UK Automotive Dealerships - Digital Marketing Benchmark Report, Q2 2023

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The Q2 2023 benchmarking report for UK dealerships has just been published. Learn how the top 12 UK dealerships perform across the digital space.

The latest Q2 2023 benchmarking report for UK Dealerships has just been published. It covers the largest 12 national dealerships, including Harwoods, Lookers, Arnold Clark, Marshall, JCT600, Vertu Motors, Group 1 Automotive, Listers, Sytner, Inchcape, Stoneacre & Mercedes-Benz Retail Group.

Dealerships Q4 logos

The research gives an inside track on who is winning the biggest share of voice online, and quantifies the gaps, risks and missed opportunities for other dealership providers to increase market share, accelerate leads & sales, and improve brand recognition. The report highlights year-on-year digital performance, plus winner and loser comparisons across 20+ online performance metrics for the dealerships providers.

To see a preview and contents page of the Q2 report, click here. To get a copy of the full report and the key takeaways, please complete the enquiry form or schedule a call.

Digital Benchmark Report - Automotive Dealerships - Q2 2023 - Cover

What The Industry Research Report Covers

The 70+ pages of research benchmarks each retailer based on 50+ metrics and indicators of successful digital strategy, including organic visibility, domain authority, paid media ads, conversion performance, technical performance, site speed, universal search, content, social ads, accessibility, and mobile performance.  

Driving Optimal ROAS from Paid Media Channels

Some of the leading players in the space are high spenders on paid media channels such as Google, Bing & Facebook - but have a poor or sub-optimal conversion improvement strategy. Without an optimised, sophisticated conversion strategy that maximises the conversion rate, the return on investment is unsustainable or will underperform. Scaling spend on paid media is not achievable unless the conversion rate delivers optimal performance in the sector. Some in the space have paid media spend levels from 30k+ per month but dedicate minimal resources and budgets to conversion testing.  Given the cost per clicks on ad networks will continue to rise, we recommend spending at least 10% of your paid media budget on ongoing conversion optimisation testing schedules to ensure your paid media ROI maintains long term viability, competitive advantage, and sustainability.

Technical Website Compliance

Savvy digital marketers know that having a technically sound website is an essential component of a successful fully integrated digital strategy - plus a site capable of maximising conversion performance. For automotive dealerships, they'll particularly want to take care over key pages such as offers, financing, locations, and new models that they have in stock, and ensure that prospective customers can easily find key information.

Most of the automotive dealerships in our report were shown to have very well-maintained sites with minimal levels of either 4xx or 5xx errors codes being returned. While eleven of the twelve brands we reviewed recorded fewer than 110 4xx errors, Inchcape were an exception to the rule, delivering 3,577. This is a concerning amount for any site in an industry that doesn't see high turnovers of stock, and Inchcape must ensure their internal linking structure is not repeatedly leading customers down dead ends.

Site Speed & Conversion Rate Performance

When 62% of consumers are less likely to convert if they have a negative mobile site experience, ensuring that your site is quick and easy to load makes a significant improvement on your overall conversion rates. For automotive dealerships, they'll want to ensure they have a fast-performing site that gives off an exceptional first impression to potential customers looking to buy these large-ticket items.

In our last report, we saw that three automotive dealerships had reached the 'okay' band of 50-89 for mobile page speed. However, Stoneacre is now the only brand reaching this benchmark, with a score of 64. Vertu Motors delivered the lowest page speed score of just 9 - fifteen points behind their next closest competitor. Though no elements jump out to us as an immediate cause for concern, Vertu Motors should be looking at how they can improve page speed, and therefore mobile customer experience.

Building Competitive Advantage with Domain Authority

Domain authority is an essential metric for measuring the effectiveness of SEO performance, and helps create a reliable overall gauge of how effective your site is at achieving organic traffic, i.e. ‘free’ traffic that isn’t gained through sponsored ads. For brands operating in the automotive industry, they should be working with digital PR specialists to identify opportunities and ideas for out-of-the-box, surprising PR campaigns.

A ‘good’ DA really comes down to how your competitors are performing, however it’s generally considered average between 40 and 50, good between 50 and 60, and excellent above 60. For automotive dealerships, these scores range from 68 to 36. In our last report we noted that Harwoods had fallen from a score of 40 to 33. In Q2, they regained three points to meet a score of 36 - recovering some lost ground

Organic Performance – Mobile & Desktop

A strong organic performance is strategically important as it ensures your site ranks above competitors for key, transactional keywords. When 93% of your customers won’t go past the first page of Google, your absence or lack of targeting for essential keywords will cost you conversions. The cost of living crisis and a drop in consumer confidence is having a wide impact across all non-essential sectors, as customers are cutting back on treats and expendable items. In the case of automotive dealerships, this could mean potential car buyers are sticking with their older models for longer, or only opting for used vehicles.

