Most Internet marketing experts will agree that driving traffic to your website results in the most valuable leads you can get – if you can convert visitors into leads. Just like the old adage, “volume is vanity, gross is sanity,” your website traffic is only worthwhile if you’re effectively converting it into sales opportunities.
According to an advertising efficacy study by Dataium, an average of 55 percent of dealerships’ online advertising budgets are devoted to paid search engine marketing, but just six percent of dealership website traffic is referred by paid search keywords, and less than one percent of this traffic resulted in email form leads submitted on dealership websites. While effective SEO/SEM campaigns are necessary up to a certain point, eventually the law of diminishing returns kicks in. How much more are you willing to spend for a search term that attracts 100 more unique visitors when only one or two of those visitors will convert into leads?
Compounding the challenge of effective SEM campaigns is the cost. Many website vendors and Internet marketing gurus push dealers to pay more for “their” search terms because other parties-- competitors, independent lead providers, auto shopping websites-- are all buying up the search terms and bidding up prices. To some extent, this is true: it's open competition, and automotive retail isn't the only industry subject to it. Companies in every industry must aggressively compete to attract online customers with increasingly sophisticated SEM campaigns.
Since search is now integrated into the consumer’s everyday experience, it’s also important to pay attention to changing consumer behavior and modify your campaigns accordingly. According to a study by Slingshot SEO, more than 80% of search terms today use five or six keywords. Users are becoming more sophisticated with their search terms and demanding results that deliver exactly what they're looking for. If you are a Toyota dealer in Chicago and you think you can attain a page one search engine ranking simply by paying a lot for the terms "Toyota" and "Chicago," or your website content is the same as it’s been since you optimized it for search 5 years ago, you will be disappointed.
As the competition, sophistication, and challenges increase, your ability to convert precious, valuable search-generated traffic must improve. The average conversion rate for dealership websites is estimated to be between two and four percent. Some dealers claim conversion rates more than double this percentage. What if you could double the number of leads you receive from your dealership website, without spending a penny more on SEO/SEM campaigns? Increasing conversion is the key to achieving this goal.
To convert more visitors, try this three-pronged approach:
1) Content. Keep the content on your website engaging, up-to-date, educational, and include "calls to action" on every page. Also be sure that your content supports your brand consistently. If you're a family-owned business heavily involved in your community, ensure that your website content reflects and promotes this.
2) Conversion Tools. An increasing number of tools are available that are designed to engage visitors and keep them on your website. Chat applications are one of the most successful conversion tools; so are payment marketing tools like trade-in calculators and shop-by-payment tools like Payment Pro. Incentives and coupons have all been shown to increase conversion rates.
3) Marketing. Conversion tools will convert, but only to the extent that your website visitors know about them and use them. Don't expect them to just stumble across the latest tool or gadget on your site and start using it, unless they know what to expect. For instance, if you have a payment marketing tool, create a marketing campaign to educate your customers about their credit score and to let them know they can get accurate payment quotes without affecting their credit score. A full-blown marketing campaign might include the following elements: e-mail, a dedicated area on your website landing page featuring the benefits of shopping by payment, a blog, a video of one of your salespeople explaining the benefits, geo-targeted banner ads, and more.
If you have found that funneling more of your budget into SEO/SEM campaigns isn't getting you a proportional increase in website visitors, try focusing on increasing your conversion rate. Customers will stay on your site if they find what they are looking for, so figure out what that is and provide it to them to increase your website lead count and quality.