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Saying goodbye to CTR to supercharge your digital marketing campaigns



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CTR is not a metric to be trusted when evaluating a campaign, even in the absence of an end goal conversion, there are more important indicators to measure, writes iCrossing UK's Lottie Namakando

What does CTR measure?

CTR is the number of clicks on an ad divided by the total number of impressions, it shows the number of people who saw the ad and what proportion of those people then clicked on it. Where the misunderstanding of the metric comes in is the assumption that a higher CTR is better. In my opinion, this metric shows different things depending on the media - be that pay-per-click (PPC) display or social.

It is assumed that a higher CTR suggests that when a number of impressions are delivered, a good proportion, or an increasing proportion of those people, have then considered the ad relevant to them and therefore clicked on it. This is a good thing, right? Wrong! It is worth remembering that on a cost-per-click model, every click is paid for by the advertiser, whether that person is of a relevant audience or not. We also must consider if that person went onto to do anything meaningful on the site or just bounced off.

When is a decreasing CTR not a bad thing?

The move in PPC to overlay audiences onto keywords has really impacted the informative nature of CTR as a metric. Targeting very broad or short tail keywords makes understanding intent very difficult. Overlaying audiences can provide us with additional insight behind the search intent and the background factors which also contribute to a consumer’s decision path. For example, in an instance where ad copy has been tailored to a specific audience, and there is a drop in CTR coupled with an increase in conversion rates – this indicates that the tailoring of the ads has put off irrelevant clicks. With more efficient ads we are spending less on clicks which don’t lead to conversions; allowing budgets to be focused on more relevant, conversion driving clicks.  

What should we be looking at instead?

Traffic to site is a KPI I will never understand; it is a blanket approach without direction or strategy and assumes that if you throw enough clicks at a page some will stick. Even in instances where there are no hard conversion metrics, such as a sale or lead forms, we must still be including softer conversion metrics such as time on site, search navigation on site and page visits, through to downloads and link clicks.

Ultimately, nobody wants someone just to go through to a website, advertisers want a consumer to do something on their website. Brand owners need to work out what that action is and use that to measure the success of a campaign’s performance.

Then, for display formats, the quality of the impressions far outweighs the clicks - especially when considering that Google have reported that up to 50% of clicks on mobile devices are accidental in past studies, so your high CTR could be because of poor placement rather than the awesomeness of your ad or brand. Understanding the quality of your placement is a far more important metric to be evaluating performance by than CTR.

By focusing on audiences first, every brand can find a more efficient and genuine way to measure success than CTR. By looking at CTR only, brand owners are not getting a true reflection of how their campaigns are performing and possibly wasting budget on speaking to consumers who are not their target audience. The focus of brands needs to be allocating budget to more relevant, conversion driving clicks.

By Lottie Namakando, Head of Paid Media

iCrossing UK

iCrossing is a digital marketing agency that works with businesses to create a real step-change. Setting it apart, iCrossing is owned by Hearst, the world’s largest independent media, entertainment and content company. Being part of the Hearst family gives iCrossing access to Hearst audiences, data, consumer research and category experts which allows iCrossing to better spot new insights, trends and inform direction for its clients.

iCrossing delivers Change. Made Simple.

Posted on: Friday 11 February 2022