I’m always looking for the silver lining in tough situations, which is probably a trait picked up from fatherhood. My daughter lost both front teeth within days of each other and was very discouraged. I told her that it’s just two fewer teeth to brush, and she wouldn’t have to eat corn on the cob for a while.

This outlook was really useful when I was studying a new research report on the automotive purchase process put out by Mintel. The stats were actually very encouraging, even in these tough times.

With 52 percent of shoppers visiting dealership Web sites, dealership Web sites are now the second most visited sites by automotive Internet shoppers during their buying process. The most visited sites are still the OEM sites with 60 percent of the traffic, but dealer Web sites have jumped up from fourth or fifth on the list to second, ahead of third-party sites like Cars.com and Vehix.com, vehicle research sites such as Edmunds.com and KBB.com, and product evaluation sites like consumer reports and automotive magazine sites.

Even more compelling is that of the 60 percent of shoppers who visited an OEM site, only 6 percent of those people said the OEM site led to a vehicle purchase. And of the 25 percent of shoppers who visited third-party sites, only 9 percent said it lead to a vehicle purchase. However, of the 52 percent of shoppers who went to dealership Web sites, 22 percent of those shoppers said it directly led to a vehicle purchase.

Now let’s look at how these shoppers arrived at these dealership Web sites. According to J.D. Power and Associates, of shoppers who visit a dealership Web site, the majority of them typed in the dealer’s Web site address. This is proof that branding your own Web site name is the single most important thing you can do to drive quality traffic to your site.

The second most traveled path of shoppers to dealership sites is via the OEM site that links shoppers to your dealership site. While 25 percent took this path, only 14 percent of shoppers who landed on your homepage came from third-party sites, and only 13 percent came from a search engine. Yes, only 13 percent, even though search engine marketing is one of the biggest buzz terms in the industry.

The fact is, there is no better traffic than that generated by your own Web site. Advertising your Web site relentlessly in all mediums is the very best action you can take.

Although being linked to the OEM site and monitoring your search engine saturation are important for a well-rounded Internet strategy, neither of these avenues will supply the quality of traffic you want. Notice I said quality and not quantity, as quality of traffic is what produces more leads.

Increasing traffic alone does not ensure increasing leads. The highest number of actual leads and the highest closing percentage of any leads are from shoppers who come to your homepage from one of the Internet avenues we discussed earlier.

As with most everything in this industry, there is no magic pill for increasing sales. There are best practices statistically proven to increase traffic and leads from your Web site. However, do not let anything take the place of aggressively marketing your own Web site address, as this will be your best source of leads and sales.

Vol 6, Issue 1