Get in touch with our team
Feature image for White paper

White paper

Marketing in the automotive sector

    Read the guide below or click here to download your PDF copy.

    Did you know that search is the most commonly used source of information when buying a car, beating out word-of-mouth, TV ads, and dealer visits? Or that online research now means that the average car buyer visits just two dealerships in person?

    The online automotive landscape is changing, and more competitive than ever before. Being visible for the terms that your customers are searching for, and serving them useful content with a great user experience is crucial for growing any automotive business online.

    We have produced a sector report on the automotive industry to help marketers to benchmark their own automotive website against competitors, and to identify opportunities to improve their digital marketing performance.

    Our analysis in this white paper considers several key aspects of digital marketing; visibility, technical SEO, content, link building, PPC, analytics, and UX.

    The information in this white paper can be used to expand your keyword visibility online, grow brand awareness, make more of your current traffic, and to attract an increased number of new customers.

    Whether you’re a car manufacturer, dealership, a vehicle rental company, car buying service, or a garage, you are sure to learn something of value to help take your website up a gear.



    In this automotive sector report, we have analysed the websites of 2019’s largest 100 UK automotive retail groups by turnover. 

    To understand the digital presence these companies have, we examined their websites by looking at the following areas:

    • Visibility: The keyword visibility that each website has in the organic search results as well as with paid ads.
    • Technical: How well each website meets best practice technical SEO requirements.
    • Content: How well each website answers the users’ questions and provides necessary information in an easily-digestible format.
    • Link Building: The authority and overall health of each website’s backlink profile.
    • PPC: The paid search presence of each website, as well as the wider paid search landscape.
    • Paid Social: The paid social presence of each website. 
    • Analytics: How well each website is set up to accurately track performance with reliable channel attribution.

    What does Google say about automotive websites?

    Google has championed the importance of understanding and reaching users online within the automotive industry, with their focus on the ‘moments’ that drive conversion being greatly promoted via Google’s own advice platforms.

    When it comes to purchasing a car, users go through the following 5 ‘moments’:

    • The “which car is best?” moment
    • The “is it right for me?” moment
    • The “can I afford it?” moment
    • The “where should I buy it?” moment
    • The “am I getting a deal?” moment

    Website content should be designed to address each of these 5 moments to nurture prospective customers ‘down the funnel’, building brand trust, loyalty and, in the future, advocacy.

    Visibility is the overall likelihood a website is seen in the search results, and can encompass both organic keyword rankings and a paid ad presence. By comparing the visibility of different domains you can see which one is more likely to rank well and receive more visitors. 

    To get a broad understanding of how automotive businesses are performing in search, we analysed the numbers of keywords they are visible for. 


    Visibility is the overall likelihood a website is seen in the search results, and can encompass both organic keyword rankings and a paid ad presence. By comparing the visibility of different domains you can see which one is more likely to rank well and receive more visitors. 

    To get a broad understanding of how automotive businesses are performing in search, we analysed the numbers of keywords they are visible for.

    Organic visibility

    • Highest number of organic keywords for an automotive website: 212,583
    • Lowest number of organic keywords for an automotive website: 24
    • Average number of organic keywords for automotive websites: 19,611

    Organic keyword rankings are determined by Google when it chooses which content to index for particular search queries. To measure organic visibility, we looked at the total number of keywords that each business ranked for organically. 

    • Highest number of paid keywords for an automotive website: 3,896
    • Lowest number of paid keywords for an automotive website: 0
    • Average number of paid keywords for automotive websites: 140
    • 24% of companies have no paid keywords, signalling little to no PPC activity

    Paid keyword rankings are achieved by running search ad campaigns via Google Ads. The overall ranking is determined by a combination of overall ad quality and the amount advertisers ‘bid’ for the ad space.

    Technical SEO

    The technical implementation of a website is the foundation on which a website’s success is built. Google places a strong emphasis on the importance of a technically sound website, due to the high impact that technical functionality has on the user experience and Google’s ability to crawl and index web pages across a given website.

