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See You Later Autotrader!


Jan 7, 2013
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Chad, any update on the SEM strategy? I am curious as to the success of the inventory specific PPC campaigns. Do you know the average bounce rate of these visitors? I also noticed the tradein CTA's on your custom VLP's. Do they perform well?
Yes, I'm finishing up my June monthly analysis which will include data for 4 months. We dropped it in one market (our smallest), the CPC was extremely competitive and the conversions were extremely poor in this location. The other two were extremely strong both in CPC and conversions. The reporting is a little tedious because I'm individually matching IP addresses to emails, then looking their CRM record. I'm also ranking their keywords in which they found us. I weigh keyword sets in which we naturally rank in a good position lower than the keywords in which we rank low. I can tell you our biggest draw from our AdWords campaign has been mobile traffic and it's been extremely good traffic.

For traffic to our website. We are at or above year over year numbers without AutoTrader (and not counting paid SEM traffic). Adding in the paid SEM traffic we are considerably higher than last year's numbers.

The CTA button set on our VLP pages have been for the most part positive, but the biggest thing I've noticed it has taken away from our VDP views some (I believe it was like 2.5 pages less per visitor - but I don't care too much about that). When I introduced those buttons, I heatmapped and put custom tracking on those form submissions. The Get More Information button has received lots of attention on the VLP.

I'll add to this in one market AutoTrader has begged us to come back and knocked off $3100/month at one location and $2700/month at another location. For this pricing I suggested we go back on to reanalyze the impact they might have in this market area.

Todd Caputo

Getting Refreshed
Feb 9, 2012
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I cancelled Cars.com about 8 months ago and I have just cancelled Auto Trader....I was not getting enough web leads, phone calls, or referral traffic to my website to justify the spend. I think the market that I am in and the way we do our marketing is a factor also. I would not recommend that people just AXE these guys first until you really do your homework. I would say in most cases though they are a very expensive way to get traffic/leads to your dealerships.
Reactions: 1 person


Getting Refreshed
Dec 13, 2011
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I didn't get past page 2 of the responses to this thread... So, I may repeat some of the content in these responses.

I have done a complete study like this including some serious tracking of traffic and came to the same conclusions with am identical reaction my old reps. Since I first conducted my study (5 years ago) I have been at 2 different dealerships in 2 completely different markets and ran similar studies. My results were the pretty similar. Although, different markets show varying strengths in cars vs AT... the results did not show a large enough volume of traffic (of any sort) to justify the astronomical COST.

For the record, my dealership did not see ANY decrease in walk-in traffic after we cancelled AT. We substituted by investing in SEO, SEM, and VSEO... and wouldn't ya know... we had an INCREASE in QUALITY traffic.

To the post about the fact that we used to spend $5k on a weekend for a paper... Umm... no! Just because we did something in the past doesn't mean it is a justified practice. We used to do a lot of things. I wore polka dots with stripes and teased my hair in the early 90s ... doesn't make it right!

The profit margin has decreased so our spend should also mirror that shouldn't it? At the end of the day ... AT costs above $11k in my market and I have incredible respect for rep, but the facts are the facts. Listing sites are great until they start segmenting the results. To any lead provider that justifies their "value" in the unaccountable areas... I get it. I do. I value the whole package, but the costs should be in proportion to the quality of ROI. Whatever that ROI means is up to the rep and dealer to define. Because every company should be accountable to some measurement of ROI, just as every employee has areas of measurement we value their performance on. Just because my dealer doesn't understand my role and all that I do, is no reason to keep or fire me without setting metrics to value my worth. I can say that my work helps all departments and we cannot track it OR I can say that AND verify it with baselines and actual numbers. Just my opinion. I love to debate so ... let's have at it!
Reactions: 4 people


Uncle Joe
Apr 7, 2009
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Uncle Joe Rule #11:
"Every time you solve one business problem, it creates another. It's a success when your new problem is smaller than the older one"

So, before you pull the AT/Cars.com plug, there are invisible issues at work.

