Clicks Are Dead

This is not news. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. Clicks have been dead for quite some time. Many of the clicks are fraudulent, and studies have shown that clicks are not a reliable source of performance. And yet, some advertisers persist in looking at CTR for digital advertising campaigns as a key performance metric. The realm of performance indicators has moved forward, and we can now track several other types of metrics to measure advertising success. Before we look forward, let’s look back for a minute. Where did the intense focus on clicks come from? There are two main reasons clicks were a proxy for display advertising success. First, clicks were and still are the prominent metric for search ads, and this was carried over to display and all other digital channels. We now also have other ways of measuring the effectiveness of search ads, like phone calls, in-store visits and purchases among other KPIs, but given that we purchase search ads on a cost-per-click basis, clicks will always be important to search. Secondly, while there are several differences between web analytics and ad servers, both initially focused on clicks as the main form of website or advertising engagement. These days, web analytics programs also use time on site and visual heat maps in addition to clicks to measure website engagement and are meant to track website activities. Ad servers now focus more on activities, particularly post-impression activities. Website activities track from ad servers and can be used as KPIs on their own, but they also can be tied to purchases and in-store visits to calculate your true advertising campaign ROI. You can use this information to create a buy-through rate or visit rate and compare the number of total exposed customers to exposed customers who visited a store or purchased a product. It’s now possible to know the real impact your advertising has on your bottom line. Regardless of the metrics you use to track success on your campaigns, you should always focus on using data from your ad server to measure your advertising campaigns, whether you serve your ads directly from a DSP, like AppNexus or The Trade Desk, or use an ad server like Google Campaign Manager (formerly DoubleClick Campaign Manager) or AdRoll. You should combine this data with website activity data from your web analytics programs to get a full picture of your customers’ engagement with your brand.