    Indexed pages 

    Indexed pages are pages that are eligible to be shown in search results pages for one or more organic keywords.

    • Highest number of indexed pages: 163,300
    • Lowest number of indexed pages: 7
    • Average # indexed pages: 7,608

    Other technical considerations

    • 95% of websites are HTTPS. This means they offer much more security than HTTP only sites.
    • 93% of websites are mobile friendly. This means they are able to adjust to display well on a mobile device.
    • 96% of websites have a robots.txt file available. A robots.txt file is created to tell search engine robots how to crawl a website.
    • 83% of websites are using some form of schema. Schema is a form of structured data that helps search engines to understand the content of a webpage further. 
    • 29% of websites are missing homepage canonical tags. Canonical tags highlight to search engines the ‘preferred’ version of a web page and are used to manage scenarios in which similar or “duplicate” content exists across a set of webpages on a single domain. 
    • The average page speed score was 32/100 on mobile, and 74/100 on desktop. The loading time of a website affects the user experience and organic rankings.


    Content plays a significant role in a website’s success because it means a website has greater eligibility to appear at different touchpoints throughout a customer’s purchasing journey. 

    A service page is unlikely to rank well for a ‘top of the funnel’ search term, whereas buying guides or product reviews have a better chance. Producing informative, blog-style content is therefore important for reaching these top of the funnel users. 

    Content is also a vital tool for demonstrating the Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) of your website. Google is increasingly taking E-A-T into account when evaluating a website, so demonstrating your knowledge and reputation can help to bolster your organic rankings.

    • 92% of websites have an About Us page of some description. This is important to inform users of things like your expertise, reputation, company history, awards, and so on.
    • 78% of websites have a blog or news section. Of these blog sections, 68% are considered ‘active’ (updated within the last 3 months). 
    • On average, websites without a blog rank for 8,462 keywords. Websites with a blog rank for an average of 22,746 keywords. The presence of well-optimised, informative content significantly improves overall organic visibility.

    On average, websites own 11.5 featured snippets, but this rises to 14.1 when only considering websites with a blog/news section. Featured snippets attract a significant amount of organic traffic on the SERPs and are a great way to get users into your marketing funnel.

    Link building is a huge part of a successful SEO strategy. Receiving links from other websites is effectively like receiving votes, but where not all votes are equal. 

    Being linked to from relevant, high-authority websites is a signal to Google that your website is a trusted, high-quality source. Being linked to from low-quality, spammy websites has the opposite effect, so it’s important to check regularly that your website is only associated with trustworthy websites.

    Backlinks are incoming links from web pages on different domains to your website. They help to signal to Google that your site is trustworthy and offers valuable content. 

    • Average number of backlinks: 334,342
    • Highest number of backlinks: 5,526,383
    • Lowest number of backlinks: 67

    Referring domains are the websites which are providing backlinks to your site.

    • Highest number of referring domains: 6,269
    • Lowest number of referring domains: 15
    • Average number of referring domains: 1,221

    Link ratio refers to the number of backlinks your site has, divided by the number of referring domains. A lower ratio is better and means you have links from a wider range of sources, which indicates a more natural backlink profile.

    • Best link ratio: 3 : 1
    • Worst link ratio: 3913 : 1
    • Average link ratio: 291 : 1

    Domain rating (or domain authority) is a third party metric which estimates how authoritative a backlink profile is, based on the quality and quantity of backlinks.

    • Average domain rating: 36
    • Highest domain rating: 75
    • Lowest domain rating: 0.5


    Google’s search landscape is increasingly becoming a ‘pay-to-play’ environment, with more and more of the space on a search results page being devoted to advertising space. Running paid ads is the quickest way to establish broad keyword coverage, but a carefully considered strategy is required to ensure campaigns are profitable.

    To understand the paid landscape for the automotive sector, we looked at the number of paid keywords for each business, as well as analysing a sample list of keywords. 

