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Evaluating Free Automotive Listing Services

Over the last few months I have been testing the value of publishing car inventory listings to a group of free websites. The idea behind this test was to measure the effectiveness of the time needed to post cars based on the increase of:

1. Car Sales
2. Web Traffic
3. Inbound Links (for automotive SEO purposes)

This is "Part One" in a series that I plan to write tracking the value of free car listing services. This is the introductory article with some initial results from our testing. There is a clear front runner which confirms the feedback from other ADM forum members.

We were also interested in this project because it would give us some data on consumer interest and behavior on social networking websites and stand alone car marketing portals. To keep automotive marketing budgets as effective as possible, we want to know where to invest time and resources.

Dealer Owned Car Marketing Portals

As a side note, we see a growing trend for car dealer groups to create their own regional car sales portals, to compete with sites like and Dealers are looking for ways to reduce monthly lead costs and to create their own lead generation portal.

Larger dealer groups that have multiple brands under their management, in any given state, can build very effective car marketing websites at a reasonable cost. There is a debate out there that questions why any dealer would create their own used car site even if they had multiple locations.

Each dealer project has to be evaluated on a case by case basis. Our experience has demonstrated that a strong domain name and a good web inventory platform can be an effective in-state lead generation tool for a larger dealer organization.

What are we testing?

Our testing has included a number of websites, listed below:

2. Google Base
3. Craigslist
5. AOL Autos

We have created a tool call "GB Feeder" that can post automobiles from existing car dealer inventory feeds to these sites. To date we have some clear winners and some clear losers but testing will continue.

To see the impact of this added traffic on PageRank and permanent inbound links is not something that can be immediately measured. The initial data is somewhat vague so I will address the SEO component of free car listings in Part Two of this series.

Craigslist is the clear front runner for generating web referral traffic. The effectiveness of Craigslist for generating inquires is undeniable but some of our clients feel that the quality of the leads is not great. I have also noticed that the bounce rate is higher for Craigslist that other web referrers.

Internet lead quality is often a reflection of the clarity of your ad and the information you provide. We suggest that your Craigslist ad be as specific as possible so as to minimize the chatter between consumers and your Internet sales staff for basic things that should be included in your free listing.

Second in traceable traffic is Google Base, but this is not consistent across the country. Traffic from Google Base comes into Google Analytics as a “ referral”. This is not a clean measure since there are a few other referring sites that can come in under this category. We will be doing some better tracking on this matter.

The traffic from to date has been insignificant and disappointing. The VAST.COM network of listings is looking promising and may in fact be better than Google Base, but more testing is needed. There will be a second part to this article as more data is collected. is the clear winning for generating extra calls and traffic to your dealer website. If car dealers need help posting their cars to Craigslist send me a note and I'll be glad to help.

Views: 57

Tags: automotive, backpage, base, car, craigslist, dealer, google, listings, seo


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Comment by Joey Abna on January 26, 2009 at 10:16am
This is the kind of research I like to see. I am looking forward to the upcoming updates.

Matt, thanks for mentioning Oodle I had forgotten about them.
Comment by Brian Pasch on January 26, 2009 at 1:06am
Craiglist is a very powerful listing tool for all services. I ran an classified ad offering SEO services to business owners and I received a number on inquiries that would have cost $50-$100 using Google Adwords. The only downside is the manual management and lack of consistent visability. However, free is good if you have some gaps in staff time that can be allocated to these free sources like Oodle and Craigslist.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on January 25, 2009 at 10:14pm
Since a dealer's inventory will eventually reappear on at no cost after a dealer cancels their premium ATC listings, can you see a day when publishing inventory across multiple sites will be a viable substitute for the expensive ATC partnership programs?
Comment by Brian Pasch on January 25, 2009 at 7:29pm
I hope to have some data on Oodle soon...
Comment by Brian Pasch on January 25, 2009 at 6:54am
I will add Oodle for future testing. One of the reasons why I didn't include it on the initial set is that I have not seen an Oodle listing on Google Page one for a specific model search yet. I've seen, Craigslist, BackPage and so I think that their architecture is respected by Google. It's a reverse engineering approach that says, invest time into those sites that have the best visibility first. Of course if Oodle is driving people directly to their site, that would not reflect that immediately in a normal Google search.

Ralph, to your question about including data from and, such a test would require a dealer to invest in all these sources and compare traffic. Often I see dealers in Autotrader or and I do not have a dealership that is doing both and is willing to pay for the automated and semi-automated listings for these other free listing services. I think you would need a three month test to do a real data sample that was meaningful.
Comment by Ralph Paglia on January 25, 2009 at 5:26am
Will you be comparing these results to similar volumes of inventory being published on and

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