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Display ad purveyors have desperately been trying to climb out from under the thumb of click-through rates, and a new study from comScore shows that they better do so quickly. The number of people who have clicked on display ads has dropped 50% in the last year. Even worse, only 8% of people online accounted for 85% of the display ad clicks.

The study, dubbed "Natural Born Clickers," found that only 16% of the Internet is clicking on display ads. That's down from 32% last year.

But it's not all dire. Andrew Lipsman, director of marketing communications for Comscore, says:

"We've been beating this drum for years now on the over-reliance on the click as a measurement of ROI. If you're evaluating your ROI on clicks alone, you could really be throwing off your calculations."

Brand advertisers online have been trying for years to get away from a reliance on clicks to prove effectiveness in display. And these number do a lot to prove that click-throughs aren't working as a metric. 

Regardless of clicks, Comscore found that display advertising still helps brand lift online — more clicks on a brand's website, more searches on brand content. And combined with search advertising, consumers were twice as likely to make a purchase on a company's website.

According to ChoiceStream research, display ads can generate a 60% lift in click-through rates on search results. Cheryl Kelland, SVP of advertising for ChoiceStream, tells BizReport: "A consumer sees an ad or a recommendation and later on they conduct a search and then they go through to make a purchase. Display ads, in particular, have strong impact on search behaviors and also in going to a store to make a purchase."

And according to John Lowell, Starcom USA SVP and director of research and analytics: "A click means nothing, earns no revenue and creates no brand equity. Your online advertising has some goal -- and it's certainly not to generate clicks."

The Comscore study also found that as Internet users become more savvy, they click on links less. Dividing participants into heavy clickers, moderate clickers, light clickers and non-clickers, Comscore found that from 2007 to 2009, heavy clickers went from 6% of all Internet users to 4%; moderate from 10% to 4% and light clickers went from 16 to 8%. Non-clickers as a group grew from 68 to 84% percent of the entire Internet population.

Advertisers, publishers and sales team are slowly being won over to the idea that click-through rates are not a viable measurement for brand building online. But the question remains as to what will replace the click.

John Lowell, Starcom USA senior VP-director of research and analytics, tells AdAge:

"The problem is, what's the alterative? Clicks are easy to measure, so it's a good default. It does put the onus on 'What are we going to do instead?' like looking directly at sales. We look at clicks in a world of isolation. Consumers aren't only exposed to online ads. Digital has only been measured in the past on its own; increasingly you need to look at everything they are exposed to."

Meghan Keane

Published 1 October, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

721 more posts from this author

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Mirek Polyniak

if anybody treats CTR as the effectiveness of an online campaign this person is far behind the times

1) first of all - it's the conversion that matters
what's the point a very high CTR producing traffic that bounces off the landing page? just a waste of the budget

2) interesting research from the USA via eMarketer
iProspect 'Search Engine Marketing & Online Display Advertising Integration Study' Forrester Consulting 2009
shows that there are some more options but the click when seeing an online ad
- typing the name of the company/product in SE
- direct visit to the website
- 'social shopping' - checking the reputation of the advertised product in social media

almost 7 years ago

Nigel Cooper

Nigel Cooper, Director at Qube Media

Am not surprised that clicking on display ads is decreasing - and agree with some of Mirek's comments above. Am sure banner ads do raise some awareness and drive traffic through other means.


Am more interested in why digital budgets are still so heavily skewed in banner and display ads favour, though - and Social Media outreach is left begging for scraps of budget left over from other digital disciplines.

There is evidence out there for how effective Social Media is - especially against banner advertising. We ran a benchmarking campaign comparing the two approaches - the results were fascinating... 23 times lower spend per engagement in social media campaign. Social Media also won hands down on awareness generation...

There a white paper on our findings here is anyone is interested:

http://www.qubemedia.net/banner-ads-social-media.php

almost 7 years ago

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expansion valve

There is evidence out there for how effective Social Media is - especially against banner advertising.

almost 7 years ago

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Kaithy

As we know from several resources's study that as Internet users become more savvy, they click on links less. Dividing participants into heavy clickers, moderate clickers, light clickers and non-clickers, during 2007 to 2009, heavy clickers went from 6% of all Internet users to 4%; moderate from 10% to 4% and light clickers went from 16 to 8%. Non-clickers as a group grew from 68 to 84% percent of the entire Internet population.

almost 7 years ago

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Jack

In this regards no body do something it is totally faults of ads poster those are putting ads on blogs or website, if you are not linking well so it really continue the problems like it in future too.

over 6 years ago

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Astin

Yes, it can be banned if you are clicking from same IP so please avoid clicking from same IP, it will never banned.

over 6 years ago

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Ricky

over 6 years ago

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Dean

I get so worked up by people dismissing banner advertising. At their best, banners are the online equivalent of OOH ads - they raise awareness like 48-sheet posters. Just because you don't phone or text an advertiser when you see their poster doesn't mean the poster's not having an effect on you. Same with banners.

over 6 years ago

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Richard

What about quality vs quantity when it comes to the people you are in front of. some of our clients see click through rates from 4% to 6%. Clients that I work with report our program being their number one source of quality referrals and number one advertising tool. I believe that in the hype we forgot to qualify the audience we will be in front of. Shouldn't we ask ourselves who is using a particular site, what are they doing, what are they looking for? Match a site to our clients target audience, build an ad that moves the person to action, and make sure that when they click on the ad or Google the business that they see on an ad that they find relevant information within a couple of seconds. I am an internet user and I hate tracking tools, skype asks me how every few calls was and I am programmed to answer excellent every time regardless of the actual call because I do not want to move to the next question. We may never be able to accurately track internet users as they may call the business from the ad, print a map and drive there, open another window and Google what they see on the ad. however we can analyze the site to ensure it is a good match for the business.

about 6 years ago

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