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Google Analytics For Car Dealers - Part III by Brian Pasch

This is the third in a series of articles for car dealers who would like to learn how to leverage Google Analytics in order to better merchandise their websites, track consumer activity, increase conversion, and measure the influence of their marketing investments.  

To summarize the series to date:


Today, I will build on the previous concepts I shared on Google Analytics and show how to set "goals" to give dealers greater insights on how consumers find their website.  We will also discuss how goals can show a "partial path" of the consumer shopping experience using Multi-Channel Sales Funnels (MCSF).


The Limitations of Google Analytics To Document The Shoppers Path


Before I outline how to setup Google Analytics Goals, I want to be clear that Google Analytics has some limitations that should be clearly understood.  Google knows the last direct path where people come from when they visit a dealer's website.  Some of those direct path traffic sources include:

  • OEM Website
  • A google search (organic)
  • A click on a search engine marketing ad (SEM)
  • A click on a banner in the Google Display Network (GDN)
  • A click on a link in an article
  • A click on a link on a social media channel like Facebook or Twitter


The sources of website traffic are tallied in Google Analytics to give website owners a way to measure website visitor patterns.   That data is found under the "TRAFFIC" menu choice on Google Analytics. A sample traffic report could look like this:


What Google Analytics will not show you is what the consumer was doing during their 30+ day online research for a car.  Google will not tell you which 18+ websites a consumer visited prior to searching the dealership name and clicking on a search engine results page (SERP).  Google will not disclose identifiable information like name, address, or phone number from Google Analytics data. 


Google's View Of The Shoppers Path in MCSF


Google will allow tracking the sessions of a consumer when they visit your website, over a 30-day period of time.  So if a consumer visits a dealer's website multiple times, and choses a combination of what Google calls "channels" to get there each time, Google will document those actions as one data record.  The shopper records may look something like this:


The shopper records are part of Multi Channel Sales Funnels (MCSF) and require Google Analytics Goals to be defined, which we will cover in this article.   Goals are easy to setup and even easier if the website has event tracking properly installed. 


Multi-Channel Sales Funnels Documents Part of The Shoppers Path


Let's look at the shopper records produced by MCSF, shown above, more closely.  Shopper #1 visited the dealer's website three times via different "channels"; Referral, Social Network, and Organic Search with Dealership Name.

On the third visit they completed a goal, which in this case was to submit a lead.  Goals are not limited to just lead forms.  Goals are any website action that you want to track because it has value to the business.  

Shopper #1, in the graphic above, first came to the dealers website from an undefined referral source; they clicked a link and came to the dealer's website directly.

The second time they came back from a social media website, but not Facebook.  The third time they went to Google and did a search on the dealer's name and click on the search engine result listing.

Summary;  Shopper #1 used three channels prior to submitting a lead. 

Shopper #2 first came to the dealer's website through the Google search engine channel.  The second, third, and fourth times they typed in the dealer's direct website name or used the bookmarking feature on their browser.

These channel groupings can be customized to show specific referral partners like Facebook instead of just "Social Network", as shown on the right.   Shopper #4 came in the second time through a referral link from KBB, which is a custom channel that documents conversions influenced by KBB. 

In fact we recommend that dealers setup a series of custom tags to make these "influence" reports more meaningful for marketing discussions.  Some common channel groupings are listed on the right which makes reporting more meaningful. 


What Is Missing From MCSF?


What Google MCSF is missing is the INFLUENCE prior to the consumer visiting the website the first time.    This is an important point to understand because using Google Analytics reports to value your marketing partners influence is dangerous. 

For example, a consumer goes to and finds a Volvo XC90 vehicle they like.  They see the name of the dealership selling the car on the listing. They want to see if the car is still available and at the same price, so  commonly they will open a second browser window to search the dealer's name, go to their website, and verify if the car is still available while keeping the other window open to Autotrader.   

In this example, to Google Analytics, the consumer visit is an "organic" visitor and does not get any credit for creating the interest in the dealership website.  This happens more than you would think and at the Digital Marketing Strategies Conference (DMSC) I will be sharing some provocative data on how key automotive websites influence the initial dealer contact. 

So, when cars are view side by side in two browsers on the same PC, we lose "influence" unless all websites have enterprise analytics running.  Which of course the average dealer does not have a relationship to have shared analytics with,,, etc. 


How To Setup Goals in Google Analytics


In order to see the channels that influence "conversion" or trigger a goal, the goals have to be setup in Analytics. To setup goals in Google Analytics, you must have administrator access to the account.  Once a person has administrative access they can create goals based on which actions are important for the dealership.  


To access the goals setup, click on the Admin Tab.  For example, goals can include:


  • Leads Submitted
  • Service Appointment Scheduled
  • Hours & Directions Page Visited
  • Finance Application Completed


There are two popular ways that goals are triggered.  One trigger is when a page is visited on a website ( called URL Destination by Google).  

The second way is when an "event" is triggered.  In the previous article (Part II), we discussed how "events" are programmed and how they can be viewed.   For customers, events are programmed into the website which makes precise goal setting much easier.  

Technical Note: If the website provider does not have a "thank you" page after a lead is submitted, they will most likely have to setup an event trigger for you if you want to set a goal for lead submissions. 


Setting Up A Page Based Goal

In the example below, I setup a Goal to be triggered when they visited the hours and directions page.

  • The blue arrow is pointing to the name of the goal, which can be any name that describes the action you want to track.
  • The green arrow shows that I chose to set the goal based on a specific website page being visited.
  • The red arrow shows the specific page name, which DOES NOT include the domain name of the website.  In fact, the page should start with a back-slash "/".


Viewing Your Completed Goals

Once goals are completed, you will have a list like the one shown below.  Notice that the type of goal is shown as "event" based or "URL Visited" based.  Since this client is using a website, you will see a number of the goals are "event" based and a few are based on URL destination.


In the next article, I will cover how to setup a custom channel grouping for Multi-Channel Sales Funnels.  Once goals are setup, data will be start to be collected.  It will take about 30-60 days to have meaningful data so the sooner you setup the goals, the sooner you can get data to analyze. 


Share This Article


If you found this article helpful, please share it with your social networks on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ and of course leave me feedback in the comments area below.  

I hope to see everyone this year at the 2013 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference, February 5-7th just two days prior to the 2013 NADA Convention in Orlando. Get access to over 30 of the best strategies for car dealers to increase success in 2013. 


Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG Consulting


Connect with me on LinkedIn and Google+



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Tags: analytics, automotive, dealers, google, pages, popular, websites


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Comment by Chip Dorman on October 13, 2012 at 9:12am

Can't wait for the geek fest next week. Don't forget the biscotti!

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