Car Dealerships and Online Analytics: a primer

Website metrics.  Hooray.  Visits/Visitors, Bounce Rate, Time on Site, etc.  Where does it end.  And what measurements are important?  I could spend a week writing a novel about each measure, but wanted to write a quick primer for car dealers that explains the difference of the measurement and what they really mean.  I will cover off these topics in future posts in much more detail, but this guide is a good starting point for analyzing an automotive website in basic terms.

Visits and Visitors

Visits is the total number of times your site was visited.  Simple.  This number will always be higher than visitors because people buying cars tend to come back to websites throughout the buying cycle.

Visitors is *usually* (Not every analytics package is exactly the same, but I will settle on visitors being Unique Visitors) a measure of unique visitors coming to your site.  This is the actual number of  unique car buyers coming to look at your inventory.

These numbers can be affected by a few things.  First thing is any filters applied to your analytics.  I would typically recommend (if possible) that you filter out the IP Address of your dealership directly in analytics.  What this will do is NOT COUNT any visits to your website from your staff when they are at the dealership.  Counting those visits will artificially inflate your numbers and decrease things like your conversion rate, skewing the real results of your online marketing efforts (I would hope that your sales staff are not submitting leads on your dealer website).

Bounce Rate

Probably one of the more important but least understood statistics on your dealer website.  Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that arrive at a page somewhere on your site, only look at that page, and leave.  This is one of the best indicators of your online marketing efforts, especially when paired up by looking at the traffic source the visitors are coming from.  There is no right number for a bounce rate, but when you are selling cars, you want to make sure people land on a page that has something to do with cars (or service).  Having a box with specials right out front can help with this.  The other side to that coin is someone is simply looking for your phone number and that is that.  If you want to get super detailed, you can now track bounce rates relative to your inbound calls by using certain call tracking tools that provide your visitors with a unique toll free phone number.  If you are doing that, you are way ahead of the game today.

Time on Site

Time on site, like visits seems like it should be pretty straightforward, but there is certainly more than meets the eye.  Most analytics packages use sessions to track users on a site (some packages use your web log files, but that is a different animal).  In that session is a start time for each page visited.  By subtracting the time each page is visited from the previous page, Time on Site gets calculated.  See my lovely chart below:

  • 3:00 PM – I come to your Home Page.  I browse around your digital tent sale, look at your employee of the month, then I remember I came looking for a car.
  • 3:02 PM – I search for a BMW 750il on your site (I like big cars).  You have 6 in stock (clearly, you have fine taste in inventory).
  • 3:05 PM – I click on one of the BMW’s you have in stock and read your 6 paragraph description and look at the 45 photos you posted (good work!)
  • 3:10 PM – My attention span wanes while reading about this car and I leave your site heading to wikipedia to read about the higgs boson.

Time on Site: 5 Minutes

Whoa.  Wait a second.  You lied to me.  You said if I subtract the last time visited from the first, I get time on site, which in this case is 10 minutes.

True, I said that, but I also said there is more than meets the eye.  Since on the BMW page that I spent 5 minutes on, I then went off to some other page, most analytics packages (including Google) don’t know how long I spent on that page, since I left directly from it.  Since there is no trail after that, it assumes I left at 3:05 PM.

This method also relates to Bounce Rate.  If I come to your New Car Specials Page at 3:10, spend 20 minutes reading every special, then leave without having visited another page, Time on Site: 0 Minutes.  I know, it’s not fair.


These are 3 great Macro measurements for your websites performance, but they don’t really tie into your marketing efforts or dig beneath the surface of what makes visitors do things on your site.  In setting you up for the long game, ill cover off some heavy duty metrics for your site in my next post.  We will talk about CPA (Cost per Acquisiton), Loyalty, Page Depth, and more.



1,204 thoughts on “Car Dealerships and Online Analytics: a primer

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