and used visitors both behave similarly on your site, the funnels for finding a new or used car and converting for each are exactly the same so in the end the visitor has no choice but to behave the same way, that&rsquo;s how you designed it.

This brings in my biggest contention with website providers today, ALL OF THEM! There is very little a dealership can do to differentiate themselves in any website provider&rsquo;s platform, particularly in the most important areas, the listings page and the details page because these are shared across every dealer in the platform, as Alex S would put it &ldquo;Equal Incompetence&rdquo;.

&ldquo;The page view difference in this study is a result of less used cars of the same type or model to choose from. that&rsquo;s not behavior that&rsquo;s logistics.&rdquo; Very, very few visitors are coming to a dealerships site to build a car. By the time they get to the dealers site they have already decided what they want to buy and it is now a matter of do you have it, how much is it and how do I get it.

You did however hit on the top 2 things that a visitor is looking to do on a dealerships main website:

1. Find a car

2. Schedule a service appointment

&ldquo;DO&rdquo; is the operative word here. The problems you should be solving on a dealerships website are ones that help visitors do the things they want to do, faster.

As for conversion, well I think I would want to see this broken out by branded vs. non branded terms (dealer name vs. high value non-name related terms), sales and service. A blended 12% rate isn&rsquo;t good in my opinion, we want to see branded terms on a website convert at 30% plus. NOW, let me caveat that with we don&#039;t have a dealership doing that yet, my company is new and the oldest client I have right now is 60 days old. 30% plus is our goal and this is why I believe it is possible. The user typed in your name into a search engine their clear intent was to find your dealerships website. The only reason they don&#039;t convert is because you don&#039;t give them what they need to do so.

We believe we can achieve this through a series of off main site pages or microsites and our behavioral targeting technology to intercede at certain pages in the main website and/or redirect to offsite pages that focus on what we can determine as user intent. By doing this we can also split test the offsite pages and offers in real time, something not possible with any website company I know of today. I say this because I do not believe anyone can get to a 30% plus conversion rate without a clear test driven strategy, if you&#039;re just guessing you&rsquo;ll never get it.

&ldquo;18% for branding (name related key terms), I wouldn&rsquo;t call that a pretty big number. I would call that a little less than average number for the same reasons I stated above.&rdquo;

As for buying your name, first thing I would say is &ldquo;keywords don&#039;t convert landing do&rdquo;. With that said I would ask to see that data. Are the search terms the same? Is the landing the same? Were both the organic listing and the paid listing on page one and was the organic listing in the same position respectively to the paid listing (ex: paid listing in position 2 and organic listing in position 2)? If not that would skew your results of the test dramatically. I would wager there are some differences that would cause this to happen that have nothing to do with the ad being a sponsored link. Again you have to go back to user intent which is clearly to find that store and by human nature they are going to complete their intent unless there are some dramatic circumstances that stop them from doing so.

Last but certainly not least &ldquo;Deep Linking vs Off page landing&rdquo; this is actually the softball in this whole post. YOU NEVER, EVER WANT TO SEND PAID TRAFFIC BACK YOU YOUR RANDOM ACCESS MAIN WEBSITE&hellip;EVER!

1. With deep linking you still have all of the site navigation that will distract your customer out of the conversion funnel lowering you conversions.

2. When you deep link you are assuming that one page is going to do it we have very very very few landing experiences that are one page most are 3 some as many as 10 pages. With a deeplink or a single page you are assuming a one size fits all mentality and this post started out dispelling that notion immediately. Let me add to this before someone brings it up, a dynamic landing page where you are changing the picture or a header isn&rsquo;t a custom landing that is closely connected to your promise. That&rsquo;s just perfuming the pig; it doesn&rsquo;t do a damn thing for conversion.

3. There is absolutely no way to split test a deeplink page with in any providers website right now for a lot of the reasons I stated above in this comment and if you can spit test you can&rsquo;t get high conversions or continuous improvement.

Those are the top three there are many more but t this comment is already too long.

Well there you have it, be careful what you ask for you just might get it! :)

Hope that helps, of course I am sure that there are questions or clarifications on what I have said here everyone knows I am certainly willing to answer them and help where I can.
Larry - I was following along fine until I got to &quot;RANDOM ACCESS WEBSITE.&quot; What is that?

I&#039;ve got a lot more to respond to on that comment but I can&#039;t get past the Random Access Thingy. Help me out.
Random Access isn&rsquo;t a disparaging term, its an adjective.

Basically it means your main website can and often is accessed by random traffic that cannot be controlled and with no understanding of how the traffic got there, and once the traffic arrives on site the respondent can randomly access any part of the site taking them off the conversion path.

Sorry I should have defined that term.
I had to Google the term and the only thing I could find was one of your blog articles that mentioned Random Access Website without a definition of what it was as well. I assume this is a Larry Bruce term?

Anyway, I get what you&#039;re saying in regards to that term. Isn&#039;t that every public and spiderable website though? If it is a bad thing to direct customers to these pages then why do companies like eBay, Edmunds, or Amazon do it?

I do understand what you&#039;re saying about having an extremely targeted microsite that isn&#039;t public or spiderable to do nothing but be a lead conversion site. You probably could get to a conversion rate in the area you&#039;re talking about by using this method, but let&#039;s get real. What dealership has invested the man power, time, effort, experience, knowledge, and money to do all this? If you&#039;re saying &quot;hire Larry Bruce for this&quot; then let&#039;s take things a step further:

I wasn&#039;t at Digital Dealer 9, but I have heard from numerous dealers that you&#039;re telling people their website should convert at 30-40%. You have even admitted in this comment string that you, yourself, have no clients that are getting to these heights. You also stated that &quot;if you&rsquo;re just guessing you&rsquo;ll never get it.&quot; Isn&#039;t that exactly what you&#039;re doing right now?

Larry, I&#039;m not trying to paint you as a fool. I think you&#039;re on to some potentially good points that could help our industry, and maybe with time you&#039;ll get there. The problem I have is that you&#039;re jumping out of the gate trying to make things you pulled out of your butt into fact. Unfortunately, some people are listening to you and it is creating issues. My advice is that you should take a step back, get some time and true data on your side and then start making claims that support reality.
Actually &ldquo;Random Access Website&rdquo; is not a Larry Bruce term although I wish it were. Where it comes from isn&rsquo;t important if you must know email me and I&rsquo;ll direct you there.

Let me take your examples one at a time. Now here I can only guess what is going through the minds of the CMO&rsquo;s at these companies and of course I am not privy to all that they are doing from and online marketing stand point. I will tell you what I know and why I think the decision are made to use deeplinks vs a Microsite in each of these cases.

1. EBay &ndash; in my opinion embay is resting on its brand. They haven&rsquo;t been aggressive online or off for some time. Right now if you Google &ldquo;toys&rdquo; you will not likely find eBay items listed anywhere on the SERP page one, and it&rsquo;s November the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Same if you search &ldquo;used ford trucks&rdquo;, my estimation they aren&rsquo;t doing much of anything when it comes to web marketing they are using word of mouth. If you think about it eBay gets paid by the listing weather the item sells or not so what&#039;s their real motivation? There are a couple of entities in the car business like that too, but that is another post entirely.

