Case Study: Conversion Optimization


In 2007, Kelley Blue Book entered into a strategic partnership with Autotrader, committing to channel up to 100,000 customers into Autotrader’s used car listing product. This partnership aimed to leverage Kelley Blue Book’s extensive reach and Autotrader’s robust platform to create a mutually beneficial ecosystem for used car buyers and sellers. However, when the contract was due for renewal in 2008, Autotrader expressed their willingness to significantly increase their lead acquisition, proposing to pay for up to 1 million leads. This proposition came with the stipulation that Kelley Blue Book would also enhance the quality of these leads, as measured by the closing rate.

The challenge was multifaceted: not only did we need to scale our lead generation efforts tenfold, but we also had to ensure that the quality of leads was improved to meet Autotrader’s heightened expectations. This required a deep understanding of user behavior, meticulous planning, and innovative strategies to optimize the entire lead generation and conversion process.


To address this challenge, my team embarked on a comprehensive project to analyze and optimize our traffic and lead generation mechanisms. The first step involved conducting an in-depth analysis of site traffic patterns using Omniture (currently known as Adobe SiteCatalyst). Our objective was to identify critical points within our website where there was a substantial volume of relevant traffic that could be effectively redirected to Autotrader. We examined user engagement metrics, conversion paths, and exit points to uncover the most promising areas for intervention.

Based on our analysis, we developed multiple calls to action (CTAs) tailored to different user segments and site locations. Each CTA was meticulously designed to resonate with the specific audience segment it targeted, ensuring higher engagement and conversion potential. To track the performance of these CTAs, we incorporated unique tracking codes for each combination of location and CTA. This allowed us to precisely measure the impact of each variant and gain insights into user preferences and behaviors.

We then utilized Offermatica (now Adobe Target) to conduct rigorous A/B testing and multivariate testing. This enabled us to compare the performance of different CTAs and landing pages, and to identify the most effective combinations. The data collected from these tests was integrated with conversion information provided by Autotrader, allowing us to correlate our internal metrics with actual sales outcomes.

Additionally, we implemented a series of optimization techniques to enhance lead quality. This included refining our targeting criteria, enhancing user experience on our site, and ensuring that the leads generated were highly relevant and more likely to convert. We also established feedback loops with Autotrader to continuously monitor performance and make data-driven adjustments to our strategies.


Within two months, our concerted efforts began to yield impressive results. The data indicated that we were on track to deliver an astounding 2 million customers to Autotrader, far exceeding the initial target of 1 million leads. This success prompted us to renegotiate our contract with Autotrader, ultimately agreeing to a revised target of 1.5 million leads. Importantly, we were able to commit to delivering these leads at an even higher quality rate, meeting Autotrader’s stringent standards.

To sustain and optimize this performance, we took several additional steps. We removed the lowest-performing links and CTAs from our site, focusing our efforts on the highest-converting elements. We also implemented daily and monthly caps on lead generation to ensure that we consistently met our targets without overwhelming our resources or diluting lead quality. These measures allowed us to maintain a steady flow of high-quality leads and to deliver on our commitments to Autotrader.

Our strategic approach not only met but exceeded expectations, solidifying a successful and enduring partnership with Autotrader. This project demonstrated our ability to scale operations, improve lead quality, and drive significant business outcomes through data-driven strategies and innovative solutions.

About Autotrader, Inc. is an online marketplace founded in 1997, which functions as an online marketplace for car purchasers and sellers. It aggregates new, used, and certified second-hand cars from dealers and private sellers. The site also provides users with automotive reviews, shopping advice, and comparison tools for car financing and insurance information.

The firm is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and has been featured in The New York Times, Businessweek, and ABC News. Since 2018, the company has also been operating in Australia. is owned by the Cox Automotive subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. The company is led by Sanford Schwartz.


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