Vehicle Description Page (VDP) views — and how to get more of them — have been a huge topic of conversation in the automotive digital marketing community for a handful of years now. Since the automotive industry hasn’t quite yet evolved into an e-commerce business where you can add a car to your shopping cart and check out, we don’t have key performance indicators like average order value and shopping cart abandonment rates to keep an eye on. This can make it difficult to determine which advertising sources are driving the most revenue to your business and what portion of your website traffic is just kicking tires.
Enter VDPs — Vehicle Description Pages
Big names and reputable companies in the industry have pushed dealers to chase VDP views as if they were the holy grail of digital marketing for dealerships. The thought process is that if a website visitor is looking at VDP’s, they’re a shopper, and there has been study after study equating more VDP views to a greater chance of selling a vehicle. So, we have increasingly been hearing VDP view percentages and cost per VDP as some of the most important metrics you can track as a car dealer. There are even products on the market to sell you more VDP views.
Part of me wishes I came up with that idea. The other part of me gets frustrated that the focus on VDP views has caused dealers to ignore other pertinent metrics and KPI’s that would give them a more holistic view of how their website is performing and the effectiveness of their advertising dollars. Arguably, VDP views (on rare occasions) CAN be a good indicator of the success or failure of an advertising campaign. VDP views CAN tell you how good (or terrible) of a job you’re doing with merchandising your vehicles, cultivating a good inventory mix, or with your new pricing strategy. However, I would steer clear of the idea that more VDP’s mean you’re a better marketer.
Here Are Some Reasons You Shouldn’t Use VDP’s as the Holy Grail of Your Digital Marketing Measurement Model
And some better ways to utilize that VDP view % number on your monthly report.
1. A Lot of Views, Not A Lot of SalesYou could get a million more VDP views and not sell 1 additional car. If you’re buying a product to get you more VDP views on your pictureless, 4 cheese descripted, 40% above market-priced vehicles, are you going to sell more of them? No.
2. Lack of Dealer-to-User Interaction
Sending a visitor directly to a VDP can be the equivalent of asking a customer that just walked into the showroom if they’re ready to buy today before you even shake their hand. You’re completely ignoring the idea of customer intent. If I’m searching for general information about the 2016 Honda Civic and you take me directly to a VDP, I’m likely going to bounce. If I’m looking for information on whether or not a used Audi A4 is reliable and you take me to a VDP, I’m probably going to bounce. If I see your ad for the new Kia Optima on Facebook while I was looking at pictures of my friend’s new puppy, my lease isn’t up for 4 months on my Nissan, I hadn’t really considered Kia before (but I might), and you send me to a VDP? Bounce. All of these scenarios would otherwise make me a shopper…eventually…and I’d eventually get to that VDP….but I wasn’t ready, and you blew your chances.
3. VDPs Detract from Other Page Views — Without Adding to Your Sales
Trust me, shoppers will find your inventory. Do you really think that it’s so hard for a customer to find your inventory that you need to buy views of your inventory? Absolutely not. Between 3rd party sites, and THE GIGANTIC BUTTONS THAT SAY VIEW INVENTORY in your website navigation, if a customer is ready to buy, or even ready to browse cars, they’ll make their way to your inventory. I promise.
4. VDPs Views Can Be Misleading
Counting VDP’s may lead to some bad decision-making. Your social media ads are likely not going to drive a ton of VDP views, video ads are probably not going to drive a ton of VDP views, and a huge portion of your website traffic is probably there to do something other than look at cars. Does this mean that social advertising is bad? No. You can hyper-target customers who are in the market for a luxury sedan in the next 180 days on Facebook. You can target people on YouTube who are in the market for a car, but haven’t considered your brand. The visitors on your website that are doing everything else besides looking at inventory could be really valuable visitors. Maybe your used car manager has your cars priced way out of the market and that’s why people aren’t clicking on your vehicle detail pages (but you blamed the advertising source). Don’t use VDP views as your sole barometer for the effectiveness of your advertising.
5. VDP-Only Traffic Can Increase Your Website’s Bounce Rates
Not all VDP views are created equal. Bad quality traffic coming from poor quality sites might lead to a lot of VDP views, but if the bounce rate is enormous and the conversion rate is low (or 0%)… well, bad traffic is bad traffic. Traffic that isn’t ready to buy sent directly to a VDP is just going to result in more VDP views, not more sales. I think bounce rate and conversion rate are huge indicators of how well your website/an advertising source is performing and if your strategy to get more VDP views is resulting in a high bounce rate/low conversion rate/0 assisted conversions, then it’s probably not helping you sell cars. If a vendor is telling you to adjust how you calculate your bounce rate to make their crappy traffic look better, run… don’t walk away.
So, what would I actually recommend doing with your VDP view numbers?
Check out your VSRP to VDP view ratio or better yet, your VDP view to lead submission ratio and use these to evaluate your merchandising. If you change photographers, write better vehicle descriptions, adjust your pricing, put your cars from featured to premium on AutoTrader, or do anything that you think should result in better merchandising or put you in a better position to get eyeballs on your inventory – see if those ratios change. If I REALLY stretched, I could make an argument for VDP views as an indicator of how engaging your website content was and if adjusting it turned more visitors into shoppers. But, there are a ton of better ways to determine your content’s efficiency.
Simply put, we should always be thinking about driving a searcher to the most relevant page for their query, which isn’t always an inventory page. We should also be thinking about the intent of our website visitors and that’s not always to buy a car or even shop for cars. If we had clear goals and objectives outlined for our business, we should be able to determine some KPI’s that would help us measure our success or failure. I think VDP views would be a rare occurrence on that list of KPI’s. All in all, we should make sure that we’re looking at more VDP views as a result of better merchandising, not better marketing.