An interesting side note on eBay according to of their top 5 referring sites 4 is Facebook at 6.98% and 5 craigslist @ 3.27% that may seem like small percentages but when you consider that eBay&rsquo;s unique visitors last month were 65+ million that all of the sudden becomes a big number. Point being who do you think is doing this? eBay? No, it&rsquo;s the sellers on eBay putting items on their Facebook pages with links and on craigslist. When you have sellers doing this and other search marketing tactics for you, why do you need to do anything else?

2. &ndash; easily the smallest of the examples you gave at 6 million unique visitors per month. Their top five search terms driving traffic again according to all brand terms but one &ldquo;used cars&rdquo; .24% of 6 million unique visitors. According to there SEM activity has been medium at best and they are bidding on some very generic broad terms: &ldquo;cars&rdquo;, &ldquo;huyndai&rdquo;, &ldquo;bluebook&rdquo; ect. when you&#039;re selling data in hopes to get a click or a name you can resell and your are bidding on terms this broad then you really can&rsquo;t build a Microsite that will focus traffic because you are casting a wide net and for lack of a better term, crossing your fingers that net catches something. Edmunds model just doesn&rsquo;t lend itself to landing pages.

3. &ndash; without a doubt the most aggressive of the 3 examples and I can tell you without a doubt they use landing pages, squeeze page, microsites ect. they use every bullet in the gun. Now they also have a network of affiliates that use these same tactics to convert at very high numbers.

Alex of all the examples you have given Amazon is the closest to our business and they use the tactics I have discussed in this post in depth. Depths I would love to discuss with their CMO who would never tell me all I would want to know.

Alex there is no doubt that what I am talking about takes manpower, I have seen the marketing department at Amazon in Seattle and I can tell you, the employee comp for Amazon&rsquo;s marketing dept. is more than the total gross profit for most dealerships. That is the reason I started MicrositesByU to do this for dealers that needed it, to provide a platform for dealers that wanted to try it themselves and a platform for other online marketing agencies that wanted to get into conversion marketing instead of selling traffic.

Yes Alex I am telling dealers that their website should be converting at 30% to 40% and I will stand behind that number. This is hardly a number I have, as you so eloquently put it, &ldquo;pulled out of my butt&rdquo;. It is based on data. So here is my explanation of that number:

First I&rsquo;ll start with your own numbers that come from this post admittedly Matt has put an 18% conversion rate on branded terms that you are getting right now. This is with no Split testing or multivariate testing that I am aware of or have ever seen data on that has done, so if you start doing some testing to see what you can do to get more conversion do you think you could find 12% more? Sure you could, I can tell you this&hellip; I could.

The only reason MicrositesByU hasn&rsquo;t is the first two website vendors we tried working with (neither were we got such tremendous push back it was unreal. As a matter of fact one sizeable website provider that I won&rsquo;t name here the CEO said and I quote &ldquo;Dealers are not paying us enough to work that hard to figure out how to convert more leads, what you are talking about doing is too much work&rdquo;. That&rsquo;s when I decided we needed a behavioral targeting technology to place on a dealerships websites to get the traffic off the main website site so we could do it without involving the provider&hellip;just too much trouble.

Second let me point you to a small consulting client Mike Warwick, Internet Director at Lawless Chrysler Jeep who right now gets 20.52% conversion on his website <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> . Mark writes in a Kain Automotive post <a href="http://(" rel="nofollow">(</a> &ldquo;I would read all of Larry Bruce&rsquo;s posts on website conversion optimization. I&rsquo;ve applied many of his concepts and the results have been fantastic.&rdquo; Mark still has no ability to test either.

Now I&rsquo;m not tootin my own horn, I am trying to make you aware that these principals are proven. Outside this industry there are entities that would fire the CMO if their conversion rate was 20% on branded terms.

Lastly I will leave you with this analogy. You have a salesperson in your dealership who gets 3 ups a day coming in asking specifically for him, that&rsquo;s 78 ups a month.

Out of the 78 ups per month, that are asking specifically for him he is getting information in the CRM system for only 14 of those ups every month and he is selling 8 cars per month. What are you going to do?

Well you&#039;re not going to fire the guy he is selling cars and more importantly he has a lot of people asking for him so he is obviously prospecting hard. You are going to work with this guy to help him get more information and to work with the desk to close more deals that&rsquo;s what any of us, would do. That&rsquo;s what I tell dealers in every session. This is probably the part you didn&rsquo;t hear Alex, Any dealer reading this comment please pay particular attention to this next quote:

&ldquo;It is not your website provider&rsquo;s job to give you a working site. It is their job to give you a functional site. It is your job to figure out what works for your market and your customers and work with your website provider to make your site work for you.&rdquo;

So as you can see Alex I am not exactly &ldquo;Pulling things out of my butt&rdquo; I would have hoped by now you knew me well enough to know everything I do is based on data. Just because I haven&rsquo;t done it YET doesn&rsquo;t mean it can&rsquo;t be done and just because can&rsquo;t do it doesn&rsquo;t mean it can&rsquo;t be done. The data inside and outside this industry supports these numbers and we will get there. It will not be long Alex and I will have hard data to support this. I don&#039;t think it is unfortunate at all some people are listening, in fact I am glad that conversion marketing is rising up and proud if I had anything to do with it. If this is causing a problem I suggest you find a way to get there before I do, but don&#039;t take the AutoTrader approach and try to convince dealers it&rsquo;s not possible just because can&rsquo;t do it.
&quot;If this is causing a problem I suggest you find a way to get there before I do, but don&rsquo;t take the AutoTrader approach and try to convince dealers it&rsquo;s not possible just because can&rsquo;t do it.&quot;

This is my post Larry, not Alex&#039;s. I work for and well before Alex worked here he was on the DealerRefresh team. You say &quot; can&#039;t do it&quot; in the face of an average conversion rate at 18% over many hundreds of accounts. This, therefore, means that we do have dealers above that mark. You have a client at 20%, I can tell you that we do to, and it&#039;s not because of off-site landing pages, squeeze pages or anything other than solid ad text, deep linking and robust sites.

Using Amazon is not a good example. Cars are the second largest purchase a person will make in their life, meaning the consideration phase of the buying cycle is significantly longer. Comparisons between a single dealer and Amazon are not effective.

You have passion and conviction for your strategies, I admire that. Don&#039;t for a second think that the team doesn&#039;t carry passionate, driven individuals with the technical expertise to bring real success to the industry. That&#039;s what we&#039;re here for.

Any time you would like to discuss data with me feel free. In the interim please remember that got to where we are today because we were born in a used car dealership. We get it.
Matt if you have a person that is going make statements that I am "pulling things out of my butt" and that I should "back off" you should expect I am going to come back pretty strong with what I believe backs up my belief.

