So, What's A MicroSite? (continued)
Copyright © 2008 Automotive Dealers Network. All rights reserved.
By Ralph Paglia
Director – Digital Marketing / ADP Dealer Services
View Jim Bernardi's profile on LinkedIn
Ralph has held positions such as OEM Partnership
Executive for Reynolds and Reynolds, CRM/eBusiness
Director, New Car Sales Manager, Used Car Manager,
F&I Director, General Sales Manager and General
Manager. He led the development and design of
nationally implemented CRM and eBusiness programs
for Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and other car
companies. He also designed Ford’s BDC program
Mercedes-Benz StarLeads CRM system and the
Mercedes-Benz BDC.
    How can dealers measure the results of digital ad campaigns that make use of
    microsites? What are the most common and useful metrics?

    As I mentioned in the last section, microsites should be evaluated based on several Key Performance Indicators
    (KPI), a few examples of these are:
    •        Lead Forms Submitted + Phone Calls / Unique Visitors = Conversion Rate
    •        Unique Visitors Referred to Primary Sites / Microsite Visitors = Referral Rate
    •        Organic Unique Visitors / Total Unique Visitors = Organic Penetration

    Be sure to display (big and bold) a unique toll free AdTracker phone number on your microsites to track
    incoming calls generated, and make sure your microsite supplier embeds site visitor tracking software such as
    Omniture’s SiteCatalyst into the site. One of the most useful reports is the Referring Domains reports which show
    how many leads were submitted by the URL used to link an advertisement to the microsite.  I use multiple URL’s
    for each microsite and then monitor each ad group by using distinct URL’s as the pointing web address that then
    shows up in the Omniture reporting.  

    Whether it is a microsite, any other site or simply an online advertising campaign to deep links within your primary
    web site, here’s the metrics I find most useful:

    We then use the above metrics to calculate the following cost effectiveness analysis
Metric Description
Actual Case Study Example
Total Cost of Ad Campaign and Microsite:
Advertising Impressions Generated:
Microsite Visits Generated by Ads:
eLeads and Phone Calls Generated:
Appointments Generated from Leads
Vehicles Sold to Site Visitors:
Analysis Subject
Unit Discription
Total Cost of Ad Campaign and Microsite:
Advertising Impressions Generated:
Microsite Visits Generated by Ads:
eLeads and Phone Calls Generated:
Appointments Generated from Leads
    Will an LP/MS strategy work for both long-term sales campaigns, and short-term
    promotions? Are there circumstances in which LP/MS might not be an
    appropriate solution?
    Microsites can be used for current promotions and then left intact for long term use in generating organic traffic
    and leads after the current month’s ad campaign is finished.  Sometimes keeping them updated can be a chore,
    but what isn’t?  I have used them for both long and short term campaigns and objectives, as well as modified
    short term campaign microsites to be relevant after the campaign is over.  Usually the monthly hosting fees are
    low relevant to the set up costs, so why not let your microsites collect organically generated traffic and produce
    leads as an ongoing yield from their hosting fees?  As for when they are or are not appropriate… Plenty of
    dealers look at other dealer advertisements in every media channel and criticize or applaud those ads. Microsites
    and their cheaper cousins (landing pages) are the same way.  I could show you some truly tacky looking
    microsites that generate plenty of leads and sales for their dealer, but which other dealers will say “that’s terrible,
    he shouldn’t be allowed to do that” or “I would never use something that looks that hideous”… Beauty is in the
    eye of the beholder when it comes to microsites and landing pages.  The metrics tend to show whether they
    should or should not have been used.  Keep in mind that microsites are never appropriate without the dealer’s
    commitment to invest money in marketing and promoting them.  Individual results may vary, and runaway
    successes like are only available to those dealers who try multiple microsites.  
    Anyone who tells you that microsites are a “sure thing” or “guaranteed to produce sales” or that they can
    duplicate the success of some of these microsites on an “at will” basis is either lying or does not have any
    experience doing it.  Microsites are a form of communication and depend upon online advertising and search
    engines for their success… This means they must be conceived, gestated, born and raised.  At the end of the
    day, some will work better than others.  Just remember, nothing is better than rich and relevant content that
    people are looking for and which search engines can index… Especially when served up free from the clutter and
    distractions of other subjects, products and services. And THAT is what creates the magic of microsites!
    What about the costs of creating and hosting microsites? What kind of initial
    investment is required, and what does it cost to keep them up and running?

    Different microsite suppliers charge different fees.  At ADP Digital Marketing we have not yet established our
    microsite pricing matrix, but they will be completed by the time this article is published.  We are still assessing the
    typical costs involved. Contact us for rates.

    I have personally used some smaller independent microsite designers that charged $750 per site as a one time
    set up fee and $75 per month to host them.  And, I have seen some of the large enterprise dealer groups
    purchase microsites from ADP for as little as $295 a month per site with a $595 set up fee.  It is safe to say that
    costs are reasonable for the sites themselves, but it is usually the advertising campaigns are where the real
    money is spent.  As for staff and overhead, well… Tina Pratt, the GSM at People’s Chevrolet in Chula Vista
    builds her own microsites and uses the store’s digital advertising budget for pure advertising buys, which I taught
    her to do herself and she does a heck of a job for that store.  I have recently been hired on a consulting basis to
    compete with her and she wins the search engine placement battle quite frequently.  But, that is when the
    teacher shows the student how it’s done and I usually come right back at her with an online ad campaign for
    Courtesy Chevrolet in San Diego that kicks her butt, until we run out of budget.  Ahhh, the car business… You
    gotta love the competitiveness of it all!