All twelve dealerships have lost mobile traffic year-on-year, and only three have gained desktop traffic. The biggest loss was seen by Mercedes-Benz, who have lost 98% of desktop and 94% of their mobile traffic (an increase from a 58% loss on our last report). For Mercedes-Benz, this could mean that potential customers are opting for more affordable models, and less likely to splash out on a more luxury vehicle. If possible, Mercedes-Benz should be promoting affordable, or used lines more widely, to recover some of this loss.

Universal Search Opportunity

Google Universal Search Results is an evolving opportunity to make your pages visible on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Universal results often appear before traditional listings and are eye-catching for users. Universal search results refer to rankings on a SERP that are not the traditional ‘blue line’ Google link, and a retailer can appear for universal search results without being strong in standard rankings. 'Local Pack' could be a key Universal Search result for automotive dealerships to optimise for, as a way to quickly appear for customers looking for nearby forecourts.

Dealerships are using a wide range of Universal Search results, with each brand appearing for each type of result. In our last report, we noted that Lookers had taken the top spot on 'Reviews' with a total of 5,800 results. While Arnold Clark are now driving the most 'Reviews' results (with 4,300), Lookers have stormed ahead on 'People Also Ask' results, appearing for 5,700. 'People Also Ask' results are a great way to provide additional information to customers directly from the SERP, and are usually a good indication of longtail keyword performance too.

The Longtail Keyword Opportunity

Longtail keywords are often considered high intent and potentially more likely to convert as a searcher is being more specific. Optimising for longtail keywords also puts your content strategy in a strong position to rank for retailer new search terms as they enter Google’s index. For automotive dealerships, longtail keywords could include terms relating to the colour and make of a car, along with buying signals such as 'buy today' or 'with finance'.

Arnold Clark are securing the highest visibility on longtail keywords, ranking for a total of 168,147 overall, and 8,690 in the top three results. With a further 29,262 appearances in positions 4-10, this shows immediate potential to increase these figures further. It's much more straightforward to improve rankings for existing keywords, so any dealership should be looking at optimising any existing high-conversion search terms as their next step for improving longtail keyword performance.

Facebook Adverts

With the number of Facebook users in the United Kingdom (UK) forecast to hit over 42 million users by 2022, it is not surprising that companies have jumped at the opportunity to advertise on the social media platform. Facebook’s UK digital advertising revenue has been estimated to have breached 2.6b GB pounds in 2019. For automotive dealerships, they'll want to use Facebook ads to secure visibility on offers and new lines, and can use the platform to target specific locations where they're experiencing the toughest competition.

We've included some examples of Stoneacre's recent Facebook ads below. They've kept their creative simple, with a bright red colour scheme and a clear call to action to visit their sale. Using the same copy from ad to ad is an opportunity to assess the performance of different visuals. Though these differences may seem small, the images included in and orientations of ads can often make a big difference to results.

Stoneacre Facebook Ads May 2023

Top Social Shares & Content

When it comes to social media and on-site content strategies, it is important to release content that has a longer shelf life. An article is considered 'Evergreen' if it has maintained its relevancy to an audience for longer. It's great for your brand engagement, but great for Google too, who will recognise content which achieves traffic over a long period of time. Tying back to the Universal Search opportunity results, dealerships appearing for high levels of 'People Also Ask' and 'FAQ' results have already got a headstart in valuable content creation.

All dealerships are seeing the most engagement and activity coming from Facebook, with Arnold Clark securing the most engagements here with 118,700 likes. For brands in sectors which don't see customers make regular repeat purchases, they may want to tap into content that sits adjacent to their products. For instance, dealerships could explore content around car maintenance and driving, as opposed to simply highlighting their available products.

Website Readability & Accessibility

20% of people in the UK have a disability – 2 million of which are people living with sight loss. In addition, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have some degree of colour vision deficiency. When websites are not designed to meet these needs, retailers lose customer interest as they turn elsewhere. Though automotive brands may not immediately think there is a need to remain accessible to visually impaired users, there are many forms of visual impairment that do not inhibit driving ability.

We have not seen great improvements in accessibility from any brands in the automotive dealerships sector. We previously noted that Marshall had been consistently hitting the highest levels of alerts, which remains the case in Q2, with 186. Though this has been steadily dropping (from 250, then 228 in our last two reports), accessibility is one of the few metrics in our report where results can be seen immediately. We advise any brand to take the time to audit and amend any accessibility barriers on their site, to see a fast, positive change.


For a glance into just 6 of the metrics, we evaluated these top 12 dealerships on, check out our quick-look table below; Dealerships W&L May 23


To get a copy of the full report, please complete the enquiry form. If you want to talk to us about accelerating your digital performance, please call us on 01543 410014 or schedule a call with Mike Movassaghi.

Photo by Pixabay

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