Never said that doesn't have passion or expertise I don't know enough about to make that claim. I do think your platform is limited in it's capability to produce higher conversions and continous conversion improvement, but no more than anyother website provider.

If that is an 18% avg conversion rate there are 5% converting sites &amp; some 30% converting sites I would think so why would it be a problem if I tell a dealer his site should convert at 30% plus? Not only that the data proves my point all of those dealers have the same platform and same opportunity. However some have figured out how to work what they can in it and others are just sitting back hoping something happens.

"It's not the site providers job to give the dealer a working site, just a funtional one." the dealer has to make it work.

I can't speak for your company as a whole but the people I know and have met at do seem to get it. However none of us know all of it.
You are right Larry - Some are higher than 18 and some are lower. The ones who are converting at higher percentages are doing so because they understand the importance of the landing page in conversion. Telling people that they should expect 30-40% conversion is unrealistic when offering a product that has a 90 day average buy cycle.

To move past this discussion, let's refocus on the fact that the data I am sharing shows that there is a real need to think about and capitalize on the different "Search Personas" that exist on the dealer site. If anyone makes it this far down on the page, please know that the goal is to reinforce the need for more customer focused website pages. Think about the different needs that any one customer might have and design a website experience that caters to their needs. Many providers allow for their clients to add pages to their site or edit navigation where they see fit. Taking advantage of these opportunities will create a site that delivers a solid user experience that is more likely to convert.
Matt we can agree to disagree on the conversion percentage.

If you want to dive into search personas the formost authority on that subject is Bryan Eisenberg

I love Bryan's stuff but I have a difficult time applying it in a niche like retail auto. Personas are very subtle differences in visitor behavior based on small interactions on the site. Also element placement on site as it relates to the type of persona thst might visit. This is highly complicated and takes a great deal of traffic to do do the multivariate testing nessesary to achieve any confidence levels.

I prefer to simplify the landing and split test big changes, this allows for lower traffic levels to reach confidence levels, easier implementation and much bigger wins.

Given a niche market and low traffic volumes I think any focus on personas is stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.

Just my opinion
Niche market? Retail auto is one of the largest markets in the US.

Personas - There are many ways to look at the idea of a search persona. Adapt it to our market and you will understand why the average dealer website does little to address user experience. You have the service customer with their many needs, the finance customer who may have their own unique situation and, of course, the sales customer's wants and needs. Personas are about silos of experience that can be related to the keyword if you look closely enough. Bryan's stuff is good, but as I mentioned above, Vanessa Fox does a beautiful job of simplifying personas for any market in her book.

I don't doubt your conviction Larry. Once again I admire your passion for the industry. The point of this post is to show what we have learned from observing shopper behavior at a very high level. Are there more questions to be answered? Absolutely. Will they be answered in this post? Absolutely not. At the end of the day the content that I share is for the education of the dealer, not to spark theoretical arguments between vendors. If you would like to split hairs with me, let's take it off DealerRefresh.
I apologize for this tardy response. Thank you Matt for clarifying something that I want to follow-up with too: Yes, I work for, but on DealerRefresh I am speaking as I am on DealerRefresh. I may, on occasion, speak for my employer (as I did with Checkered Flag) maybe 3% of the time. The other 97% of the time it is just me. To suck my employer into something that I did not represent them as is hitting below the belt Larry. This is something you also tried to do when I was at Checkered Flag. By the way, you are the only person to ever do this. With that said, I want you to know I don&#039;t appreciate it and hope I&#039;ve made myself perfectly clear.

Larry - I follow you on twitter, I have two of your blogs coming into my RSS reader, and I keep both eyes on quite a few automotive communities. I believe it is safe to say that I come across the majority of the things you place online. I say this for the 90+% of the folks reading who aren&#039;t commenting just so that they understand there is some history here.

I must admit that most of the time I do not agree with Larry when I can understand him. In fact, over an hour long phone call with Larry, roughly 3 months ago, I left the conversation even more confused than when it began. But I have to give Larry credit as his posts &amp; responses are being articulated much better these days.

Larry - I am following you very well in this comment string - thank you!

With that said, and knowing that this is me representing me alone, let&#039;s have a real debate and get some things cleared up.

Amazon, eBay, and Edmunds have different agendas than dealership websites. Their conversion is much easier to track. However, I was not citing them as websites for comparison; I was citing them as websites who have used PPC to land customers on deep-linked pages within their main domain.

I must take contention with your labeling of dealership websites as Random Access Websites. I get where you&#039;re going with it, but I don&#039;t understand the need for the label. All websites, including most microsites, are &quot;random access websites.&quot; Tell me different if I&#039;m wrong - I could be getting the definition confused.

You call the automotive industry a niche industry and I don&#039;t think anyone can argue that generalization. But you call it that and then try to apply traditional website measurements and conversion rates from true eCommerce (sites with shopping carts) websites to you recognize the contradiction you yourself are proposing here? Are our websites part of the niche that needs to be held accountable for things that don&#039;t participate in our little niche? I&#039;m confused.

Yes, there are dealership websites doing double digit conversions and quite a few that are doing really strong double digit conversions in PPC. I am willing to agree with you that if we could accurately measure and tie all phone calls, floor ups, service drive appointments, parts counter visits, rental counter visits, and bodyshop estimate appointments then all dealership websites actually convert at HUGE rates - maybe even higher than what you say they should. In reality the only measurement that can accurately be measured is a form submission (&quot;Internet Lead&quot;). So, will you please set the record straight right now and tell us if your 30-40% conversion rate is based on total website performance, with all those things we can&#039;t measure, or is it based on the simple form conversion?
Matt Automotive is a large market but it is a niche, just a big one.

The post makes some interesting points but it actually creates more questions than it answers.

As I stated in my earlier comments, I will reiterate:

1. Calls are preferred by customers far over a form submission. – Granted, but this is a type of conversion and it’s not news, anyone who has been selling on the web should know this. At my store we have been selling completely over the web since 2001. We have never completed an auction on eBay, every eBay listing is a call generator and we get a lot of them. As I said in my earlier comment if you are wanting to convert to high sales ratio’s you should be optimizing conversion for a phone call those will convert to sales much higher than any other type of conversion.

2. Segmentation of New and Used customers was irrelevant because both had to follow the exact same behavior funnel on you sites; it shouldn’t be a shocker that the differences were so small. The page view difference is one of logistics not behavior, because there are less used cars to look at.

3. 12% conversion across the board to some dealers I am sure that sounds great but, to be as you say “realistic” you have to dissect that number by branded vs. non branded terms, then look at sales conversions vs. service conversions and you’ll start to get the real picture as to how to grow you internet commerce and your overall dealership using the web.

4. 18% average on branded terms just proves by statement that a 30% + conversion rate from a main random access website is achievable; because you have to have some in that number that are above the mid 20% range.

