Google Analytics is not plug-n-play. There’s more to it than just having your website provider add some code to your dealership’s website.

A lot more.

In fact, if you’re a car dealer and you haven’t enabled these eight features, it’s costing you money because you’re wasting your time looking at metrics that are misleading.

But we’re going to fix that.

So, follow along and you’ll be on your way to being able to really track your marketing and advertising to see if they’re worth the investment, and protecting yourself against corrupted data.

 1. Goals

Why are Goals so important?

Because Goals are how Google Analytics tracks conversions.

Conversions lead to sales, and sales pay the bills.

Every dealer should be tracking Phone Calls, Texts, Chats, and Lead Forms.

That’s it.

VDPs are not conversions. SRPs are not conversions. Engagement metrics are not conversions.

Yes, they are important in their own right, but they are not conversions. If a visitor is not contacting your dealership directly and expressing buying interest or asking for more information, it’s not a conversion.

To get to Goals, click on ADMIN next to the Gear Icon at the bottom of the menu on the left side of Google Analytics.  This will bring up your ADMIN screen where you can see your Accounts, Properties and Views. It’s possible to have multiple Accounts, Properties and Views, so make sure you’re picking the right one!

Click on Goals under the View menu on the right to bring up the Goals list and then click on the red + NEW GOAL button. Under Goal setup, go to the bottom, select Custom and then click the blue Continue button.

Give your Goal a Name. A word of advice, keep it short and simple so your Google Analytics reports are easy to read and everybody can understand them. Let’s call this Goal Phone Call.

Since phone calls need to be tracked as Events, select Event and then click the blue Continue button.

Then enter in the Category and Action from your DNI provider. Your DNI provider should be more than happy to assist you. If you don’t have a DNI provider, get one! You can use Call Rail for only $250 a month and they do a great job. At the other end of the spectrum companies like Car Wars provide more advanced services like call monitoring/scoring for around $1,200 a month. Either way, next to a walk-in, Phone Calls are your second most valuable conversion and you need to track them.

You can follow this process with your Text and Chat providers. If your Text and Chat providers can’t help you with this, you have the wrong providers. There is no excuse for a Text or Chat provider not being able to get this data to you and help you set up your Goals.

If your website still uses forms that change URLs after visitors click Submit, then select Destination instead of Event in step two and copy and paste the URL of your success/thankyou page into the Destination box in Goal Details.

Click Save and congratulations, you set up your Goals!

Whoa there pardner, not so fast.

Now for the fun part. Go into your website and check that all your goals are firing and recording properly. It’s critical to never assume everything is going to work perfectly and to always check your work!

2. AdWords

Linking your AdWords and Google Analytics accounts gives you access to the entire picture of customer behavior, from ad click or impression through to your site to conversions.

Once you’ve linked your accounts, you can use insights from Analytics to refine and optimize your AdWords campaigns, improving the overall performance of your dealership.

When you link accounts, you:

  • Begin seeing ad and site performance data in the AdWords reports in Google Analytics
  • Can import Analytics goals and Ecommerce transactions directly into your AdWords account
  • Can also import valuable Analytics metrics—such as Bounce Rate, Avg. Session Duration, and Pages/Session—into your AdWords account
  • Get enhanced Remarketing capabilities
  • Get richer data in the Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels reports

To link your AdWords and Google Analytics accounts in the left-hand menu click on ACQUISITION> AdWords> Campaign and then click the blue Get started button at the top. By default, the number of the AdWords account(s) associated with the Google User login you used to sign into Google Analytics will appear. If you’re not an authorized user with admin access on your AdWords account, you’ll need to be added.

Please note: you should be using your own AdWords account so that you retain control and full visibility. Any legitimate AdWords vendor will have no problem managing your account under their AdWords MCC. If an AdWords vendor refuses to do this, find another vendor! I’ve never seen acceptable performance from a vendor that refuses to do this. They are trying to hide something and it isn’t some miraculous, proprietary algorithm or system. Every time I examine performance from these types of vendors it’s always subpar and overpriced.  

Once you’ve selected the right AdWords account, click the blue continue button and enter in the name of your dealership’s AdWords account. Select the right view for that AdWords account and then click the blue Link accounts button.

That’s it, your Google Analytics and AdWords accounts are now linked and auto-tagging is enabled for all AdWords accounts.

