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The Top Automotive PPC Metrics Explained



Paid Search, synonymous with PPC, has been a very influential and successful online advertising medium over the last decade. In regards to the automotive industry, paid search is crucial and linked as a direct influencer of sales because of its ability to drive customers with high purchasing intent.


There are many metrics within paid search platforms to measure success, so in this article, we are going to discuss the most important and relevant paid search metrics with respect to the automotive industry and car dealers. Once dealership personnel understand the information depicted in this article, they will be to identify and measure their paid search advertising and ultimately increase sales.


In order to understand automotive PPC marketing, one must be familiar with the measurements of success. In this article, we have identified 15 metrics that represent a comprehensive synthesis of paid search advertising utilized specifically for the automotive industry. Below are the top 15 PPC metrics that automotive car dealers need to be familiar with, and are explained in greater detail within this article.

  • Clicks

  • Impressions

  • CTR

  • Avg CPC

  • Cost

  • Budget

  • Bid Strategy

  • Search Impression Share

  • Search Loss Impression Share (Budget)

  • Search Loss Impression Share (Rank)

  • Phone Calls

  • Conversions

  • Conversion Rate

  • Cost per Conversion

  • Store Visits

The DDM team has grouped the automotive PPC metrics above into 3 categories in order to make it easier to understand when to apply each one. They are as follows.


  1. Standard PPC Metrics (Heartbeat Metrics)

  2. Market Overview Metrics

  3. Hard Conversion Metrics

We will dive into each KPI's (key performance indicator) definition and evaluation based on industry knowledge and averages, so your dealership can establish clear identifiable goals and audit your existing PPC advertising plan.


The Importance of Paid Search For Car Dealers

Why is paid search advertising (PPC) so important for car dealers? The answer is simple; PPC is often where the majority of dealership digital marketing budget is being spent (see our article on how to determine a dealership digital marketing budget here. On average, a dealership will spend 64% of their digital advertising efforts towards pay per click. Since this is a significant percentage, it is absolutely crucial that dealership personnel, management, and even ownership are educated on PPC terminology. Similar to how gross profit per sale and return on investment are ingrained terms in car dealer’s terminology, the metrics discussed in this article apply to PPC and share similar concepts to important metrics across all advertising channels. In order to not only maintain but also grow sales, internalizing metrics to measure business advertising success is key. Once a dealership management team can internalize the metrics depicted in this article, their store will have a sharp edge on the competition.


Within PPC or Pay Per Click advertising, there are a large number of data points, metrics, and indicators to measure search engine advertising results. There are so many however that it's a bit disorientating to determine which metrics are the most important, especially when your primary objective is selling cars rather than receiving impressions. How can you know you’re getting the most bang for your buck? One of the reasons PPC has so many metrics available to monitor is because search engine advertising covers a wide variety of industries. As an automotive dealership manager or owner, it is beneficial for you to know which metrics to pay attention to, so you can understand and speak intelligently on your store’s advertising. Below you will find tables depicting the most important metrics, their definitions, industry averages, and their corresponding metric groups which shows the importance of each one to your sales and your bottom line.


Top 15 Automotive PPC Metric Table



Now that you’ve glanced through the metrics listed above, you’ll notice the three different classifications of these metrics. They are as follows:

  • Standard (Heartbeat)

  • Market Overview

  • Hard Conversions

The reasoning for organizing the top 15 PPC automotive metrics in this fashion is because some of the key performance indicators (metrics) listed above are more important than others. All of the metrics are obviously important but for different reasons. As a car dealer, one should be familiar with the information laid out above but here’s the big factor to focus your efforts on that will greatly improve your business strategy.


For dealership personnel, your main focus should be on Hard Conversions because these matter the most to your dealership, and the reason is because they are the most tangible to bringing in actual showroom traffic to your store. Well now you may ask, do I need to know about the rest of the performance indicators discussed in this article? Yes, but you shouldn’t have to pay as much attention to them rather they should be monitored by your digital marketing team. Market Overview metrics are important to understand because they show how a business sizes up against its competition, but it’s also important to comprehend owning market share is not synonymous with more conversions. It’s tempting to want to capture as much market share as possible but this strategy runs the risk of wasting money because your PPC campaigns may not be fully optimized. Finally, Standard (Heartbeat) metrics provide a baseline or heartbeat of how the campaign is performing. Clicks don’t mean much tangibly to the store and are more arbitrary because they don’t directly correlate to leads or showroom traffic.


Automotive Paid Search Industry Averages

By now you may be asking, “How am I supposed to know if our PPC advertising is operating correctly?” We will determine this by discussing industry averages and benchmark metrics. The DDM team has compiled national averages for some of these metrics, so dealership personnel can have a benchmark to strive for. Note, that the following averages only apply to rate metrics because these PPC automotive metrics show how effective a dealership digital ecosystem is performing rather than how many clicks or impressions each dealership should be receiving.



The table above takes a few of the metrics discussed previously in this article and provides automotive industry averages. Please note that these industry averages are acquired from several years worth of data and span across a wide variety of markets, franchises, and types of car dealers. The first 2 columns are straightforward and the last column, “Network” shows which PPC network each metric is available on (Search referring to Google’s Search Network and Display referring to Google’s Display Network). These metrics should be seen as benchmarks and may not represent actual statistics within your market. The reason only these metrics are included in the industry averages is because they are all rate metrics, meaning they show a relationship between to 2 other quantities. It is not useful to include a comparison of non-rate metrics (example: clicks) because comparing a small used car dealer out of Nebraska (1,000 monthly website clicks) versus the largest volume Ford dealer in the Midwest, (30,000 monthly website clicks) provides no value for dealer’s decision making.


Automotive’s Need For PPC - The Reason Behind This Article

What spurred the desire to write this article was the common misguided answers that dealership personnel receive. Oftentimes, dealers are easily taken advantage of due to their lack of involvement or familiarity in the digital marketing space, and this leads to false claims, distrust, and misinformation within the industry. The goal of this article, and the DDM mission, is to not only service but also educate.


Digital marketing budgets in the automotive industry, or any industry for that matter, should be calculated based on metrics, data and educated reasoning. Strategies should take a balanced approach while considering management’s experience with clientele and the target market. In order to be number one at the finish line, we first need to define success, and only then can we measure success. This article is not only about automotive PPC marketing, but also serves as an introduction on how to measure success using fundamental numbers and metrics to evaluate your business’s marketing strategy.

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