Utilizing free analytic tools can simplify a dealer’s approach to digital marketing. BY AMY FARLEY
Henry Ford once said he knew that half of every dollar he spent on advertising was wasted. He just didn’t know which half. What might he think if he were alive today, when dealers are constantly bombarded with data and information about the effectiveness of their digital marketing efforts?
Whether you rely on an in-house digital team or work with one or multiple vendors, the data you’re given can be overwhelming. It’s important to find a way to interpret it in an objective way that paints a picture of your digital marketing success.
Fortunately for dealers, three readily available tools exist that can help them simplify their approach to digital marketing, and meet these challenges head-on. These are three common questions that dealers have, and three tools that can help answer them.
How do I attribute the peaks and valleys in website traffic to my marketing team’s efforts?
Solution: Google Annotations
One of the most challenging things about digital marketing is determining what strategies were and were not effective in driving traffic and conversions on your dealership’s website. If you’ve ever noticed a spike in web traffic within your Google Analytics data, but found yourself unable to pinpoint the cause in order to replicate it, then you know that this can be frustrating. Google Annotations, a free tool within Google Analytics, can help.
Annotations are notes within Google Analytics that anyone with access to your account can make and view. These notes appear as small icons along the graph of your website traffic, and correspond to a given date. They can help you mark events or changes that have an impact on your data, allowing you to notice and remember what caused spikes or dips in visitors to your site, conversions and other metrics.
When you click on an Annotation icon, it will pop up and display the note that was created for that date. You can also view an itemized list of all Annotations in the admin panel, allowing you to take a zoomed-out view of what’s affecting your site data.
All of your digital marketing providers can utilize this tool, if they have access to your Google Analytics. You will be able to see exactly what they are doing within your account, and determine whether or not the steps they’re taking are working. Your providers can record the actions they take to optimize your account, so that you can tell if a PPC campaign or a tweak to your site content had an effect on your traffic. You can also choose to record things like other marketing campaigns, new model launches, store events and more. These all provide important context that will help you determine why your website traffic rises or falls.
How do I track the effectiveness of my digital marketing channels and campaigns?
Solution: Google UTMs (Urchin Tracking Modules)
Many dealers find it difficult to evaluate the reports they receive from all of their third-party vendors. It can be challenging to interpret the data, how it works together and how it relates to a dealer’s site traffic and conversions. One solution that unifies that data into one central location – Google Analytics – is the usage of Google UTMs.
UTMs are a way to track the sources that your website traffic is coming from in a specific, granular way. These tracking codes are added to your URLs and can be used anywhere that you’d like to track your traffic – in marketing emails, PPC campaigns, landing pages and even third-party sites like AutoTrader.com and Cars.com.
Without UTMs, Google Analytics attempts to determine the source of site traffic, but it’s not always successful. In many cases, the traffic source will be listed as “Direct,” indicating that the visitor came directly to your website by typing in the URL or clicking on a bookmark. This provides you with very little insight.
Once UTMs are implemented, though, you can determine not just the source that brought visitors to your site, an email message for instance, but also the specific campaign, for example, “Memorial Day Email Blast.” It gives you the best possible insight into which campaigns are driving traffic and conversions, and which are not.
Attributing success to a specific traffic source and campaign can allow you to evaluate which of your digital marketing efforts are the most worthy of your time.
How do I optimize my website to get more organic search leads?
Solution: Schematic Markup
The goal of any search engine optimization strategy is to make your dealership’s website more visible within organic search rankings. Schematic markup allows you to do this in a way that’s more effective than ever before.
Schematic markup, also known as schema, is code that is placed on the back-end of your website in order to help search engines better parse and understand what your content is about. By implementing these simple snippets of code, you can show a search engine that the “Leaf” is a vehicle in this context, for instance, rather than something that falls from a tree. While search engines can sometimes figure these things out on their own, schema allows you to cut the guesswork out entirely.
Schematic markup is also recommended because it can be used on images and videos. Search engines are limited otherwise in how they read these types of content, so using schematic markup codes lets them know what those images and videos contain. They can understand, for instance, that an image of a Nissan logo describes an automotive brand. This allows items like that to contribute to your overall SEO strategy in a way that they couldn’t before.
The goal of any search engine is to connect users with the search results that are the most relevant to their query. The three major search engines – Google, Bing and Yahoo – collaborated on schematic markup in an effort to deliver better results to users, and as such, the schema code that you use on your site will work for all three.
If your digital marketing provider or the team that handles your search engine optimization strategy is not using schematic markup yet, then now is the time to begin. Take advantage of this opportunity to ensure that your dealership is the most relevant result for a user’s search query.
All three of these tools are effective and free for dealers and digital marketing providers to use, yet all three are underutilized within the automotive industry right now. Use these tools to interpret your data and manage your digital marketing vendors more effectively. Like corporate management consultant Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured gets managed.”