Now you can view AdWords data in Google Analytics reports and Google Analytics Data in AdWords!

3. Google Search Console

What is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a free service from Google that provides data and analytics to help improve your dealership’s site performance in Google search (SEO).

To enable Google Search Console data within your Google Analytics account you have to create a Google Search Console account if you don’t already have one and verify that you own your website.

Once that’s done, to connect your site, in the left side menu click on ACQUISITION> Search Console> Landing Pages and then click on the grey Set up Search Console data sharing button at the top.

Your Tracking Id, Property Name and Default URL should already be filled in for you. Make sure your URL is correct. Your website should be using a secure HTTPS connection, so make sure your settings match. If your website is not using a secure connection contact your website provider immediately and have them switch you over from HTTP. There should be no charge for this and quite frankly if you’re still on an unsecure connection shame on your website provider!

Pick the Default View you want to use, make sure your Industry Category is Automotive, and if you’re not manually tagging your URLs in AdWords or DoubleClick don’t worry about the Advanced Settings for overriding GCLID values.

Turn on Enable Demographics and Interest Reports to make Age, Gender, and Interest data available so you can better understand who your users are under Advertising Features.

Don’t worry about enabling the Enhanced Link Attribution or Start In-Page Analytics. Unfortunately, this service has been depreciated by Google due to changes in Website technology.

You can leave Adjust Search Console alone, this is for making changes after you’ve already made a connection, make sure Enable Users Metric in Reporting is turned on and click the blue Save button.

Easy peasy.

Ok, I admit it. I snuck in a couple of extra steps while you were in your Property Settings. Hey, if they weren’t already done, they needed to be done and this was as good a time as any.

4. Site Search

Want to know what your dealership’s site visitors are looking for or having trouble finding? Want to know the real keywords and phrases your customers use so you can incorporate them into your SEO optimization?

Yes, you do!

Click on ADMIN at the bottom of the left-hand menu in Google Analytics. Then select the view you want to work with and then click View Settings.

  1. Under Site Search Settings, set Site Search Tracking to ON.
  2. In the Query Parameter field, enter the word or words that designate internal query parameters, such as term,search,query. Sometimes query parameters are designated by just a letter, such as s or q. Enter up to five parameters, separated by commas. Do not enter any additional characters: for example, if the query parameter is designated by the letter q, enter only q (not q=). Read How to identify search query parameters, below.
  3. Select whether or not you want Analytics to strip the query parameter from your URL. This strips only the parameters you provided, and not any other parameters in the same URL. If you’re not sure about this setting, leave it alone. If you need to, you can always create different views with different settings depending on the needs of the user.
  4. Turn Site search categories on or off. If your site lets users refine searches, you can include that information in your reports. For example, users might search for “chromebook” once they’ve refined the category to “laptops”. In a case like this, the site-search URL would look something like …?q=chromebook&sc=laptop.If you leave categories OFF, you are finished. Click Save.If you turn categories ON:
    • In the Category parameter field, enter the letters that designate an internal search category such as ‘cat,qc,sc’. As you did with the Query Parameter field, enter only the characters for the parameter, e.g., “sc”, and not “sc=”.
    • Select whether or not you want Analytics to strip the category parameters from your URL.
      Note that this strips only the parameters you provided, and not any other parameters in the same URL. This has the same effect as excluding URL Query Parameters in your master reporting view: if you strip the category parameters from your Site Search view, you don’t have to exclude them again from your master view.
    • Click Save.

How to identify search query parameters

When users search your site, their queries are usually included in the URL. For example, if you use Google to search the phrase Mountain View, you see q (Google’s query parameter) followed by your query:

If your site uses categories, then the same principle applies. You can also contact your webmaster to identify the query parameter for your site.

Setting Up Site Search for POST-Based Search Engines

If you’re using a POST-based search engine, the search-results URL would look something like:

You have two options to use Site Search for POST-based search engines:

Option 1: Configure your web application to append the query keywords to the end of the URL (e.g., and then set up Site Search as described in the previous section.

Option 2: Customize the tracking code on your results page to dynamically specify a virtual page path that includes the query keywords. The tracking code on the results page would look something like:

analytics.js: ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’, ‘/search_results.php?q=keyword’);

5. Campaigns

Ok, you get a breather on this one. You don’t even have to go into the scary ADMIN panel to do this.

