According to 2011 NADA Data, roughly 15 percent of the average dealer’s gross profit comes from the F&I department. That’s a huge percentage of gross profit many dealers don’t consider when they make their digital marketing decisions. There are a number of simple changes you can make to your digital marketing strategy to leverage this under-served consumer segment in order to increase your sales.

Create a credit- and finance-specific website in addition to the vehicle website used to market your dealership. One benefit of building a standalone credit microsite is that you can create an organic search strategy specifically targeting geographies and vehicle financing keywords while incorporating a manufacturer-neutral keyword list. If you create your own site, or hire a company to create a credit site on your behalf, you can create pages upon pages of content focused only on automotive loan and credit consumers. One dealer I work with has incorporated an integrated WordPress blog within his standalone credit website so that his team can regularly and strategically update the search engine optimization (SEO) footprint of his credit microsite (

Paid Search
Most dealers doing paid search (SEM) are buying finance- and credit-related keywords as part of their campaigns, but I’ve seen very few who direct that traffic directly to a credit application landing page. Dealers who have created their own microsites get a secondary benefit; they are almost always directing all of their finance-related paid search traffic to their credit microsite, which gives them a higher quality score than if they sent that traffic to their dealership website’s homepage. Landing your finance-related SEM traffic directly on a credit app landing page also increases your conversion rate, lowers your bounce rate and further lowers your cost per click due to the higher quality score.

Website Optimization
Perhaps the most important way dealers can dramatically increase their Internet leads from auto-loan-seeking consumers is to optimize certain aspects of their dealership’s website. The finance section can be the second-biggest website lead source (after the inventory section of the typical car dealer site) if the site is appropriately optimized. Some dealer websites serving major metro areas generate fewer than 15 credit leads a month and yet those same domains, with proper optimization, produce more than 100 monthly credit leads just a few weeks later.

The way a dealer merchandises their credit application is one of the critical factors in determining how many credit and vehicle leads their website will produce. Many dealerships make the mistake of requesting information that is too sensitive on website forms before earning the trust of the consumer.  How many credit application forms have you seen that ask for a Social Security number or date of birth at the start of the form?

To ensure that consumers are more likely to complete your credit application process, you should include security logos and graphics when you are asking for sensitive information. Consumers want assurance their Social Security number and birth date are handled by the most up-to-date, secure process available. If you use VeriSign or Thawte or GeoTrust, let the consumer know you use these well-known online security companies on your site.

One of the best ways of maximizing the lead volume your credit forms produce is to split the process up into multiple steps. Begin by asking for just basic information you would need to contact the customer. In the next step, ask for some additional information such as employment or residence. Don’t overwhelm the consumer by providing a long, daunting form. It may be easier for your dealership to process, but online consumers want simplicity and ease of navigation.

One way of unnecessarily costing yourself leads is to use a CAPTCHA code on your site. The primary benefit of using CAPTCHA codes is to reduce the amount of spam leads submitted on your site. One nearly universal rule of online marketing, regardless of whether a site focuses on business-to-customer, business-to-business, lead generation, e-commerce or any purpose that includes some sort of data entry, is that CAPTCHA codes will reduce spam but will also reduce leads and sales. Would you rather have 20 additional legitimate credit leads if all you had to do was delete five additional spam leads?

Most dealers think of F&I as a profit center that’s internal to their physical dealership. But many dealers are doing some very creative things online to increase both their vehicle sales and their page view rate. Today’s economy is too tight to overlook any opportunity to generate more high-quality leads for your dealership.

Vol. 9, Issue 9