    • Highest number of paid keywords: 3,896
    • Lowest number of paid keywords: 0
    • Average number of paid keywords: 140
    • 24% of companies have no paid keywords, signalling little to no paid activity

    Data from our sample keyword list (see Appendix 2)

    • Average search volume: 14,468
    • Average top of page bid (low range): £0.62
    • Average top of page bid (high range): £1.97
    • Most expensive keyword: Car Finance (£7.91)
    • Least expensive keyword: Used Car Rental Near Me (£0.66)

    Although demand is relatively stable throughout the year, we can see that the months in the run up to Christmas see a slow decline in interest for these keywords. Peaks can be seen in January and throughout the Spring/Summer months.

    Running paid social campaigns can be a highly effective way to engage your target market, due to the high level of audience targeting that is available. You can also use this data to reach out to users who have not encountered your brand yet, rather than waiting for them to make the first move. It also presents an opportunity for remarketing, to help you make the most of the users who have visited your website.

    We can see that 4 out of every 5 of websites in our study are using a Facebook Pixel, indicating some level of paid advertising on Facebook, Instagram, or both. However, far fewer are currently taking advantage of Twitter, with only 6% of websites displaying the Twitter Pixel.

    • 81% of websites are using the Facebook Pixel
    • 2.45 billion monthly active users

    • 6% of websites are using the Twitter Pixel
    • 330 million monthly active users


    The most important factor in the success of any digital marketing campaign is the ability to measure results through accurate tracking. This is particularly important for cross-channel attribution so that credit can be fairly assigned to each channel and marketing budgets can be planned accordingly.

    Accurate tracking is crucial to being able to understand the performance of your marketing activity across all disciplines and can provide vital insights into areas of high success and areas of budget waste. Understanding your customers’ conversion path is key to unlocking the potential of each individual channel and creating a truly holistic digital marketing strategy.

    To understand how well automotive businesses are tracking their digital marketing activity, we looked into the tracking codes on each website. When a website incorporates tracking code, this provides a clear signal as to how well activity is being measured.

    • 95% of websites are using a Google Analytics Tag
    • 51% of websites are using Google Tag Manager

    Attribution Modelling

    Attribution models are sets of rules which determine how credit for conversions is assigned to different touchpoints throughout the buying journey. Unsurprisingly, users who are thinking about investing in a new car touch on multiple channels before converting because it is a longer purchasing decision. Relying on simplistic attribution models like last click gives undue weight to certain channels. Position based or data-driven attribution is far more beneficial to understanding the role your different marketing campaigns play in driving your desired conversions.

    UX best practices for the automotive industry

    Improving the user experience of your site not only makes more of your existing traffic, but also demonstrates to Google that you care about offering value to your visitors. UX improvements benefit user engagement, which is in turn rewarded with higher organic rankings.

    In a leaked playbook of UX best practices, Google highlighted the following areas of focus for automotive websites:

    • Homepage and navigation
    • Build & price
    • Form optimisation & drive to dealership
    • Speed

    Homepage and navigation

    • Ensure key call to actions appear above the fold
    • Highlight your value proposition and drive users towards relevant landing pages
    • Encourage users to view and filter offers
    • Include support and post-sales activity in the menu

    Build & price

    • Provide transparent pricing
    • Display pricing options
    • Offer easy ways to compare models
    • Make use of high-quality, fast images and helpful videos
    • Allow users to save and share built vehicles

    Form optimisation and drive to dealership

    • Reduce the number of fields in forms
    • Use the correct keypads for form fills
    • Provide real-time form validation
    • Leverage auto-fill where possible
    • Streamline the ‘find a dealership’ process
    • Make it easy to book a test drive


    • Focus on key performance targets (Start Render, Speed Index, Time to Interactive)
    • Limit page weight and the number of requests
    • Test using AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
    • Consider integrating PWA (Progressive Web App) technology


    Appendix 1:Top 100 Automotive Websites 2019 (taken from AM Online)

    Appendix 2: Sample keyword list