SherpaBlog: Don’t Use Clicks to Measure Display Ad Success

February 18th, 2008

Display advertisers gave a shrug of the shoulders at last week’s news that ad clicks weren’t a great measure of success, as illustrated by a study conducted by comScore, Tacoda and Starcom. The study examined the population of people who clicked on Web ads in July 2007 (only about 32% of the total Internet population) and teased out a group they justifiably call ‘Heavy Clickers.’

These Heavy Clickers make up a mere 6% of the online audience but account for 50% of all clicks on ads. Demographically, heavy clickers skew strongly toward the 25-to-44 age range and have a lower income profile than the average. But that doesn’t stop them from spending more online than most. This is probably related to their extraordinary consumption of the Web — they’re online five times more and they view eight times as many pages as the people who didn’t click on an ad.

When their website preferences are mixed with their consumption patterns, heavy clickers appear to treat their whole online experience as a leisure activity, happily wandering around, clicking on shiny things, playing games, gambling and generally acting unemployed. In fact, they’re about 35% more likely to go to an employment site, so that may well be the case for some.

Taking a view that this leisure pattern was connected to their click behavior, the study designers looked for a place where a different demographic would be in a leisurely mindset to see whether their click behavior would start to look more like the heavy clickers.

To do this, they looked at social networking sites — where visitors spend a great deal of time poking around acting leisurely — and found some correlation between clicking and the leisurely mindset. These heavy clickers skewed younger than the rest of their cohorts, but their household income was consistent, so one wonders if this was simply a view into the early development stage of a heavy clicker.

The last of their released findings focused on how brand metrics are affected by click rate. In other words, would a site’s aided brand awareness correlate with the clickthrough rates of their ads?

So, what does all this mean for marketers?
– First off, clickers follow the 80/20 rule.
– It helps prove that search traffic is largely driven by advertising.
– In a study from the, we see a correlation between clicks and weekends and conversions on weekdays, so that supports the leisurely mindset connection to clicks.
– Were rich media ads removed from the study?
– Where do these clicks happen?
– Clicks have little to do with branding.
– If you’re not capping frequency, you’re going to get a skew.

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