All you have to do is use Google’s Campaign URL Builder Tool.

All of your other advertising sources should already be using UTM tags to identify the traffic as coming from them as the source, the medium used, and the campaign name. If they aren’t, I strongly suggest you have a little talk. After all, if they’re not able to do this, do you really want them managing any of your digital spend?

Make sure you use your full website path, and please follow best practices by using lower case.

That’s it!

Any campaign you do internally, most probably email or text messages, can be tagged so you can know exactly which campaigns are performing and which aren’t.

6. Exclude Internal Traffic

Since Google Analytics tracks everyone that visits your site they can, that includes you and everybody who works at your dealership.

It may not seem like it, but over the course of time this traffic will skew your metrics because you and your dealership users are going to use the site in much different ways than your normal visitors.

Fortunately, this is easy to fix.

Get with your IT manager and get the IP address, or range of addresses, for your internal network.

Go back into our friend the ADMIN panel, you should be an old pro getting there by now and click on Filters under the View you want to use.

Then type in a name for your filter, like Internal Traffic, select Exclude under the Predefined Select filter type, select traffic from the IP addresses under Select source or destination, and then select that are equal to under Select expression.

It’s a good idea to click the blue Verify this filter to make sure everything is happy and then click Save.

That’s it!

Now you don’t have to worry about false traffic metrics and Goal conversions from your used car manager checking out every used car on your site three times a day just to make sure they’re still running.

7. Bot Filtering

This one is really easy.

But first, let’s talk about bot traffic.

There’s good bot traffic, like the Google bots you want to visit your dealership’s website so it can index and rank all your pages high… and then there’s bad bot traffic.

If you’re not aware of bad bot traffic, aka click fraud, you need to be.

There are a lot of bad actors in the automotive digital marketing space, and they will use bots to send fake traffic to your website.

I’m not going to go into how to spot and deal with bot traffic now, that’s a whole blog post on its own.

For now, we’re going to hit the easy button and make sure your reports aren’t skewed by the known search engine spiders.

Go into your ADMIN panel and click View Settings under the View you want to use. Scroll down almost to the bottom and you should see Bot Filtering. Click the box next to Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders and then click Save.

See, I told you this was going to be easy!

8. Data Protection


You’re almost there and this last one is a piece of cake.

The truth is, sooner or later somebody is going to screw up and things are going to go horribly wrong.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a vendor, somebody at your dealership or your cousin Bobo, sooner or later somebody is going to pick the wrong property, or the wrong view and they’re going to mess up your Goals, Filters, etc.

The only way to truly protect yourself is to have a backup copy of your raw Google Analytics data.

Fortunately, it’s really easy to do this.

Click on New Property in your ADMIN panel. Enter a Website Name like Raw Data Your Website and the URL of your website. Select Automotive as your Industry Category, select the right time zone and then click the blue Get Tracking ID.

You’re done!

You now have a perfect blank copy. If you really want to lock things down, don’t grant access to this property to anybody but yourself.

Some Google Analytics users like to take this a step further. They will create a Raw Data Property for each of their websites that only they have access to. Then they will create a Test Property for trying out changes before integrating them into their working Property.

You can also do pretty much the same thing by creating different Views.

Which ever way you choose, just make sure you have at least one Raw Data version you can use in the event disaster strikes!


A lot of people ask me why I give away so much for free. The answer is simple, I remember what it was like when I was first learning all of this and how frustrating it could be.

So, I want to payback and pay it forward.

Obviously as an Automotive Analytics service provider, I hope that at some point dealers will see the importance in managing their data, realize that they need help, and contact me.

That’s not a knock on dealers. The majority of all marketers struggle with data and technology management, data analysis, and telling the stories their data provides in such a way that owners and managers can both understand the value of what they do, and see the value in following their recommendations.

I also want to say for those of you who think Ecommerce Settings should be on this list, you’re right.

But the reality is that right now the Digital Retailing solutions being offered in the automotive space are so different and the complexity of properly setting up Google Analytics Ecommerce so great that there is no way I can do it justice in a blog post.

If you are interested in Ecommerce for your dealership, and you should be, then please contact me and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please let me know.

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