Learn to Think Beyond the Clicks

Dec 9, 2015, by Dennis Syracuse

Blame it on Google. Its AdWords program is the primary reason marketers put so much emphasis on click-through rates; so much so we believe that anything over 0.06 percent translates to great success. But what if your CTR is less than 0.06 percent? Have you failed? You have if CTR is the only metric you’re using.

And for B2B marketers running display campaigns, it most certainly shouldn’t be.

As early as 2012, a ComScore report revealed that CTR has “nearly zero” correlation with conversion. Prior to that, they reported that 16 percent of internet users were responsible for 80 percent of clicks. So why haven’t we moved on? Why do we put so much emphasis on CTR, and where should we be focusing instead?

Why the Clicks?

“We live in an internet age,” says Trevor Noah, the new host of Comedy Central’s “Daily Show.” “Everyone wants clicks. Clicks are what sells.” But like anything, they’re only selling clicks because that’s what we’re buying.

When it comes to online advertising, Google is the biggest dog in the room. According to eMarketer, it’s gobbling up 55 percent of all search ad dollars. What’s more, in 2014, Google captured a whopping 31.3 percent of all ad dollars. So when this big dog barks, people listen. It’s my contention that because Google’s adverting sales is predicated on CTR, metric has colored our perception of what to look for when it comes to all of our campaigns — even display.

I’m not going to assert that CTR is all smoke and search engines. Clicks can tell you broadly if your ad is performing well. They can:

  • Help you evaluate ad creative, copy, calls-to-action
  • Help you understand the relative success between different campaigns
  • Provide you with prospects who have the potential to convert

Certainly these are all good things. But what about CTR’s problems? Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Prone to fraud: malicious or bot-created clicks
  • Clickers may be of low or completely irrelevant quality
  • Clicks do not equal conversions
  • Clicks alone make for poor ROI

Clearly, CTR is one of many metrics that can help determine a campaign’s success. But as we said above, its liabilities should prevent it from being the only metric — and for that matter, it probably should not even be the most important metric either.

Better Than CTR

I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to assert that CTR is even less relevant when it comes to B2B. While a click is most definitely not a conversion, it’s far more likely to be such when we’re talking about a pair of shoes than when we’re talking about a server array or a CRM implementation. For B2B, click-through will demonstrate engagement with an ad but, statistically, most engagement ends there.

This is even more problematic when a display campaign runs on a single publisher’s site. Ads are seen, ignored, and soon forgotten. Even if the user had an interest in the advertiser’s goods, you may easily miss their potential click. The right publication will give you relevance, it just won’t give you reach or scale.

Tactics like account-based marketing (ABM) display campaigns take relevance to the next level, allowing you to target the accounts most appropriate for your product. With third-party B2B data becoming more readily available for marketing use, marketers can not only find new accounts that weren’t previously on the radar, but also the key decision makers at those accounts. In other words, these prospects can be served ads on a host of media outlets when they’re in-market for specific products or services.

This would lead one to believe that CTRs would jump through the roof for ABM campaigns. It’s true that you’re likely to see an above average CTR if you’re targeting prospects with intent, but again, let’s consider how Google — that big barking dog — may have influenced how users interact with ads. It is again my contention that Google, with its ever-present advertising, has made users reluctant to click through ads altogether.

A Holistic View

As such, it’s important for marketers to consider their campaigns holistically. A ComScore study entitled “When money moves to digital, where should it go?” found that brands running retargeting campaigns saw a marked increase in branded search driving traffic to the sites. Users were opting to type the brands keywords into a search engine rather than clicking through.

Adding to this, Marketing Land reports that 54 percent of B2B marketers measure success by the insights they gain into customer behavior, while only 16 percent value CTR. So maybe we’re coming around. Take that, Google.

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