The dealership’s jargon-free guide to conversion optimization



Sometimes you need to go back to basics.

So today, we bring you a short refresher course in conversion optimization for auto. What is it? How does it work? Why should anyone care? We’ll explain it all.

Already an expert in conversion optimization? Head on over to Digital Dealer, and check out our article on advanced strategies.

Anyone who’s still here- let’s get started.

conversion optimization auto
Learning about conversion optimization is the best

First, let’s define our terms. And when we say define terms, we don’t mean use more jargon to explain jargon. We’re going to really get in there. So get your notebooks and have a seat.


A conversion is a change in status. In digital marketing terms, it means going from a casual, passive website visitor to an active one. How? By buying something, or signing up for a newsletter, or filling out a form- in short, by providing some kind of contact information that allows for follow-up. Once someone does this, they become a lead, or converted website visitor. Now they are a customer that you can interact with.

As you might imagine, most website visitors do not want to do this. You don’t give your information to everyone who asks for it. You have to feel like you’re getting something in return. That’s where optimization comes in.


Optimization is an improvement. If you optimize something, you upgrade it, or maximize it.

Thus! Conversion optimization means upgrading your website’s capacity for conversion, or making your website more likely to get visitors to give you their contact information so that you can start a buying conversation with them.

Note: this is not the same thing as driving traffic to your site. Conversion optimization is taking the traffic that’s already there and making it count. It means appealing to people who have already found you, probably because of the time, energy, and dollars you have put into other areas of your digital marketing strategy. It’s not getting people in the door. It’s getting the people who are already in the door to stay, and to come back, and to buy.

Second note: this is also referred to as conversion rate optimization, or CRO.

Why is conversion optimization important?

Great question.

In most case, the vast majority of the people who come to your site do not convert. They fill out no forms, they leave no contact information, they disappear, and might never come back. In fact, conversion rates on dealership websites are usually in the range of 1-3%. That means that bringing all these customers to your website is not paying off. Dealerships are both losing that ad spend, and not building enough new revenue from their websites.

But, when more of your existing site traffic likes what they find on your site, starts to feel loyal to your dealership, and begins to move the process forward with your dealership, guess what? You have optimized your conversions! And you’ve made all that money you spent pay off! Cue the marching band!

conversion optimization
Or uncork the champagne. Not everyone is into marching bands.

Is conversion optimization in auto different from other industries?

Conversion optimization is important for every type of e-commerce, but it’s especially important for auto. Why? Because more than ever, shoppers do most of their research online before walking into a dealership. They don’t decide whether or not to buy from you when they come into your store. They decide whether or not to buy from you when they come to your website, and instantly start judging it.

In fact, within 0-8 seconds, your website visitors will make the decision to stay on your page– or leave the page.

So how do I optimize my dealership website for better conversion rates?

We think you do this in three main ways:

  • Content
  • Design
  • Strategy


First of all, if you want people to engage with your site, you need to put things on it that they want to see. What does a dealership website visitor want to see? Well, cars. But they also want to see information on how to buy a car, or on oil changes, or on financing. They want to see how much their trade-in is worth. They want to know your office hours. Notice that not everyone wants to see the same thing. So really think through who you are trying to reach and what they might want to get from your site. For some great content ideas, check out this post, and this one.

People also want to see the sales and special offers you have going on.  They want to know why it’s worth it for them to move forward with your company, what they will get out of working with you.

Some of this content should appear directly on your site. However, it is also really helpful to create popups with content and offers to appear at good times while people are browsing. More on that later.


It’s gotta look good or no one is sticking around. Think of your favorite store, say, I don’t know, a dealership, maybe the one you work at. Think about the vibe, the decor, the layout. Consider how easy it is to find things, what the lighting looks like, what colors you favor. Now make your website look and feel like that.


We mentioned earlier that not everyone wants to see the same thing. This is obvious: no two conversations in person are the same, and this is also true online. The key here is to take all the content you’ve put on your site and make sure the right people are seeing it, when they want to see it.

Here’s where the magic comes in. The technology that conversion optimization companies use monitors what your visitors do on your site, and then uses that data to predict what they’ll be interested in. Based on those predictions, it shows different visitors different popups at different times.

So someone who keeps coming back to the same VDP will see a sale on that vehicle. Someone who’s visited your service section three times this week will see an offer about service. Someone who comes to your site for the first time will see a holiday sale offer, and someone viewing a VDP for the first time will see some of its major features highlighted.

It’s basically like answering people’s questions, except without hearing the question. It’s anticipating your users’ needs so that they feel like your website is talking to them in a helpful way, and then stay, and convert, and eventually come into your dealership and close a sale.

But aren’t popups annoying?

Sure, if they’re not done right. If they appear immediately, every time you go onsite, are hard to dismiss, are full of loud, flashing colors, and cover everything you want to see? That’s the worst. But a popup with a clean design, that is easily dismissed, that looks like the rest of your site content, and that gives people things they actually want? Those will get you conversions. It really works.

AutoLeadStar- where wizards engineers make all this possible for your website

If all of this sounds like a big project, we’re here to help. We take your website and put OEM-compliant content and offers on it, then use your website traffic data to offer the right things to the right people at the right time. You don’t have to know how to code, or design, or even write particularly well.

That’s our job.

Call us for a free consultation today and we’ll get you started. You’ll never look back. 216-242-1320.