5. A 4x conversion rate on a branded paid link vs. an organic link is an interesting stat. With that said I would need to see all the data and the parameters of the test to see if numbers are clean. That number doesn’t make sense to me unless there was something different about the sponsored link vs. the paid link because links don't convert landing do.

hese are my observations about this post. They are not bad and they are not good… they just are.

Really none of them have anything to do with search personas except to maybe say that the call volume is indicative that the site isn’t addressing the search persona so the visitor is just calling, that is a stretch indeed. Here is the best way I can explain my view of search personas. Now I am going to show my more geeky side here, no wise cracks…I can get that anywhere.

Search personas are broken into 2 groups. To illustrate these personas I am going to use characters from Star Trek:

Fast Paced / Competitive – Kirk
Slow Paced / Methodical – Spock
Fast Paced / Spontaneous – Scotty
Slow Paced / Humanistic – Bones (Dr. McCoy)

I really can’t see how anything in this post addresses these types of search personas. Ultimately you persona will affect how you interact with a site, what you are looking for when you do, and why you click on what you click on. This is a very high level thing and something you really shouldn’t be looking to address until you site is converting waay above where it is now.
Ok guys after this I have call the time limit rule on this post. We seem to be beating a dead horse and we are so far off the subject it unreal.

Alex I&rsquo;m not trying to suck anyone into anything, again you should know me better than that. I say what is on my mind some can follow it some people can&rsquo;t&hellip; it is what it is. To be clear it wasn&rsquo;t a shot just what I was thinking.

Alex you have been in business long enough to know your comment and actions always reflect on your employer. It was not a stretch for anyone to assume your comments that my conversion benchmark is causing problems and that I should back off would come from interaction with clients, come on guys&hellip;really?

I appreciate you following me on twitter as I do you and reading my blog posts even when they don&#039;t make sense to you sometimes, but Alex this is a conversation and it&rsquo;s not about winning anything.

I believe an off page strategy is better for car dealers than a deep link strategy it&rsquo;s just that simple. You brought up 3 companies and asked why they don&#039;t use landing pages and I answered your question to the best of my ability.

Yes all main websites are &ldquo;random access&rdquo; you may not like the terminology but that doesn&rsquo;t change the fact that random visitors wonder in to your main website and that you can randomly go anywhere in your main website, you just have to live with that and it is one of the main reasons the most successful companies in PPC use off site microsites and landing pages.

Alex traditional web measurements? I don&#039;t know what you mean by that. There are measurements for shopping cart conversions and for lead generation. The definitive site for this is fireclick go to <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> and you will see measurements across a great many online conversions shopping cart and otherwise, what you won&rsquo;t see is anything close to my 30% number, because they only track online conversion. So no Alex I don&#039;t see the contradiction, my numbers come from what I have experienced in my own store on site and off.

A conversion = the following:

Any form submission, phone call, email or chat session where good re-contact information is captured for the dealership to follow-up with the customer, and I will stand behind that a dealership should be able to get 30% plus like this from its online marketing properties and you can absolutely track every one, we do that in PPC right now.

I hope is not just tracking internet form submissions? Not to drag your employer into it again but I assume you know how and what they track, so I have to ask when you make a statement like &ldquo;In reality the only measurement that can accurately be measured is a form submission (&ldquo;Internet Lead&rdquo;).&rdquo; That is absolutely not right.

Again guys we can take this offline on a call if you like or at NADA or some other meeting where we may all be but I can&rsquo;t put anymore time into this post, sorry.

Kevin I hope I was helpful to you as you were originally the one wanting my comments. If there is anything you want to discuss offline around what I have said here or that I can help you with feel free to email or call me.

If you don&#039;t have my number see below:


[email protected]
Wow &ndash; The best laugh I&rsquo;ve had all week! I don&rsquo;t mean the passionate, well thought out arguments being made above. I read down to Alex saying, &ldquo;We bring Larry in here and we&rsquo;re going to have one very long comment string &ndash; lol.&rdquo; And then I scrolled down. And scrolled down. And then scrolled down some more. I don&rsquo;t care who you are, that&rsquo;s funny.

I have to commend Matt for giving a high level introduction of the concept of personas to dealer marketers. While this conversation devolved into arguments about definitions, about Bryan &amp; Jeffery Eisnenberg verses Vanessa Fox, landing pages verses &ldquo;Random Access Websites&rdquo;, the fact remains that Matt did an exemplary job of giving a high-level overview of the concept.

Not that I&rsquo;m eager to add gasoline to a string already wandering off-topic, I did want to address a few things:

&ldquo;&hellip;of all the examples you have given Amazon is the closest to our business&rdquo; - There is a huge difference between Amazon and the car business &ndash; an even bigger difference than the difference between selling a $20 item and a $20,000 item. That difference being that Amazon MUST convert online because there is not a brick and mortar alternative. Every customer visiting Amazon knows the only way to make a purchase is online. Conversely, every customer visiting a dealer site knows they have the option of showing up at the dealer. That &ldquo;showing up&rdquo; option is made even more attractive by the size of the purchase (who would buy a house by filling out a web form?).

My main takeaway &ndash; The higher the sense of urgency, the higher the percentage of calls verses web forms. The closer the customer is the sale, the further down the funnel they are, the more likely they are to pick up the phone. Larry makes the point that phone calls convert to a sale better than form submissions. He further makes the point that he makes he pushes a call over a web submission for this reason. I think there may be a real cause and effect problem here. My guess is customers aren&rsquo;t closer to the sale because they phone, they phone because they are closer to the sale.

Larry states, &ldquo;Given a niche market and low traffic volumes I think any focus on personas is stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.&rdquo; I would certainly disagree &ndash; In the interview with Larry links to with Bryan Eisenberg, Bryan discusses putting links for the fast-paced Competitive and Spontaneous users high on the page and links for the slow-paced Humanistics and Methodicals lower. The fast-paced users need to get to their content NOW and the slow-paced will read through much more. A great example is - calm down Larry : The big &ldquo;Find Cars&rdquo; button and form is highlighted and at the top while the &ldquo;Car Research&rdquo; and &ldquo;Reviews and Top Picks&rdquo; tabs are smaller and lower. The Competives get the instant gratification they crave, while the Methodicals get the full and complete information they need to make a decision. This is an example of how to order information for folks on different buying tracks.

