Display metrics: What story does CTR really tell?

Display metrics: what story does CTR really tell?

The rationale for using click-through rate (CTR) as a marketing metric is largely surrounded by how simple it is to measure and understand, however that doesn't mean it's right to focus on it. I believe that as a sole performance metric, it's actually quite redundant - and that we need to take action by making use of the options open to us as digital marketers to overcome the disadvantages of using CTR as a core metric. Here are the key pitfalls of focusing on CTR:

  • CTR doesn't account for ad fraud or mistakes - this means that the click could come from a willing human, a bot, or could just be down to human error. Take mobile devices, for example, on which 'fat fingers' account for 50% of mobile clicks.
  • Driving towards clicks is not cost-effective. At a conference led by Facebook's UK Measurement Lead, results from a recent study they'd conducted were revealed which showed that 'clicky' users are 5.5 times more expensive than users that are more click-averse. The demand for media buyers wanting 'clicky' audiences is high, which is driving prices up and, therefore, actually making it an inefficient metric to buy against.
  • A recent Facebook study also uncovered that clicks aren't a good proxy for brand results, as there's actually no significant correlation (less than 1%) between CTR and brand uplift.
  • According to ComScore, only "8% of internet users account for 85% of clicks on display ads", meaning that approximately 90% of people are seeing and consuming the content but not clicking. So, while that large proportion aren't clicking, they may still be engaging in a different way (scrolling and considering, reading content, etc.) which could be just as valuable to measure for a brand.

What metrics do we look at to understand programmatic campaign performance?

In terms of other options, below is a quick summary of the sort of metrics that digital marketers should be looking at. While CTR still features as a direct engagement metric, it no longer takes the spotlight when digesting campaign performance.

  • Media metrics: reach, impressions, CPMs
  • Brand equity metrics: ad recall, awareness (measured through brand surveys)
  • Sales metrics: ROI, CPA
  • Direct engagement metrics: CTR, LPV (landing page visits), CPLV, (cost per landing page visit), dwell time, engagement rate. By focusing on actual site page visits after a page has loaded, you immediately take into account bounce rate, ad fraud and accidental clicks, which will give a much fairer view on performance.
  • Brand safety metrics: viewability, ad fraud, brand safety best practice

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