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What are meaningful advertising metrics?

The world is obsessed with metrics and tracking performance online. Time and time again, we as marketers and the greater digital world, refer back to Clicks and Click-through-rates as performance metrics but why?

What does a click through mean?

There are several metrics that are focused on from an advertising stance. Items like Impressions/Views, clicks and conversions.

An impression is easily the most overlooked item in a digital advertisers arsenal. It relates to the number of times it is seen, or not (most impressions just need to be loaded – viewability doesn’t always come into account). An impression or a view though equates to branding and awareness. Both are needed to build an identity around your business or around a certain market. There is value in a brand (Forbes even has a list for it!).

Let’s skip one and jump now to conversions. Conversion optimization is also wildly valuable. It lets you know exactly how much it costs in advertising to reach a conversion that is beneficial to your company. There are a few downsides to conversion optimization. The first is that a conversion does not always have to be monetary in value but to determine ROI, it likely has to defined in costs and profits. Also, it has to be trackable and for automated optimization to really work the conversions have to be tracked in real-time. Sorry, but manually uploading conversions at a later date does not always suffice for optimization. Sure it’s great for tracking but not for making your campaigns better in real-time. So these conversions need to be tied to a digital platform and set up appropriately. This requires time and effort, and often times other teams, so it goes overlooked.

Generally speaking, the industry uses a click as a base metric for action and engagement and this is easily the most used metric in the industry – but is it really useful?

What does a click represent?

False: A click represents a person visiting your website.

  • This is not true and is commonly mistaken. A session is a person visiting your website. A click is a person clicking on the ad but does not guarantee that they’ve loaded your website.

False: A click shows someone is interested in your company’s message.

  • Coming directly from a person with CFTS (chronic fat-thumb syndrome), I can tell you a lot of my clicks are out of an attempt to exit a full-screen ad or to touch another area of the screen – not to click through on the ad. This results in me getting automatically placed in the “interest” field and receiving more clicks based on CTR optimization (frustrating!).

There are plenty of other reasons that a click does not represent an engagement and a lot of these come from the additional metrics on your site.

A click with 100% bounce rate is likely not engaged.

A click with 2 seconds time on site is likely not engaged (that is unless all you had to tell them was done in 8.32 words, as that’s all the average reader can actually get to in that time).

So what should you be optimizing for instead?

For those that are looking to further promote their brand, optimize towards things like Reach and Frequency, where impressions are the primary gauge. There is real value in visibility.

For those looking for bottom-of-the-funnel metrics, optimize for conversions.

And, for those that are looking for engagements look passed clicks (literally) to secondary action engagements. Consider it a minor-conversion but set your website to track micro-events that matter and discount the clicks that don’t matter to your business or to defining engagement. Achieving a 60-seconds time on site. Getting two to three pageviews per click, if that matters.

Warning: Clicks may be the most commonly used digital benchmark and CTR may be the most common optimization metric, but these can be more detrimental to your business goals that beneficial. If a person mistakenly clicks on your ad, they will likely be frustrated and CTR optimization will begin optimizing to that person and people similar to them. Clicks and CTR go way up, as will your website bounce rate but will drive down your time on site and conversions.

Set Up Micro Conversions

Micro-conversions can easily be set up in analytics, on different tracking pixels or written into Tag Manager. Once imported into a campaign, they are easily achievable, eliminate the focus on low-value clicks and support healthy on-site metrics.

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