As for whether we are a &ldquo;niche&rdquo;, I&rsquo;d propose we use the term &ldquo;vertical&rdquo; as it has the connotation of &ldquo;focused&rdquo; without the connotation of &ldquo;small&rdquo;.&rsquo;

&ldquo;YOU NEVER, EVER WANT TO SEND PAID TRAFFIC BACK YOU YOUR RANDOM ACCESS MAIN WEBSITE&hellip;EVER!&rdquo; &ndash; Larry, you say &ldquo;never, ever&rdquo; but do you mean on a dealer name link as well as a longer tail phrase? The reason I ask is because if we bought &ldquo;Billy Bob&rsquo;s Subaru&rdquo; and generated a click, we know nothing more about this customer then that they are interested in us: We don&rsquo;t want to send them to a 2011 Forrester microsite. We can&rsquo;t tell if they want new, used, or service. What makes sense is to send them to our &ldquo;Random Access Website&rdquo;. It also makes sense to track them via cookie. To use Amazon as an example, when I Googled &ldquo;Amazon&rdquo; moments ago, they came up first in the organic listings as well as having an AdWords placement on top. Clicking the SEM link took me to the &ldquo;Random Access Website&rdquo;. I&rsquo;m sure I was cookied and tracked, but I was directed to the only logical place;

Again Matt &ndash; Great post!
Ed I said it was the closest to our business not exactly like our business! No Ed I would not buy a house by filling out a web form, there are few that would, but some have. I would however make and appointment via web form to see a house, I would call and agent to get more information from a website that is conversion via lead gen vs. conversion via purchase / ecommerce. The principals that make someone convert to buy or to engage via lead gen are the same.

The point was Ed that out of Edmunds that sells information, eBay that is an auction and Amazon that is an online retail store, Amazon is the closest of those 3 businesses to a car dealership. The question Alex had is why don&#039;t these companies use off site landing pages and I gave my opinion on Edmunds and eBay. Amazon (the closest to our business) actually does use off site landing pages and microsites, very successfully I might add.

&ldquo;My guess is customers aren&rsquo;t closer to the sale because they phone, they phone because they are closer to the sale.&rdquo; Actually Ed your guess is wrong. The customers are just as close to a sale web form or call we have done tests on both and found virtually no difference in the time frame to buy form vs. phone. However we did find that if the visitor calls the dealership, they are 7 times more likely to buy from that dealership than if they just submit a web form through the dealerships website. So the reason we push the call is to get a higher sale ratio for our client.

That&rsquo;s the problem with guessing and one reasons we don&#039;t do it.

Ed stepping over dollars to pick up dimes doesn&rsquo;t mean, that if you focus on the dollars first you don&#039;t go back and get the dimes. My point was that you should take the low hanging fruit first and there is plenty of it there for the taking. Personas are complicated high level thing and not something you do until you have a well established testing methodology and culture.

&ldquo;In the interview with Larry links to with Bryan Eisenberg, Bryan discusses putting links for the fast-paced Competitive and Spontaneous users high on the page and links for the slow-paced Humanistics and Methodicals lower. The fast-paced users need to get to their content NOW and the slow-paced will read through much more. A great example is; Ed this will be a great case study, can you get with the AT web marketing team and get the test data and methodology used to determine the link placement for competitive&rsquo;s and mythodicals. I would think that would be good data for AT to share.

Ed, Niche, vertical whatever!

Ed I am not a big fan of buying the dealerships name when it comes to search marketing so I generally stay away from branded terms. There are rare occasions where branded terms do make sense and even in that case It still doesn&rsquo;t make sense to send them to a &ldquo;Random Access&rdquo; website because by doing so you miss the opportunity to understand what driving visitor intent behind those terms and you make the respondent navigate your maze of information.

Anymore? Might just a well keep going now. :)

Since you don&#039;t argue with any of the data showing that dealership web visitors are much more likely to phone than fill out a web form (of those that do anything) and your own data shows that those that phone are 7 times more likely to buy, it&#039;s not hard to assume (and I know you hate assumptions)that those that don&#039;t phone are furthest from the sale. Those that do submit a web form are a minority and I would submit to you they are the folks that want to stay in an &quot;introspective persona&quot; longer in the process.

I can understand the problem you have with this: from our previous discussions, I know you have a very hard time believing that some people (and I believe it is a majority), just show up without a preliminary email or call, without a &quot;web conversion&quot; for you to track. I&#039;d further submit that while a form submission is &quot;Good&quot; and a phone call is &quot;Better&quot;, then a walk-in is &quot;Best&quot; (to use the old Sears Catalog terminology). I believe that a walk-in is the absolute closest-to-the-buy, furthest down the funnel customer. They have switched to full-extroverted mode and walked into a dealership. I know you feel this is all &quot;internet as research&quot; crap. But I think it goes far beyond research: the website helped them to a decision.

And the when the decision is made, because they have the option of visiting a brick and mortar location, many do just that. Their personality is such that they don&#039;t want to trade emails or have a phone conversation, they want to sit down and buy a car.

It&#039;s precisely this difference that means Amazon, Edmunds and eBay are simply NOT analogous to a car dealership. None of them. BestBuy, Staples, etc. are much closer because they have an established brick and mortar component, but we&#039;d still have to deal with the $20 item verses $20,000 item problem.

As for ATC or any other huge consumer site sharing their testing data with you, well, I wouldn&#039;t hold your breath. I know during the last major redesign of ATC extensive testing occurred, as you&#039;d expect.

But any dealer site could implement the principles laid out by Alan Cooper, Jakob Nielsen or Bryan Eisenberg of making the information that the impatient need high and prominent while putting the information needed by the more methodical lower. Even if they don&#039;t test, the underlying concept has been tested extensively. I know not testing is a problem for you, but you have to admit that any site would perform better following these time-tested principles.

Lastly, I always enjoy our discussions Larry. Perhaps it&#039;s because my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is ENTJ or on a Keirsey Temperament Sorter I&#039;m a Fieldmarshall or on a DISC assessment I&#039;m a very high D (with almost no C at all). In other words, I&#039;m a Kirk :)
&quot;Those that do submit a web form are a minority and I would submit to you they are the folks that want to stay in an &quot;introspective persona&quot; longer in the process.&rdquo; Ed 6 months ago I would have agreed with you but our test data shows there is only 1 day difference in the buy cycle those on the phone vs. those on the web.

What was even more interesting is that 83% of the phone in customers when asked gave their email address to the salesperson. This data leads me to believe that customer just prefer the phone interaction to the web form nothing more than that.

&ldquo;I can understand the problem you have with this: from our previous discussions, I know you have a very hard time believing that some people (and I believe it is a majority), just show up without a preliminary email or call, without a &quot;web conversion&quot; for you to track.&rdquo; Actually Ed quite the opposite I believe more are showing up without any previous engagement with the store they end up at. Actually that is my main issue. I don&#039;t believe people are just showing up because they want to, I think they are because they are so frustrated with the online process they are just taking what little data they can from it and going to the local store. The dealers that work hard to give customer easy access to the data they want, give the visitor a reason to engage and make easy to engage prior to the visit are getting the higher conversion rates in the numbers that Matt is showing in this post.

I also believe that if you aren&rsquo;t converting well you are getting as many walk-ins from your web properties either. These things are connected.

Ed I think you mistake my questioning of the data. I absolutely believe that a walk-in is the closest to a sale; anyone would be a fool to think otherwise. But I also subscribe to the theory &ldquo;Hope is not a strategy&rdquo; with that said I want my web properties to convert as much as possible so I have the optimum chance at getting the most customers I can. I am not going to just throw up a site and not work to find ways to make it convert higher, just crossing my fingers and hoping that people will just walk-in. There lies the crux of my issue with AT, with no testing no work AT has just decided that what you have now is a good as it gets and we need to convince the dealer community to live with it and just keep payin us. I&rsquo;m sorry can&rsquo;t buy that one. Among other recent issues we will not get into in this post.

