By Brian Pasch
Defining Shopper Traffic
Automotive dealers are in the business to sell cars. Generating traffic to the dealership’s website is important. However, I don’t want dealers to only increase traffic to their website, I want them to increase shopping traffic.
Visitors to a dealer’s website that look at Vehicle Detail Pages (VDPs) are shoppers.
I define the term “shopper” as a visitor to a dealer’s website that looks at an in-stock vehicle displayed on a Vehicle Detail Page (VDP). If someone visits the dealership’s home page, the “About Us” page, the directions page, or any “promotional” page on their website, they may be shopping – but I can’t know that for sure.
So let me talk to dealers directly; I recommend that you track VDP activity and monthly trends so that you can review your “shopper” traffic at any time. I will show you how to setup Google Analytics VDP goals in this post as well as show you some automated tools to track VDP activity.
Dealers can track VDP activities in Google Analytics using data segments and/or goals. If you setup Google Analytics goals for VDP activity, then dealers can gain the additional insights offered by Multi-Channel Sales Funnel reporting. This is a more advanced topic that I will not go into in this post, but it has strong value for marketing strategies.
In order to track shoppers and complete an in-depth analysis, dealers will need to trigger a Google Analytics “goal” when a VDP is viewed. Once a VDP goal is created for new and used vehicles, dealers can see how many unique visitors triggered various types of goals in any time period; this is how they will be able to calculate shopper activity.
Identifying Your Unique VDP URL Pattern
Dealers, since there are dozens of companies that offer website platforms, let me give you some advice on how to identify the unique URL patterns that define a VDP on your website. Select a used car from your website inventory and go to the Vehicle Detail Page (VDP).
Look at the URL of the page and see if there is a pattern that is unique for the used car detail page. If you see a unique URL pattern, write it down. Then select a new car from your inventory and see if the new car Vehicle Detail Page (VDP) has a unique pattern. If you see a unique URL pattern, write it down. If your dealership sells OEM “certified” cars, trucks, or commercial vehicles you will need to inspect the VDPs for these types of vehicles as well. If there is a unique pattern in the URL, write it down.
Here is an example of a dealership using a Dealer.com website platform, and the VDP URLs for their new and used vehicles:
New Vehicle VDP
Used Vehicle VDP
Using these examples, the pattern for new vehicles is “/new/” and the pattern for used cars is “/used/”. The certified vehicles for this dealership had a similar pattern of “/certified/”.
For VinSolutions.com website owners, there is a different pattern, as shown below:
New Vehicle VDP
Used Vehicle VDP
Now that you can see how to find VDP patterns, dealers can set up Google Analytics goals to show VDP trends and “shopper” traffic.
To show VDP trends, we can use the data filtering capabilities in Google Analytics. To calculate the number of shoppers that are coming to your website, we will need to set up a goal.
Let’s set up the goal to identify a shopper as our first step.
Setting Your Shopper Goals
Since there is a distinct pattern for new and used car VDPs, you have the option of creating two goals: used car shoppers and new car shoppers. I think that two goals make the most sense because you can analyze the activity of your new and used car marketing investments. If your website also has distinct Vehicle Detail Pages (VDPs) for commercial trucks, you also need to have a third goal for views of those vehicles. A third goal could also be appropriate if your website also has distinct pages for wholesale vehicles.
To set up a goal for new car shoppers in Google Analytics on a Dealer.com website, see the example below:
This goal will be incremented when someone visits a website page that starts with “/new/.” Make sure you use the Destination filter “Begins with” since the VDP pattern comes right after the domain name.
Once this goal is set up, the following day Google Analytics will start to collect data. You cannot create a goal and collect historical data using this method. Each website platform will have their own pattern for new and used Vehicle Detail Pages (VDP) so make sure you consult with your website provider to determine the correct pattern.
If you don’t use the correct pattern in your goals, your data will not be accurate. Once goals are set up, you can see which traffic sources are generating the most new car VDPs. In the graphic below, I selected the goal called “New VDP Visited” and Google Analytics shows each traffic channel and how many new car VDPs were triggered.
From this report, you can see that 19.04% of the website organic traffic visited a new car VDP, which is a starting point for your benchmarks. As you refine your new car marketing strategy, you can work to increase this percentage. You can also see new vehicle VDP activity for direct, referral, and paid search traffic. The referral traffic for this dealer has the highest percentage of shopper traffic, which in this case was assisted by LotLinx.
One practical way to increase activity for new car VDPs is to look at your Google AdWords campaigns designed to sell new cars. Look at which keywords are generating the highest percentage of VDP views and also identify the keywords that may have zero VDP views. Refining your keyword strategy based on VDP activity is a worthwhile task to increase new car sales.
The reports available to you in Google Analytics can guide you on which marketing channels are delivering the highest percentage of visitors that are looking at new car inventory, but they are not perfect. Google Analytics has blind spots and traffic that appears to be “organic” could be coming from previous consumer engagements with paid advertising, social media, third party classified websites, or traditional media exposure.
Be very careful how you just your marketing investments based on over simplified attribution models.
VDP Reporting and Analysis Automated in ROI-BOT
Dealers that don’t want to deal with Google Analytics and the never ending enhancements to the data reporting interface can get VDP trends, charts, and analysis using the ROI-BOT™ dashboard. This software tool is customized for the automotive industry and has the setup for all popular website platforms used by auto dealers. The ROI-BOT software will look at VDP activity generated from:
- – Google AdWords
- – Email Campaigns
- – CRM Emails
- – Social Media Advertising
- – Organic Traffic
- – Referral Traffic
These detailed reports can show dealers which online marketing strategies are generating the most VDP views on new cars, used cars, certified cars, and commercial trucks. The analysis of VDP activity is critical for dealers because they are spending thousands of dollars each month to drive “traffic” to their websites.
Dealers need to focus on sending more “shoppers” to their websites, because shoppers are the ones looking at, and eventually buying, vehicles. Dealers need easy-to-read reports on VDP activity and that is one of the benefits of using a tool like ROI-BOT over Google Analytics.
Order The Book
If you enjoyed this discussion, I encourage you to purchase a copy of “Mastering Automotive Digital Marketing” directly from this website. You can also purchase the Kindle version of the book directly on Amazon.
Brian Pasch, CEO