Beware the Automotive SEO Snake Oil


keyboard with web analytics button

How to measure your SEO on a CPC level

Is your SEO company really moving the needle for you or are they selling you snake oil? I have watched a lot of dealers spend a lot of money on microsites, premium content, videos, blogs, and more, all in the name of “SEO.” I think it is time to discuss some ways to measure your SEO to make sure you aren’t the guy buying a muffler bearing warranty from your web company.

A couple of caveats before we move on: I am not calling all SEOs snake oil salesmen. I do realize that every situation is different in regards to dealer placement on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). The purpose of this article is simply to discuss some methods of measurement to make sure you are getting the most from your SEO budget.

Remember that search engines make money by delivering the best, most relevant search results possible. Therefore, your dealership should automatically show up in the results for queries like: “your dealership name,” and “your make your city.” SEO’s true value comes in on trickier searches like; “make, model, your city” or “your make your metro” or “your make your state.” You should benchmark your search results on these types of queries on a regular basis.

Searches like these are easy to measure in your analytics. Here’s how you can calculate exactly what your CPC is on your SEO keywords:

  • Log into your Google Analytics.
  • On the left-hand side of the dashboard, click Traffic Sources, click Sources, then All Traffic.
  • Adjust your dates to the last 30 days.
  • Navigate to the Source/Medium column and select Search Engine/Organic.
  • You’ve now isolated your organic traffic. Find the dropdown menu called Secondary Dimension and toggle that to Keyword. Now you can see nearly all of the keywords that were searched in order to drive traffic to your site.
  • Go up to the search bar for these results. Click on Advanced and set the search to Include, Keyword, and Containing. Type in your word and hit apply.
  • Now you can see exactly how many times these words have delivered a prospect to your website.


Add up these clicks and divide the number into what you’re spending for SEO. This gives you an approximate cost-per-click on your SEO keywords. You can also measure the value of each click by analyzing the time on site and bounce rate for these words. Plus, you can measure any goals you have set up in your analytics by hitting the Goal tab at the top of the page.

I’ve seen dealers spending thousands of dollars per month on elaborate microsite SEO programs that were yielding very few actual visitors. Plus, when we looked at cost-per-click we found they were paying 10 to 15 times what they were paying for similar paid search clicks.

The point here is that if you are paying monthly for SEO you should measure the results to make sure that you aren’t paying for snake oil, or overpaying for clicks you could have gotten cheaper through a paid search campaign.

Dave Pavlu is a twenty-year veteran of the retail automotive industry and the founder and CEO of AdsUpNow.com. AdsUpNow is a full-service digital marketing agency based in Seattle, WA that specializes in online marketing strategies that drive and capture first-party leads for car dealerships.

Michael Bowen

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