Best Practices

The Most Important Page on Your Dealership Website

I’ve always considered a dealership’s home page to be the most critical page on the site.  It makes sense right?  Most people enter on the home page and my mom always told me, “you only get one chance at a first impression.”

Mal Kenney disagrees.  I recently attended a presentation by Kenney, Van Tuyl Digital Marketing Manager, on the state of digital marketing in automotive.  Kenney and his team deploy more than a million dollars per month in search and see almost 5 million monthly visitors across their dealerships.  So he knows a thing or two about dealership websites, and he says that mom and I are absolutely wrong.

Mal shared research that strongly suggests the best predictor of website conversions is the number of Vehicle Detail Page (VDP) Views per visitor session.  That may not be super surprising, but let’s dig in and consider what that really means.

When looking at VDP views against conversion rate, the correlation is undeniable.  His study showed:

A 0.14 increase in VDP views per customer corresponded to a 62% increase in conversion rate. Real talk: Visitors who view more VDPs are more likely to call, email, or chat.

Why?  These visitors:

  • Are more engaged and interested.
  • Have been exposed to more of your inventory and are more likely to find something worth converting about.
  • Are low funnel shoppers which often means previous research and a desire to learn more about a specific vehicle / features

If we can agree that more VDP page views are good, it stands to reason that having VDP pages that will keep your shoppers shopping is just as critical as the home page which starts their journey.

I could go on and on about displaying 20+ non-stock photos, giving accurate pricing, and using a great vehicle summary to increase and improve VDP conversions . . . .but, I won’t because you already know that.

I want to instead hit on a key piece of Mal’s presentation where he discusses the places you are most likely to find those highly valuable shoppers.

When he segregated the traffic sources of his millions of monthly visitors, he found a healthy balance of organic and paid search visitors along with plenty of direct and referral visitors.

Cool.  That’s great (actually it’s boring).  So what?!

What interested me was his revelation that search traffic SIGNIFICANTLY outperformed the other sources in that all-important VDP views category I discussed earlier.

Paid Search Shopper:

– 25% more likely to view a VDP than a referral shopper

– 70% more likely to view a VDP than a direct shopper

Organic Search Shopper:

– 97% more likely to view a VDP than a referral shopper

– 270%! more likely to view a VDP than a direct shopper

But, Mal!  What does this mean!!

Put simply, Kenney shared, “Search traffic converts the best.”


Search visitors are the same shoppers who view multiple VDPs and demonstrate the characteristics of a serious low funnel shopper discussed above.  It’s the same group of people.  That means the place you need to go to find them is the search engine results page.  Real talk: Google, Bing and Yahoo.

At this point, you should be saying, “So I know that search brings good shoppers to my site, but it sure looks like Organic does a whole lot better than Paid.  What’s up with that?”

The difference in paid vs. organic likely demonstrates the brand effectiveness of the dealers’ third party efforts on sites like and AutoTrader.  Organic search visitors have often already found the dealership and inventory that they like during their previous research. So when it’s time to call the dealership, they simply search on branded terms to see what else the dealership has to offer in terms of inventory.  Check out your highest performing keywords.  Is it your dealership name?  Duh!!!

Paid search visitors on the other hand are just a little higher up in the funnel and still shopping dealerships, therefore are more likely to be allured by the top of page real estate given to paid search results and spend a little less time shopping inventory while they settle in a on a dealership.

Key takeaways #1:  VDP views per visitor is directly tied to conversion rates.  

Action Items

  1. Make it easy to get to your VDPs! If you are getting less than 0.5 VDP views per visitor, then it’s time to have a heart to heart with your website provider.
  2. When they find your VDP, make them glad they did by following the basics of VDP content shared above.  Perhaps more importantly, make it easy for them to pick up the phone and call you about the car they are looking at with a prominently displayed phone number that connects them to someone is sales.

Key takeaways #2:  Search Visitors are more likely to seek out and find your VDPs

  1. Stay active in SEM and measure everything.  If your cost per conversion isn’t based on both calls and form fills, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Once you have the data, consider shifting budget to search to drive more of those visits.
  2. Make sure you own top position for your dealerships branded terms in SEO. This makes it easy for the shoppers that you ALMOST have via your third party publisher sites to find you and become leads on your main website.  The good news is that SEO is all about content.  So if you take care of business on key takeaway number 1, this one should take care of itself.

Want more in store appointments? Drive those VDP views!

Big thanks to Mal Kenney for the fantastic study and permission to share some of his findings.

Patrick Elverum is the COO of Century Interactive and oversees enterprise level partnerships and product development.  He has a knack for the big picture but loves the nitty gritty of digital marketing as well.  Patrick lives in Dallas with his wife and wonderful children.

Mike Haeg is an industry guru in the call analytics and technology sector. He has a deep passion for helping dealers measure their marketing ROI and i...