The online advertising industry notoriously relies on “the click” to determine display advertising effectiveness. Unfortunately, recent research shows that not only are click-through rates on the decline, but they are certainly not the best — or only — measure for online marketing campaigns. Research has proven the devaluation of the click, indicating that just 8% of people are responsible for 85% of all display advertising clicks.
Add to that the recent spotlight on click fraud and invisible ads and the problem is greatly amplified. Today, click fraud has impacted many brands and publishers, including The New York Times and even Microsoft. Companies invest significant marketing dollars in online advertising and click fraud can cost brands not just ad dollars, but also credibility. In October, ClickForensics reported the overall industry average click fraud rate for Q3 2009 was 14.1%, up from 12.7% for Q2 2009.
Also concerning is the fact that because campaigns are often set up to auto-optimize to the highest click-through rate, campaigns may inadvertently multiply the fraud. As advertisers, publishers and ad networks are getting smarter, so are the attackers. A recently uncovered click fraud ring run out of China involved 200,000 IP addresses and racked up more than $3 million worth of fraudulent clicks in just two weeks time.
So, what does this mean for marketers? Ultimately it means it’s time to figure out what comes next. How do we quantify and qualify the success of online advertising campaigns? Can advertisers take classic metrics like reach and exposure to the next level without the click? Is it going to be all about the impact of creative, or will placement ultimately reign in determining the next step in measurement?
Until the industry settles on this shiny new toy — a universally accepted metric of success — it’s time to get back to principles from Marketing 101. We need to develop metrics that are specific to campaign objectives. Measures that prove the value and effectiveness of online campaigns. To do this, we must focus on the quality of a click versus just a click itself.
While there is no single, universally accepted answer (today), fortunately marketers can employ a range of metrics beyond the click to gauge value and effectiveness. Here are just a few that we’ve seen become more prevalent in 2009:
- Evaluate site traffic including time spent and pages consumed to ensure that it’s qualified — that the right people are doing the right things.
- Gauge post-click actions such as sales, registrations, subscriptions, and memberships.
- Analyze campaign data such as interaction rates and times, engagement, brand lift, online sales, and offline sales lift. Increasingly sophisticated reporting options can provide deep insights into what meaningful behavior campaigns are delivering.
Ultimately, these metrics are merely an indicator of whether or not users are taking the desired action for each campaign.
Historically, marketers have looked to ad networks to deliver targeted reach and scale with great efficiency. As networks offer more advanced research and analytics capabilities, marketers are now leveraging networks to go beyond the click — applying metrics that were once reserved exclusively for publishers and portals.
It’s encouraging to see this shift as the benefits from a network — combined with the right measurement metrics — can prove to be one of best ways to quantify and qualify the success of online advertising campaigns.
Ultimately, one size does not fit all. Finding new ways to measure success requires a deep understanding of what drives a business and what marketers really need to know about their customers — and their clickers.