It took a mini-debate with a potential client to bring me to a conclusion: numbers do lie. Conventional wisdom says otherwise, but in the digital age there is a huge gap between seeing the numbers and understanding them in a meaningful way.
I should go ahead and add an addendum to the premise before I begin. Numbers aren't really lying, but they can definitely be misleading if not discerned properly. The numbers I'm discussing specifically are mobile numbers. A brief look at Google analytics reveals that some of the old school key indicators like time on site and average pages per visit would put mobile traffic in a poor light. Then, cross-referencing these numbers to lead numbers would support the premise that mobile website visitors spend less time, visit fewer pages, and are less likely to fill out a lead form.
All of this is true. All of it is also false.
In the recent past, mobile internet speeds combined with slow dealer websites created an environment where most visitors on smartphones did exhibit these traits. Today, more people are using their smartphones to do the bulk of their surfing. Internet speeds are faster. Dealer websites are faster. The only other component now that would keep leads low would be the good ol' "fat finger syndrome" that shows people are less likely to fill out a lead form on a smartphone.
The truth is this: car shoppers definitely do use their smartphones to visit dealer websites in a meaningful way. You can see this anecdotally while watching customers just before they leave the dealership if they didn't buy a car. Sure, they'll make excuses that they have to pick up their kids or think about it or go to lunch or whatever, but many of them are finding the next dealership they're going to visit through their smartphone right before leaving.
Let's look at that person as an example. They went to a dealership and didn't make a deal. They do a search for another dealership and land on your website. They grab your address, plug it into their navigation, and head over. From there, they bought a car. Now, this person, based upon Google Analytics and lead form data, was "bad" traffic. They spent 10 seconds on the site. They didn't visit any other pages but the homepage. They didn't fill out a lead form or call the dealership. Three hours later, they're driving off the lot with a brand new car from your dealership.
Mobile usage on smartphones is different, but that doesn't make it less valuable than desktop traffic. In some cases, it's better traffic. We experienced this second hand last month when a client did nothing different but use dark posts on social media to drive traffic to a landing page on their website. Leads didn't go up much. Time on site went down while bounce rates went up. However, their $2000 investment yielded a 17% increase in sales month-over-month and a 29% increase year-over-year. They couldn't see any real difference in the numbers other than an increase in mobile traffic, particularly through Polk-driven dark posts.
There are different ways to measure the value of different traffic types, but our personal favorite is sales. If sales are going up considerably, and mobile traffic is the only thing that's new, then it is likely the culprit.