Case Study: Rebranding a Legend


Kelley Blue Book, a well-regarded company with an 80-year legacy, found itself struggling to maintain its competitive edge in the modern, online automotive space. Despite having the strongest name recognition in the industry, which positioned them as the #1 automotive destination online, they lacked the internal expertise to effectively manage and enhance their digital presence. During my tenure at Autobytel, I had successfully secured the top three organic listings for the phrase “Kelley Blue Book,” and now I was being asked to help Kelley Blue Book reclaim and strengthen their online brand.

Upon joining the company, I quickly realized that the challenges were more extensive than anticipated. The website was operating on an outdated CGI application that was no longer supported, making updates and maintenance difficult and time-consuming. Additionally, the site architecture relied on a problematic combination of cookies, sessions, and expiring URLs, which rendered deep-linking impossible and hindered user experience and search engine optimization (SEO).


To address these issues, I led a cross-functional team comprising product managers, business analysts, UI/UX designers, and programmers to completely overhaul and modernize the website. We selected ASP.NET as the new platform for its robustness and scalability, and we meticulously redesigned every aspect of the site to ensure a seamless and efficient user experience. Key functionalities such as tracking, linking, and content sharing were embedded directly into the site’s framework, allowing for maximum adaptability and future-proofing.

Simultaneously, I focused on building out dedicated search engine marketing (SEM) and SEO teams. I recruited skilled professionals and developed a comprehensive suite of tools and reports that enabled us to effectively select, track, bid, and report on an expanding array of keywords. On the SEO front, we implemented a rigorous content calendar to synchronize and schedule activities such as test drives, video reviews, press releases, and new car launch promotions. This strategic planning ensured that our content had the maximum impact and value.


Within a year, our concerted efforts culminated in the relaunch of the KBB.com website, transforming its performance and visibility. The number of pages listed in search engine results pages (SERPs) skyrocketed from approximately 100 to millions, reinstating Kelley Blue Book’s top listings for branded terms. This significant improvement resulted in a doubling of organic traffic, even in a declining automotive market. For a site already recognized as the #1 automotive destination on the web, achieving such growth was a remarkable feat.

In the realm of paid search, our strategic enhancements led to a dramatic increase in monthly PPC spend, which rose from under $100,000 to nearly $1 million. More importantly, we were able to turn the ROI from a negative to over 50%, generating an impressive $4 million in gross annual profit. This transformation not only solidified Kelley Blue Book’s leadership in the online automotive space but also demonstrated the power of strategic digital marketing and site optimization.

Through meticulous planning, execution, and a focus on data-driven strategies, we successfully revitalized Kelley Blue Book’s online presence, ensuring its continued dominance and relevance in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

About Kelley Blue Book

Since 1926, Kelley Blue Book has been the leading provider of car and pricing info, helping to align buyer and seller expectations and remove friction from the transaction process. In 2017, Kelley Blue Book expanded internationally, launching in Portugal and Brazil.

In December 2010, Kelley Blue Book was purchased by AutoTrader.com.


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