Are there people that just want to sit down and buy a car, sure there are they minority by far. Ed people just don&#039;t have that kinda time anymore. How many people do you know will give up their entire Saturday to go buy a car now?

Ed I know you&rsquo;ve been brainwashed into thinking people are just going online looking at what available and showing up, I am sure AT would love for us to believe that the facts are that&rsquo;s just not true. Are some yes&hellip; the dealerships that do the best job with AT on this will tell you it&rsquo;s about $600 a car. Ed that&rsquo;s not that great!

Ed my little store is an AT customer and we are a buying center in Houston. I can tell you exactly what comes from AT and what percentage of my business that is. I can also tell you we sell cars like Amazon does 50 to 60 times a month, we sell

cars like Staples and Best (clicks and bricks) 30 to 40 times a month and we sell like a traditional dealership someone coming to the store 30 to 40 times a month. But I can also tell you that out of the 150 cars we sell on average every month 145 of them convert, by web form, email, chat or phone. Take those numbers and times them by a factor of 15X and you will have the dealership I sold my dealership prior to this one to, Texas Direct Auto. I have watched TX Direct sell and deliver 1600 vehicles in a single month all over the country and 1000 of the sold like Amazon. This is why I am so passionate about this, I have seen it first had and I live it every day.

Sure we apply good web design principals all the time without testing, something is better than nothing. But to truly ring the bell and get all you can you have to test. I don&#039;t see why producing the data would be a problem for AT it would make dealers feel better that the money they are spending is going to improve the product they are buying somewhat, but that is a business decision AT has to make, don&#039;t bitch when Reynolds doesn&rsquo;t share nicely either then, that door swings both ways.

In the end Ed I know AT is doing well, but are they doing good? In my mind right now they are not.

I too enjoy our discussions no one ever walks away sold but you do walk away thinking and that&rsquo;s a good thing.

Take care,

I know you&#039;ve dismissed it in the past but I think it&#039;s worth linking to again: the study released in January of 2009, conducted by ATC and Northwood University is certainly on-point, conducted with a large sample size and transparent in it&#039;s methodology. <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>
While I&#039;m linking to data, the 2006 ComScore study is worth noting as well <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> showing that anywhere from 2 to 10 TIMES more conversions occur offline than online after online information gathering.

Additionally, you are the only person I&#039;ve ever seen define a conversion as: Any form submission, phone call, email or chat session where good re-contact information is captured for the dealership to follow-up with the customer.

The standard seems to be much simpler: The percentage of visitors who take a desired action.

The desired action for car dealer is usually selling a car, but it might be setting a service appointment or selling an accessory. Your definition is much more narrow, and while it plays to your goals, I&#039;d submit it doesn&#039;t really define a conversion well.

And lastly, a place where I agree with you completely. &quot;I also believe that if you aren&rsquo;t converting well you are getting as many walk-ins from your web properties either. These things are connected.&quot;

I&#039;m glad we agree on something. I disagree that they are connecting offline because &quot;people are(&#039;nt) just showing up because they want to, I think they are because they are so frustrated with the online process&quot;, I believe there are huge numbers of people that don&#039;t want to spend time on the phone or on email after they have made a decision. They walk into a dealer armed with an enormous amount of data, ready to make a deal.

I have no idea where your $600 figure comes from. I assume you&#039;re talking about front-end gross. If I look at my best-performing dealers (by volume), it is way, way too low. Not by a few bucks, but by multiples.
Wait.....I&#039;m confused, so does this mean Matt Murray is cool or doesn&#039;t it?!?

All I know is I&#039;m not picking a fight with Larry....way too much to read.
Sorry Larry, but I have to continue the conversation too so Ed and Craig don&#039;t get lonely. I found this on your site:

&quot;So how did I come to this 30% benchmark? Ok it starts with my own store were we track everything. We found that we could use the visitors query string data to determine intent and direct visitors to the part of our website that closest matched that intent and when we did so our conversion rate rose 377% to as of this morning 26%. We also found that by tracking and changing certain things about our eBay motors ads we got a higher conversion rate to as of this morning 17%. We also found that using Facebook marketing in ways that were geared to customer interests not so much to customer in market probability we got higher click through and as of this morning a 47% conversion rate, ironically add all of that up and average it and as I write this post we are an average of exactly 30% (there are some decimals there but I am rounding up) and we are a small independent used car operation with none of the brand help dealers have today.&quot;

Two things:

1. The average of these #&#039;s might be 30, but that doesn&#039;t take into account the volume of traffic to those properties. I could put up a site that says &quot;click here for a free car!&quot; then wait for the first visitor to convert and report a 100% conversion rate. That wouldn&#039;t be too fair though :).

2. Averaging Facebook into your conversion numbers is interesting. How are you defining a FB conversion? A &quot;Like&quot;?

Seems like reporting a 30% conversion rate may be a bit misleading in this case.

As a reminder, the main point of the original post is that customers consider a product or many products, move up and down the funnel, then pick a dealership, not just a vehicle. This results in higher conversion on the dealership name.
Wow, I am tired after reading all of this. Kershner should be thrilled because this thread has created more content for the search engines in a few days than the site has in several months, lol!

I agree with the statement that the higher the sense of urgency, the higher the percentage of calls verses web forms. In our experience, most of our &quot;web forms&quot; are from folks who are higher up in the sales funnel and are not &quot;ready to talk&quot;. This also ties into our service calls, which greatly outnumber our sales calls in ppc campaigns.

I like what I have seen with Larry&#039;s sites because he is setting up a microsite to deliver exactly what the shopper is looking for. Simply put, a shopper types in a search phrase, and optimally, Google will deliver a site that gives him exactly what he is looking for. Rather than delivering a site which offers multiple options, Larry is delivering a site that takes them to exactly what they are looking for, hence higher conversion. This is how I have seen what Larry has presented in the past, and our experience with ppc landing zones with much higher conversion rates supports that approach. Love the passion Ed and Larry!
  • A
    Andrew Wright
  • November 8, 2010
Wow. This really is a conversation that would be best suited for a podcast with all of you guys. I don&#039;t have time read all this stuff all the time, but if it was a podcast, I could listen to it while I get some work done. I think I saw a thread about DR Radio on the forum. Might not be a bad idea for topics just like this???
Larry - you are still the only one trying to paint me into a company role in these online communications. When I said your claims are causing problems I was referring to people reaching out privately on DealerRefresh. They&#039;re all pretty much asking if you&#039;re &quot;full of...?&quot; Since you obviously didn&#039;t get my message to you and plan to continue spinning things further you should stop considering me a friend.