--50% of all Auto Shoppers are in market 2 months or more
--They visit 23 sites on average

This means, there is no single path to your store. This means almost all of your shoppers have seen ALL the damn sites out there (KBB, Edmunds, Yahoo, OEM, Your site, Trader, cars.com, Cargurus, and more). If you shut down AT or Cars (or any ad source) it will have a consequence, but measuring the impact is damn difficult to nail down.

The technical term for solving this difficult puzzle is called "sales source attribution". Because our shoppers are invisible and we are a ROBO industry (Research Online, Buy Offline), I felt the clearest picture would come from a delivery survey. Survey at Delivery: A Road Map to Your Store: http://forum.dealerrefresh.com/f43/survey-delivery-road-map-your-store-3751.html#post32317 Its easy to create and run and you'll beable to "see" those damn autotrader shoppers that are so hard to see (until they buy).

Lastly, I'll leave you with some homework from the grand master, Avinash:
Multi-Channel Attribution: Definitions, Models and a Reality Check
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Reactions: Mitch Gallant


Sr. Refresher
Jun 28, 2011
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Here is another area where I agree with Joe.

Subi, I was in the Dallas metroplex and didn't pay $11K for AutoTrader and we were premium. I spent a great deal of time meeting (interviewing) customers during their wait into F&I. Often I would change the source from our website to AutoTrader based on the information from the customer.

"The profit margin has decreased so our spend should also mirror that shouldn't it?" You could take this a couple of different ways. I'm not sure that I understand what you mean.


Getting Refreshed
Dec 13, 2011
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I apologize! I just saw this response!

I simply meant that our profit margin per unit in some areas have decreased and we should be cognizant of this as we adjust our advertising/marketing dollars. We don't have to be everywhere our competition is. We have to make our dollars go as far as we can by strategically placing and investing it. IF we just go where everyone else is (like an at or a cars) we don't get the same visibility and often times get flushed past page 4 where most don't even visit. Each source has to be tracked fully and it must be done 100% of the time. It is not impossible... it just needs buy-in. Once you do track, you can make strategic decisions and not base it on what others "say" but what really does work for your specific location. I have done this in more than one dealership in completely different regions with completely different franchises and management ... so, I feel confident saying that this strategy and focus will help cut your budget and allow you to move the needle significantly.

Tommy H

Oct 15, 2015
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After a full year year review of Autotrader vs. Cars.com vs. my tier 1 digital advertising it was apparent that Autotrader was costing 2-3x more per opportunity (calls/leads) compared to Cars.com and our other tier 1 advertising. I do not and will not subscribe to the notion that Autotrader or any 3rd party site produces large amount of showroom traffic. I brought in the Autotrader reps under the condition that I would not go over anything but cost per opportunity. However they tried to convince me that this was a not a fair way to review their product and my review didn't include the showroom traffic. My rebuttal was that all things being equal Cars.com, Autotrader and our tier 1 ads would produce within a marginal variance a relatively similar amount of showroom traffic however I was spending 2-3x more per opportunity with them. Aka you are charging too much! (If anyone went to NADA and saw their booth you can see where the extra profits go. Not to mention all of their recent acquisitions, advertising etc.)

During the meetings they tried to call my bluff and said if you don't like it go ahead and submit your 30 day cancellation notification. One meeting they walked out after 5-10 minutes because I refused to buy in to the fluff. Keep in mind we are a 10 store account spending serious money with them. I called the Autotrader regions sales director who defended the reps and again wouldn't budge at all.

So I did what they advised and what I have wanted to do for years. I cancelled all 10 stores. I am reinvesting the money in tier 1 and very excited to see real results. I have been with Moore and Scarry since last year and have created a plan that should help me forget about Autotrader all together.

Never before have I seen a vendor that thinks we are here for them to the level I did over the last 2 months in dealing with them.

Jeff Kershner

May 1, 2005
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Are you saying that you are using Lotlinx? What EXACTLY are your results if you are?

Curious. I have been looking at Lotlinx.
Looking at his profile, I'm guessing he's a reseller of LotLinx and merely use this thread to help promote it.

Let's not turn this thread into a sales pitch for LotLink. There's already a few threads for that - http://forum.dealerrefresh.com/threads/lotlinx.3864/



Sr. Refresher
Mar 17, 2014
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