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Steve White discusses why those that look at Google as an independent, unbiased third-party where they can get accurate measurements of what is actually driving activity to their websites and converting into sales may be wrong.

BY CEO & Founder Steve White February 27

Consumers have gravitated to the Internet for – well – just about everything. So, when it comes to digital marketing, it’s more important than ever for marketers to know what’s working and what’s not. Everything from SEO, to content, to social media and display ads contributes to the lure which brings consumers into dealership showrooms.

Currently, the single biggest asset digital marketers use to determine marketing effectiveness is Google Analytics. Many look at Google as an independent, unbiased third-party where they can get accurate measurements of what is actually driving activity to their websites and converting into sales. Sadly, they are wrong. Here’s why:

Google slowly and indirectly crept into the auto industry, similar to how it dominated every other industry — through pay-per-click advertising. Google then developed a department specifically dedicated to the automotive industry, which has been around for about the past five years. This is because between auto manufacturers, third-party listing sites, lead providers and dealers, the auto industry is very lucrative for them, which naturally drives their motivation to favor attribution that makes them look good. It also justifies the huge budgets some dealers put into pay-per-click.

In my opinion, Google Analytics is the #1 competitor to third party sites and digital vendors. The reason is that Google Analytics’ settings, by default, are configured for last-click attribution. And where do most clicks come from? Either organic or paid search results. It doesn’t matter if the customer saw your vehicle on a third-party site, then later did a search for the dealer’s name and clicked on the link (organic or paid), guess who gets credit for that click? You got it, Google.

One of the biggest issues for most dealers is that they simply do not have the time or available resources to pay attention and measure attribution properly. Therefore, they take the easy route and use the default Google Analytics setting for their marketing decisions. It is imperative that you upgrade your Google Analytics configuration so that you can get a more accurate picture of all your marketing investments. I promise you any time or money spent is a wise investment.

It takes quite a bit of knowledge, and time, to properly setup Google Analytics with every touchpoint, conversion form and social media ad to register and attribute properly within Google Analytics. Frankly, most dealerships just don’t have those resources. Perhaps they have an Internet department filled with Internet managers. But what I see across the industry is that 99% of those positions have pay plans that revolve around sales – not digital marketing. This forces Internet managers to choose between doing the activities that make them money (sales), and those that don’t. In the end, the only attribution source with data that shows if that dealer’s marketing is working or not is Google Analytics and the CRM. Thus dealers end up making poor decisions regarding their marketing tactics and spend.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. Pay-per-click and SEO efforts are certainly vital and can certainly perform well if properly executed. However, accepting everything that Google’s reporting platform tells you as fact is like accepting ANY vendor’s reports as fact.

In the end, Google is simply one of your vendors and, like most vendors, the reporting is configured to benefit them so as to justify your investment in their services.

You would be wise to stop taking Google Analytics reporting purely on face value as a 100% accurate measurement of online marketing results. Google isn’t an independent, third-party. They’re a vendor selling a service just like any other… and their reporting should be viewed with the same micro-inspection that you give any other vendor’s reports.


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