    How about some Case studies; one or two brief examples (with details) where
    LP/MS made a difference. What was done, and what were the results?

    There are so many examples of microsites being used to make a difference in a store’s success that it is difficult
    to pick one in particular, but let’s take a look at the microsite I designed for Courtesy
    Chevrolet in Phoenix.  After you look at this very basic, and not so elegant special finance site, take a look at the
    advertisement we placed in over 60 bus shelters around Phoenix in August 2006, which is shown below:

    Imagine sitting in a bus shelter, in 100+ degree temperatures and staring at that
    life sized poster twice a day, five or six days a week… To say it generated a few
    phone calls and visits to the microsite is an understatement. The bus shelter ads
    cost about $5,500 per month, and was used as part of the budget previously
    spent with BarNone for special finance leads. Combined with the online
    advertising, which was $4,500 per month, we set up a $10,000 a month
    “eFinance Department” total advertising budget.  The microsite
    was, and remains able to receive organic ranking in a highly competitive subject
    matter area and appears as a first page search engine query result, for “phoenix
    auto finance” as shown below:

    Phoenix Finance, Do you have Bad Credit and want a Used Car? at ...
    Courtesy is the Phoenix Valley’s only car dealer that has been nationally recognized for their leadership in the area of credit repair by hiring and ... - 10k - Cached - Similar pages

    The astute reader will notice the bus shelters display the URL: whereas some of the
    organic search results list was used for the original root
    domain URL, which was indexed by search engines, and was used as a special, shorter and
    easier to remember URL for specific ad campaigns where we wanted people to go directly to the advertised URL.  
    This allowed us to evaluate the effectiveness of the ad campaigns by looking at the referring domain reports for
    the microsite. The Courtesy Chevrolet eFinance team really hit its stride in September 2006 when they sold 57
    cars. When we examine the metrics around the use of the eFinance microsites, here is what the results were:

    We then use the above metrics to calculate the following cost effectiveness analysis:

    Given the low cost per vehicle retailed (PVR) we initially were very excited by these results and by the integrated
    nature of the promotion with more phone calls generated than electronic leads.  However, once we started
    counting up all the expenses paid in the form of lender fees, we realized that generating special finance leads
    online is a lot cheaper than getting the deals bought! Our process for handling the incoming phone calls was to
    get callers to either schedule an appointment to come in right away, or if they wanted to know for sure whether
    they were pre-approved, we asked them to complete a credit application, such as the one at www. which is a completely different dynamic online credit application.  We set up to quickly access a deep link connected to an easily remembered URL.  The talking credit
    application is provided by DealerCentric and hosted within a BZ Results web site.  So, yes the microsite made a
    difference in this case study, but it was used in conjunction with online and offline advertising, combined with a
    very talented crew of automotive professionals made up of Ron Daly, Scott Daly and Barbara Mason.  In the
    interest of proper disclosure, I will also report that by January 2007 we completely reconfigured the eFinance
    Team because of the high bank fees and the need to properly compensate some of the most talented car people
    I have ever had the privilege of working with.

    Ultimately, a dealer’s use of microsites is not a silver bullet in the world of digital marketing and advertising.  It is
    another tool that savvy dealers can use to get an unfair competitive advantage… Combined with the right
    people, lead management processes and technology, the use of microsites is one of many digital marketing
    tactics that separate some of today’s most successful dealers from those that would like to get there. Results
Unit Discription
Advertising Impressions
per thousand people
MicroSite Visits
per visitor session
eLeads and Phone Calls
per lead
Appointments Generated:
per dealership appointment
Vehicles Sold
per vehicle retailed (PVR)
eFinance Digital Marketing Metric Description
Actual Case Study Example
Total Cost of Ad Campaign & MicroSite
Advertising Impressions Generated
MicroSite Visits Generated by Ads
eLeads & Phone Calls Generated:
Appointments Generated from Leads
Vehicles Sold
    The following questions were addressed in part 1 which can be viewed here.

  • What's the difference between a landing page, a microsite and a dealer’s website?

  • When and How are Landing Pages and Microsites used?
    The following questions were addressed in part 2 which can be viewed here.

  • Who creates the online digital advertising that dealers would use to help drive traffic to
    microsites and landing pages?

  • Does a dealer have to use an outside supplier to do this, or is it something dealers can
    do on their own? How do dealers organize to do this?

  • How can the dealer make sure that their landing page/microsite strategy actually delivers
    desirable content to automotive Internet users, and that the landing page sites deliver on
    any promises made in the ads themselves?

  • How can dealers manage multiple URLs?  How do dealers ensure they get ranked by the
    major search engines?

  • How does a dealer incorporate the use of microsites into their existing CRM tools and
    processes to maximize the ability to track and manage results?
    During the Digital Dealer conference I was asked many questions
    about how microsites are used, what they were, where to get them
    and how much was the right price… I am going to outline a few of
    the questions and share my opinions as to the right answers.  The
    following questions and my answers to them have been set up
    within the context of a “how to” and “why” perspective for use in
    developing a dealership’s digital marketing strategy and ongoing
    digital advertising campaigns.