Case Study: Marketing Analytics and Operations


As Autobytel expanded its business, it became increasingly evident that a much greater emphasis needed to be placed on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. The company required a comprehensive system to measure the performance of all its traffic sources and multiple revenue streams, including leads and advertising. Recognizing this critical need, I developed a detailed business case advocating for the creation of a new division within Autobytel, specifically dedicated to lead generation and revenue tracking.

Upon receiving approval, I assembled a highly skilled team comprising search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) analysts, along with a dedicated development team to integrate and execute our vision. This initiative aimed to transform Autobytel’s approach to PPC, ensuring robust tracking and optimization of all revenue-generating activities.


The first major challenge was to develop a flexible tracking code system that could handle the diverse requirements of paid search, email, banner, and affiliate marketing, without placing an undue burden on the database. We devised a modular tracking system capable of measuring performance at various levels of granularity. This system provided the flexibility needed to accurately track and analyze the effectiveness of our marketing efforts across different channels.

With the tracking system in place, the next step was to develop an efficient algorithm for managing keyword bidding. Given the vast number of keywords—over half a million—it was impractical for humans to manually manage the bidding process. We aimed to create an automated system governed by straightforward rules to optimize bidding. After several iterations and a few false starts, I had a breakthrough with a simple yet effective algorithm that we tested on our top 20 keywords. The results were astonishing, validating the potential of our approach.

The culmination of our efforts was the development and implementation of Black Condor, a comprehensive system designed to track every source of revenue on our website from all traffic sources, including paid, organic, affiliate, partner, and advertising channels. Black Condor provided in-depth reporting on revenue, broken down with unprecedented granularity. It enabled us to answer specific questions such as, “How many used cars did we sell from our traffic partner ESPN?” and “How much ad revenue was driven from our recent Ford Mustang review?”

Beyond tracking and reporting, Black Condor became a strategic tool that guided our business growth. It informed us about the type of content we should release to generate specific revenue streams and even customized landing pages on-the-fly to address revenue gaps in real-time. This adaptive capability turned Black Condor into an essential component of our operational strategy.

“Black Condor has been instrumental in furthering our mission of efficiently connecting millions of in-market car shoppers to auto dealers across America, making the car shopping experience easier for consumers and car retailers alike.”

– James Riesenbach – President and CEO, Autobytel


The implementation of Black Condor led to remarkable improvements in our PPC efforts and overall business performance. We successfully expanded the number of managed keywords from approximately 15,000 to over half a million. Each keyword was bid on daily on Google and hourly on Yahoo, significantly enhancing our bidding efficiency and effectiveness. This strategic approach resulted in a dramatic increase in return on investment (ROI), which soared from marginal levels to over 65%, culminating in a gross annual profit of more than $8 million.

In addition to optimizing our PPC campaigns, Black Condor was instrumental in refining our other partnerships, generating accurate upfront ad estimates, and evaluating the overall effectiveness of our content. The system’s comprehensive tracking and reporting capabilities provided deep insights into our revenue streams, enabling data-driven decision-making and strategic planning.

In summary, the creation and implementation of Black Condor transformed Autobytel’s approach to PPC and revenue tracking. The system’s ability to provide detailed insights and adaptive strategies played a crucial role in driving business growth and optimizing performance across all revenue-generating activities.

About Autobytel

AutoWeb, Inc. (NASDAQ: AUTO) – formerly Autobytel – provides high-quality consumer leads, clicks and associated marketing services to automotive dealers and manufacturers throughout the United States.

The company also provides consumers with robust and original online automotive content to help them make informed car-buying decisions.

The company pioneered the automotive Internet in 1995 and has since helped tens of millions of automotive consumers research vehicles, connected thousands of dealers nationwide with motivated car buyers, and has helped every major automaker market its brand online.


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