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Part 1 of a 2-part blog discussing the value and pros and cons of Traffic vs. Sales Attribution

BY CEO & Founder Steve White August 30

Historically, there have been few ways for dealers to accurately measure if their marketing spend is providing ROI – and really, truly trust the data. Traffic Attribution has been, and remains, the primary KPI dealers use to measure the success of their marketing campaigns; and Google Analytics the primary tool.

Relying on traffic as your primary measurement is troublesome if you use the results to help reallocate your marketing spend. If Google Analytics tells you that your display ads drive the most traffic at the lowest cost, while your Third Party Vendor drives the least – it stands to reason that you’d use this data from GA and spend more of your marketing budget on display ads and less with your Third Party Vendors.

Web traffic alone only shows data indicating how many people visit the dealer’s website. What about accurately tracking all the referral sources for sales? It’s what web traffic doesn’t show that is most important, and that is missing if you use this as your primary KPI.

Luckily, Sales Attribution techniques are becoming more common in the automotive industry and we’re seeing more dealers adopting new measurement approaches. In my next blog I’ll outline some of the surprising results dealers are seeing using Sales vs. Traffic Attribution. But in this blog I’d like to focus on Traffic Attribution because, while Sales Attribution is the Holy Grail, you can still extract valuable information from free out-of-the box web traffic measurement tools like Google Analytics.

Let’s face it, Google, in itself, is a vendor in our industry. And, while claiming to be unbiased, its long-time attribution model is flawed. Not only is it flawed, but most dealers have it set up poorly, so have trouble getting accurate data.

We recently conducted some in-depth research with a number of dealerships who rely on Google Analytics for web traffic measurement and found that many have it set up incorrectly. This makes it almost impossible to understand what’s going on, even from a last-click perspective — let alone a multi-channel approach!

Even those a little more technologically-inclined were forced to spend way too much time manually adding data to spreadsheets, attempting to decipher what’s working, and what is not.

We were also shocked to discover that many dealers didn’t have the proper goals set up in their accounts. This is extremely important as the data will be flawed and inaccurate if Google Analytics is not set up properly. In fact, you will not be able to gain any valuable information.

Before all the data in Google Analytics makes any real sense, no matter which attribution model, vendor, or method your dealership uses to calculate results, you need to ensure you properly set up a complete set of goals in Google Analytics itself. What I suggest as a minimum is as follows

  • New SRP Views
  • New VDP Views
  • Used SRP Views
  • Used VDP Views
  • Certified SRP Views
  • Certified VDP Views
  • Finance Form Submissions
  • Lead Form Submissions
  • Service Form Submissions
  • Trade-In Form Submissions
  • Print Coupons
  • Visits to Hours and Directions Page
  • Views of Dealership Review Page

In studying several dealers, when they correctly organized the data in Google Analytics, ensuring that each traffic source was assigned to the appropriate channel, while also assigning referral sources that were falling through the cracks (such as third-party ads), the data provide information that was much more valid. These dealers could finally trust this data to make better informed decisions.

Relying solely on Google Analytics out of the box set up has some other pitfalls, including the fact that it does not allow you to see performance between brand and non-brand search and display. If you cannot break this out, you can only view the performance of paid search and display as a group. In addition, you cannot break out Tier 1 and Tier 2 marketing campaigns, or your own email campaigns. The inability to see granular level results such as these (and more), can easily lead to poor marketing decisions.

In part two of this blog series, I will discuss the holy grail of attribution – Sales Attribution. I’ll explain the different types and why it’s so difficult to measure. So, stay tuned for more……….

 


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