Digital-Marketing New Year’s Resolutions for Car Dealers

Here are simple and basic resolutions every dealer should commit to for 2019.

George Nenni

January 7, 2019

3 Min Read
Tracking digital marketing
Tracking ad performance belongs on dealers’ to-do lists.

The beginning of a year is an opportunity to make resolutions for improvements, set goals for surpassing last year’s performance and challenge the status quo.

I work with dealerships daily to improve their digital marketing efforts, and accordingly I want to outline simple and basic resolutions every dealer should commit to for 2019. 

Whether you believe in New Year’s resolutions or not, dealers spend enormous amounts on digital marketing. Any time is a great time to better measure success and eliminate waste. Here we go:

Analytics. This should be the year for dealers to start determining for themselves which digital advertising investments work, and which don’t. That’s done through Google Analytics.

Remember the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention of 1998? I sure do. Dealers had scores of 20-somethings telling them the beauty of the Internet was that (unlike newspapers and billboards) everything was measurable. Fast-forward to today. Few agencies and dealers actually put this into practice.

Digital marketing definitely is measurable, but you need a strong framework along with the right success metrics, as well as drilling into the details to truly get a clear picture.

That means inspecting digital marketing investments at a campaign and keyword level rather than simply looking at top-line summary results.

So where do you start? First, make sure Google Analytics is installed for your website. Then use the tool to measure campaign success on a more detailed level.

UTM Tagging, Goal Establishment. UTM tagging may sound complicated, but the process is simple. UTM tags help make sure every digital campaign can be identified in Google Analytics.

Make sure all Facebook, email, display and other paid campaigns are UTM tagged. Once this is done, use Google Analytics to inspect campaign and traffic quality.

There is one more step: Create meaningful goals in Google Analytics. Set up goals for lead form conversions, chats, texts, click to calls, phone calls and even store visits.

This includes reaching out to companies specializing in this to get Google Tag Manager Events firing and establishing goals for these events.

Once the dealership has both UTM-tagged campaigns and goals for hard conversions, the store will be better positioned to effectively measure monthly digital marketing success.

Accountability. One of the largest digital marketing spending categories for a dealership is third-party classifieds (TPCs), companies such as Autotrader,, CarGurus and others.


Many dealers rarely visit the back-end reporting for TPCs, and even if they do, they may not bother to log the data into a dashboard to compare the various providers against each other on common success metrics.

It is only by looking at TPC success metrics over time and comparing them with known benchmarks can a dealership effectively measure what a job well-done looks like. (Wards Industry Voices contributor George Nenni, left)

What are those success metrics?  My favorites are overall vehicle detail page visits, cost per VDP, cost per email lead form/chat/text/phone call, website referral traffic (and quality), as well as cars sold from each source.

When dealers log these key metrics monthly, they will get clarity on true ROI. Let’s ring in the new year by better allocating advertising funds, including analyzing your paid-search and social-media spending. Improve your return on ad spending and gain more transparency.

George Nenni is a speaker, author and principal consultant at Generations Digital. He can be reached at [email protected].

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