UK Automotive Dealerships - Digital Marketing Benchmark Report, Q3 2023

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The Q3 2023 benchmarking report for UK dealerships has just been published. Learn how the top 12 UK dealerships perform across the digital space.

The latest Q3 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, and Hedin Automotive (previously Mercedes-Benz Retail Group).

Dealerships - Q3 2023 - 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 Q3 report, click here. To get a copy of the full report and the key takeaways, please complete the enquiry form or schedule a call.

Dealerships - Q3 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.

In our last report, we noted that Inchcape had retured 3,577 4xx error codes, a concerningly high amount for a site outside the retail industry. In Q3, though Inchcape remain the automotive dealership with the most error codes, this figure has fallen dramatically to 726. Ideally, this should be as close to nil as possible, so Inchcape must continue to make these improvements.

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 Q2, Stonacre was the only brand to surpass the 'okay' benchmark of 50, achieving a mobile page speed score of 64. In Q3, Stonacre has seen this fall to 50, while Arnold Clark has surpassed them, with a score of 52. Vertu Motors, which had delivered the lowest score of 9 in Q2, has seen this fall even further, now sitting at 6.

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. DAs for automotive dealers range from Arnold Clark's 67, to Hedin Automotive's 32.

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.

In Q3, only Vertu Motors has seen any increase in organic traffic, showing an increase of 6% year on year. The biggest loss for automotive dealerships has come from Group 1 Automotive, having lost 39% of traffic when compared to 2022.

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.

Lookers has now reclaimed the lead from Arnold Clark when it comes to 'reviews' results, making 14,000 appearances for the result type. Arnold Clark, however, is still achieving the most Universal Search results overall, with most of these coming from 'image' results (with 46,400 resuls).

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 143,175 (a slight fall from Q2's 168,147), and 7,281 in the top three positions. With a further 24,941 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 examples of Vertu Motors' recent Facebook ads below. Vertu Motors has used Facebook ads to promote the chance to meet their famous spokespeople at an upcoming event, driving in-person footfall to the Vertu Motors stand. Vertu Motors has also used Facebook ads to encourage engagement with its Instagam page, helping to build a long-lasting, engaged organic audience.

Vertu Motors Facebook Ads September 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 biggest audience here with 125,100 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.

Marshall has been consistently hitting the highest level of accessibility alerts, with 192 in Q3 - slightly higher than Q2's 186. Group 1 Automotive's alerts figures has also been steadily rising, with 134 recorded in our most recent report. 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 Sept23


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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