Craig - this is what Larry does. He spews novels of stuff all over the place that only make complete sense to Larry, gets pissy and leaves, writes a blog article on his own website, tweets about it, gets called out some more, and then comes back to repeat the process.

Back on topic:

I have to agree with Ed on grosses. That is one source that might not provide a ton of volume, but the undeniably-directly-attributed leads from do ring the bell.

As for tracking. Yes, things *can* be tracked quite accurately Larry. The problem is that most dealers don&#039;t put the effort into it or have too many tracking tools to get it done efficiently. This is why I say a form submission (Internet Lead) is the only reliable measurement. I speak from reality; not some small corner anomaly in Texas that kills it in eBay sales and selling cars out of plane hangers. Would I prefer your world to exist on a larger scale - yes. Does it - no.

I&#039;d love to see some numbers Larry. I&#039;d love to see some full story numbers with transparency. Prove it.
Sorry Matt, I didn&#039;t meant to steal your thread - I just wanted to borrow it for the weekend and keep it warm :).
Ed I appreciate it. I needed a breather anyway, this is a marathon! Lots of opinions in here, I feel like this would be a great panel/webinar. Hmmmmm.
<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> is available and after 27 minutes of scrolling through the comments of this post, I might start a new community. How many dealers are benefiting from this?
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • November 8, 2010
This conversation got started on Friday and unfortunately I was not around this weekend. For that I apologize but at this point I don&rsquo;t even know where to interject.

I have my opinions on all of this and as much as I love the passion that Larry exudes, telling dealers they should be achieving conversion ratios of 40% - well, that&rsquo;s really stretching it and setting the some standards that not even you have been able to achieve.

For others bashing this thread for whatever reason (there has been a few moderations due to irrelevant comments), this is an arena of opinions and a topic much deeper than the tyipcal ead response time and vehicle comments still being spoken about at conferences and other forums. We have some heated opinions here no doubt and a few cheap shots here and there, but personally knowing every person that has commented, this is the same conversation that would happen in person and in the end we would have a level of respect for each other.

Larry, when you have that 40% conversion ratio locked in &ndash; I would hope that you track every bit of it while allowing me to throw my PPC budget your way to work this &ldquo;magic&rdquo; of yours. :)
  • A
    Andrew Wright
  • November 8, 2010
Well said Jeff. I think we&#039;re all friends, here to exchange ideas. Unfortunately it&#039;s difficult for the written word to convey tone sometimes ultimately leading to what we have here. That&#039;s why it would be great if you guys could moderate a Blog Talk Radio type of forum for a topic of this nature and put it out in podcast form. That way everyone&#039;s points can be made with proper context. I hope you&#039;ll consider it.
Larry and I debate online - a lot. Across multiple forums and and twitter. I hope nobody mistook our disagreements for animosity. I like Larry and I truly enjoy our discussions (ok, debates). I just want to make sure that nobody thought our disagreements were out of anger, because they weren&#039;t (even though he did say I was brainwashed) :)

I&#039;d also like to apologize to the community; if I anyone thought my lengthy posts took anything away from a forum I value very much.

Dealer Refresh gives us an opportunity to share, and yes sometimes debate, ideas and for that I&#039;m thankful.

BTW debating Larry in 140 charactors or less should be an olympic sport.
Shaun - you&#039;re right. There really isn&#039;t any benefit to anyone here anymore. I don&#039;t know what it is but the worst in me seems to come out when talking to Larry. This isn&#039;t the first time, and I apologize to anyone who has been trying to keep up with this comment string for my part in it.
  • M
  • November 8, 2010
Hey Matt,

Very informative article. I have never been a big advocate of PPC/Search Campaigns but not because I thought they wouldn&#039;t drive awareness or traffic. I have always been against them because I felt that dealers didn&#039;t do enough tracking to really be able to measure the results. You&#039;ve done a great job of breaking this down and explaining the behaviors and I loved reading through this.

I only wish that dealers would put more effort into measuring and tracking how their advertising mediums are working and why they are or aren&#039;t working.

More than that, and I am a little biased here, I wish that dealers would spend more time making sure that their team could actually handle their customers properly; regardless of the ad source that brought them in.

Thanks again for the great read!
I am gonna start at the bottom first.

I am not sorry for this post, I think it has been a great discussion and FOR THE RECORD, I am proud for my part in it. To anyone that couldn&rsquo;t keep up, the post and comments aren&rsquo;t going anywhere read it when you have time. For those people that don&#039;t like the discussion going on here, I&rsquo;ve got a great idea&hellip; don&#039;t read it! You have the choice of the back button just as everyone on the web.


What exactly are we apologizing for? Your opinion? This is just stupid&hellip;

I have had 5 dealers contact me telling me what a great discussion this was, one even suggesting a panel discussion and a pod cast. I have never had that request from a dealer before. My sense is that this helped more dealers than some who have commented here might think.

All involved just because dealers don&#039;t comment doesn&#039;t mean that they are getting value. We are the providers if we don&#039;t know more about it than the dealer, what do they need us for?

Almost every comment here has added value to the conversation some comments have strayed a bit from the original topic but they have been good conversions as well. I know I have taken away some nuggets from this thread that have caused me to re-evaluate how I look at dealership branded terms and what we might be able to do with them and pre-conversion segmentation. I asked Bryan Eisenberg to take a look at the post as I couldn&rsquo;t see much coloration to personas in it, he had a very interesting observation &ldquo;Great behavioral segmentation which could lead to a good build in personas&rdquo; I saw the behavioral segmentation part but didn&rsquo;t see that as a stepping stone to a persona build the same way, another great take away for me.

So to who ever came in beating up this thread because people were lettin it all hang out in the discussion, you miss the whole point of a blog this was one of the better discussions I have been in on a blog in some time. A blog post loses its value when all the comments are &hellip; Great post man! Not that we who post them don&#039;t want those accolades to boost our belief, but I for one get so much more when there is good passionate back and forth conversation.

Now that&rsquo;s said I&rsquo;ll move on to the more worthy content.

@Ed, I have not totally dismissed the 2009 Northwood ATC study, I just don&#039;t agree with the interpretations in the data. I do not question that the majority of conversions happen offline, and have seen and agree with the comscore data and referenced a 2008 study earlier in this tread. <a href="http://(" rel="nofollow">(</a>

&ldquo;Additionally, you are the only person I&rsquo;ve ever seen define a conversion as: Any form submission, phone call, email or chat session where good re-contact information is captured for the dealership to follow-up with the customer.

The standard seems to be much simpler: The percentage of visitors who take a desired action.

The desired action for car dealer is usually selling a car, but it might be setting a service appointment or selling an accessory.&rdquo;

Ed the reason I put this definition on conversion is that in lead gen the desired action is getting the customers information, in the end no matter what you&#039;re doing if you end up with good customer contact information then the dealer has received something of value.

In an appointment you get good re-contact info and with the sale of an accessory either online or off you get good re-contact information, its kinda universal.

