Which automotive dealerships have the best digital performance?

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We ranked the top 99 auto dealerships in the UK on digital performance. What do our findings mean to major players in the space?

The latest version of our automotive dealership league table is live, providing insight into how 99 dealerships across the UK are placed when it comes to online performance. From local search visibility, to keyword rankings, to site speed, we’ve assessed how these leading car dealerships are measuring up against their competitors, and identified who needs to work on accelerating their digital strategy.

Dealerships League Table Preview - 11.04.2023

But why is digital performance so essential for car dealerships, and how do industry trends tie into our findings?

Why is digital performance important?

Regardless of whether most their business is done in person, or if the ultimate goal is to drive in-person custom, any brand with an online presence needs to have a solid digital strategy if they want to make the most of their online investment. For dealerships, who need to win forecourt visits and encourage potential customers to visit their branches, digital performance plays an essential part in translating online traffic to in-person sales.

Arnold Clark is not only our overall winner, but is also leading the fleet in terms of local visibility, appearing for 1,800 local universal search results. These local terms mean Arnold Clark is appearing for users searching for nearby car dealerships. The high volume could partially be down to a large amount of branded searches, due to a strong brand awareness but, when 50% of ‘near me’ searches translate to in person visits, other dealerships can’t take this for granted.

Using technical advertising advances can also play a strong role in this and should be a key element of how these dealership brands approach both their organic and paid media strategy. Tech partners such as Uberall help make optimising for ‘near me’ searches efficient without losing effectiveness, while making sure your paid search campaigns are using the latest developments, such as Performance Max, will optimise budget and accelerate ROAS.

Find out how we boosted local visibility for Renault Retail Group when given access to the Performance Max beta.

What is the financial impact of poor digital performance?

Dealerships which don’t invest in their digital performance risk losing in-person forecourt visits, along with losing ground to competitors, even on branded terms or areas they were previously strong in.

Our biggest drop in the table came from Harwoods, who fell a full 54 places from 42 to 94. This fall mainly came from a reduced performance in top 100 keywords ranked for (falling from 18,398 to just 671), a fall in domain authority (moving from 43 to 23), and a reduction to zero local search appearances. This loss in online visibility significantly diminished any traffic from organic search. Though without knowing their true value per visit, we can estimate that, to achieve their current organic performance through paid activity, they would need to spend just £1,600 per month while, when we last checked, this figure sat at nearly £79,000.

While it may be that Harwoods' approach is now tightly targeted and these visits are extremely high value, at the face of it, they have moved from the top half of our table to almost the very bottom.

What does industry data tell us?

How do EV trends match up?

For electric vehicle suppliers, maintaining a competitive advantage within digital just got even more important.

With Tesla opting to drop prices by up to £8,000, manufacturers across the electric vehicles subsector are under pressure to price themselves competitively against this refreshed, perceived value. We’ve not pulled data on any dealerships operating solely with electric vehicles, but many of our dealerships will be trading at least some electric or hybrid motors. They therefore need to ensure they are considering EVs in their approach, whether by adapting their site to include highly optimised Electric Vehicle content or running bespoke Electric Vehicle campaigns in paid media channels to match any deficit in organic performance.

Used versus new

Used electric vehicles account for only 1% of the total used vehicle market, though sales figures have risen by 37.5% YoY. Used cars overall represent 82% of all automotive sales however, new car sales are projected to rise by 11.1% in 2023, while the used car market is struggling to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels.

When we compare BMW’s two entries on our league table, BMW Used placed 35th – 37 places higher than their dealerships offering only new vehicles, with an even further gap between specific local BMW dealership sites.

There are reasons for both new and used car dealerships to maintain strong performance, and consistently be aiming to outperform their competition. Though used car dealerships must ensure they’re in prime position to capitalise on the shrinking pool of buyers, new dealerships will want to maintain performance against their peers and avoid letting their competitors in the used market take over once more.


Not happy with where you’re at on our top 99 dealerships leader board? Get in touch with our automotive specialist, Mike Movassaghi, to discuss how to accelerate your performance.

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