You cannot go to the sale level of the car because marketing doesn&#039;t sell cars. It puts someone that wants to buy a car in front of someone that wants to sell one. That&rsquo;s its job, no more.

The $600 figure is what we are spending that is the total ad dollars spent on ATC / the total cars sold we can attribute to ATC. This is where other dealers I have talked are as well some much higher none lower. Our gross is far higher than $600 per car.

@ Craig, that&rsquo;s how I win the fight&hellip; ware you down! :) ,Matt is cool BTW.

@Matt, &ldquo;1. The average of these #&rsquo;s might be 30, but that doesn&rsquo;t take into account the volume of traffic to those properties. I could put up a site that says &ldquo;click here for a free car!&rdquo; then wait for the first visitor to convert and report a 100% conversion rate. That wouldn&rsquo;t be too fair though.&rdquo;

I understand what you&#039;re saying but I really don&#039;t have time to think of ways to manipulate the numbers I could give you a few samples but I can&rsquo;t put pics up on comments here. Will do a case study on a campaign we are about to launch in NY should be interesting. Suffice to say these are real cars real offers and real conversions.

&ldquo;2. Averaging Facebook into your conversion numbers is interesting. How are you defining a FB conversion? A &ldquo;Like&rdquo;?

No that is actual conversions the purpose of those campaigns are not to generate friends, although they do, the purpose is demand generation, CTR us relatively low as you might expect from demand generation.

&ldquo;As a reminder, the main point of the original post is that customers consider a product or many products, move up and down the funnel, then pick a dealership, not just a vehicle. This results in higher conversion on the dealership name.&rdquo;

Finally as I said earlier there, I have taken away some points from this post that have caused me to think about the dealerships name and we are preparing some tests now, I will let you know how that goes.

@Alex, I am not trying to paint you into anything. You know as well as I do you cannot separate yourself and when you make comment like that its going to be perceived DDC, I can&rsquo;t help that it&rsquo;s just the way it is. I had the exact same conversation with Bob Brockman and he was right, as an employee and officer of Reynolds &amp; Reynolds anything I say would be taken in that context, you even did it yourself to me on a post from ADM, where you brought Reynolds into it, still have the email Alex.

The point is it&rsquo;s a natural assumption and you cannot separate the two. I couldn&rsquo;t so I just didn&rsquo;t comment or blog on DMS things while at Reynolds and you can&rsquo;t and have to make a choice on how you handle it on dealerrefresh.

As far as spin, there is none I have been very transparent where my numbers come from and why I think it can be achieved. If you or anyone else out there thinks I am full of &hellip; well that&rsquo;s your opinion and like &hellip;holes everyone has got one, I&rsquo;m ok with that. If you want to consider us not friends well I&#039;m not going to beg you to be my friend, that&rsquo;s the great thing about friends you get to pick&rsquo;em, do what you like there Alex. I like friends that can have good intelligent conversation and not walk away with a chip on their shoulder.

As far as my posts other places Clearing up a few things <a href="http://(" rel="nofollow">(</a> posted in other places including my blog, well Alex you were the one saying that it was causing a problem with dealers so I thought I should clear it up before it got out of hand, that&rsquo;s all I really don&#039;t see the issue and Alex, I can&rsquo;t post on dealerrefresh. The only person so I can tell in this whole that is up in arms is you. The rest of us seem to be having a good conversation.

That dealership selling out of an &ldquo;Airplane Hanger&rdquo; and its actually a junk yard &amp; now a 15 acre renovated Autonation used car building, sold over 1600 units last month. What did the biggest dealer you know of sell Longo, maybe if they are even still at those numbers? In my world Alex that&rsquo;s a pretty large scale, I don&#039;t what your worlds like. We reopened our store again so I don&#039;t get the exact numbers from TX Direct anymore but the above number is low by a few units.

As for my store numbers Alex, well I just gave them to you if you want to detail impression data, click data and conversion data, I&rsquo;ll pull it together in the morning and post it here I not messing with that tonight. I don&#039;t have a problem sharing at that level data, even though Ed won&rsquo;t share, not a shot Ed just messin with ya you have a few more layers to go through than I do (I guess we have to clarify that here now).

As for you comment at the bottom of the post, I don&#039;t even know what to say to that.

@Shaun I don&#039;t know about anyone else but I have had several comments from dealers that say they love this post as a matter of fact one dealer who has commented on this post told me it was the best post he has read on dealerrefresh all year. That just me though.

@Jeff, I don&#039;t know how we got to 40% even my highest achieved number is 32% we are at 30% as of this morning, I am shooting for 40% I think there are some new technologies we are introducing with on site and off site retargeting, that and with the brand of a franchise store I believe we can scare 40%. Jeff you always have to begin with the end in mind. If you don&#039;t know where you&#039;re going you don&#039;t know how to get there. No doubt I have respect for everyone who has commented in this post it has made me rethink some of my opinions and I think will make for some interesting tests over the next few months.

Jeff I will definitely let you know when we get there, would love to get your budget :) I suspect even 20% is better than you&#039;re getting now, maybe not. When we have a few more dealer we&#039;ll talk.

@Ed, You should know Ed I feel the same way, I have no animosity for anyone in this thread. This is a great conversation none of this is a shot or meant in anger. The brainwashed thing&hellip; I told you I couldn&rsquo;t think of a better more politically correct way to say it (and that just wouldn&rsquo;t be me) but I meant it with the up most respect! Still do&hellip; Hey Ed sometimes what you have to say takes a long comment, it is what it is.

Well that&#039;s that for now. On to the next comment.
My last post was not to you Larry. It was to the people who are not viewing this comment string as productive anymore.

You obviously remember our first encounter as you have the email, so let me clarify that for everyone following along. You used Checkered Flag as an example of how things should not be done to promote some heat map thing you were pitching. Someone pointed that article out to my boss, who found out that you were an employee of Reynolds. That was all we knew. Then, I publicly asked you what this was about. The conversation went offline and, only knowing that you were an employee of Reynolds, I informed you of what we thought of your article. It wasn&#039;t until months later when I found out your employment to Reynolds was through a buy out, and since then I have never brought you and Reynolds up together again.

On the other hand, you&#039;ve known me long before 5 months ago when I moved to Vermont. In fact, you&#039;ve been telling people we&#039;re friends and for these reasons I said you should stop considering me one. We&#039;re not.

Is this the dealership you work with <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>?
Alex, again just making a point. Really I don&#039;t know who you have been talking to but you really don&rsquo;t come up in my conversations to dealers. At best Alex we are acquaintances, I have a very different definition of a friend than you do.

If you want to take this personal, I can&#039;t stop you from doing that, just know that it&#039;s not from my part.
Mat, thanks for the comment. Measurement can be great and can also be really bad. I&#039;m sure You&#039;ve heard the term &quot;Paralysis by Analysis&quot;.

The beauty of paid search to me is that the measurement is extremely easy in comparison to other ad methods. Glad to hear that you are focused on understanding the importance of your web metrics. Let me know if there is any way that I can help.