Who Is Clicking?

On a daily basis, clients tell me they judge the success of their display campaigns by the number of clicks. But when was the last time you clicked on an ad? Looking at Quantcast Platform campaigns from January 1 to September 30, 2021, only 0.04% of ads are actually clicked and only 1.7% of all conversions have a click in their journey to conversion.

Source: Quantcast Platform, US. January 1 - September 30, 2021

Where Clicks Work

While the majority of the time a click is not driving a conversion, it’s not fair to say clicks can never be used as a campaign metric. So when are clicks a good metric to use as a  campaign performance indicator?

Clicks for “instant gratification”

Clicks were developed as a measurement for search. The reason they worked so well is because a searcher is actively looking for their next browsing destination. On display, there are some cases where this same need for instant gratification comes into play. 

Optimal display campaigns for clicks:

  • Have a call to action to “learn more” or “sign up”
  • Have a call to action that implies it is a limited time offer (“must act now”)
  • Not typically tied to a revenue goal
  • Contain an emotional appeal to the viewer

Healthcare site engagement and sign-ups

An example of an industry that sees good results from instant gratification metrics is the healthcare industry, because they are often driving actions—such as a site visit or form completion—rather than revenue. Looking at data from January 1- September 30, 2021, the healthcare industry drove the highest click-through rate (CTR) (0.10%) with 2.3% of all healthcare conversions containing a click. 

Source: Quantcast Platform Data, US, January 2021-September 30, 2021

One of the most successful healthcare campaigns was one driving COVID-19 testing at the beginning of 2021. The campaign was measured on cost per acquisition (CPA) for test sign-ups. This campaign had a strong CTR of 2% of the conversions resulting from a click, likely due to very high COVID rates at the beginning of 2021 when the campaign ran. At that time, the vaccine was not in widespread distribution and more people needed to be tested to control the spread of the virus. This was a very unique situation where there was a clear call to action to click to schedule a test.

Another healthcare campaign that saw strong CTR and clicks in the conversion path was one promoting awareness of a common medical condition in children. The creative was highly emotional in nature and featured a clear call to action to sign up for a competition or retreat.  

Education leads sign-ups

When we look strictly at click conversions, education ranks number one, with 9.7% of a prospect’s journey to conversion starting with a click. The first reason why this is successful is that education campaigns are almost entirely dependent on driving an action or site visit (looking at Quantcast’s June data, 93% of education campaigns were booked with a CTR or CPA goal). The second factor is timing: we were looking at the month of June during graduation season when students are trying to figure out their next move. The strongest performing creatives for online education promoted instant gratification in the form of clicking to learn more about careers in pandemic-related fields, such as Behavior Health Counseling, Medical Research, and Nursing.

Source: Quantcast Platform Data, US, January 2021-September 30, 2021

Where Clicks Don’t Work

Despite click goals working for some campaigns, for the most part clickers are not your customers. If we look at the two most performance-driven, quantifiable goals of return on ad spend (ROAS) and cost per action (CPA), neither are strong in clicks or click conversions, coming in at less than 0.4% CTR and 2% click conversions.

Source: Quantcast Platform Data, US, January 2021-September 30, 2021; Terms: CPIAVC = Cost per impression, audible and visible at video completion; CPSV = Cost per site visit; ROAS = Return on ad spend; CPA = Cost per action

Looking at overlap between clickers and converters, we shockingly found that only 1.7% of clicks lead to conversion. This means that almost all of the clicks generated aren’t translating to further engagement or sales. Users are coming to your website either by accident or to browse, but they aren’t actually buying anything.

Source: Quantcast Platform Data, June 2021, based on delivery events filtering to flights with a CPA or ROAS goal

Clickers skew older—likely clicking by accident

Looking at demographics, we also find that clickers are typically older. In fact, 38% of clicks are from consumers over 45 years old and 20% of clickers are over 55. When we compare these clickers to those who convert, those 55+ are 19% more likely to click than convert and those 65+ are 56% more likely to click than convert. Qualitatively, this is validated in my family by my elderly mother who often goes to recipe sites and accidentally clicks on random things on the page while trying to view content she’s interested in.

Source: Quantcast Platform Data, US, January 2021-September 30, 2021

Women click to browse, while men click to convert

While women are 14% more likely to click on an ad, women are not converting. In fact, clicking is slightly more likely (1%) to be included in a male’s journey to conversion than a female’s journey. This could be attributed to women being interested in browsing, being open to a wide variety of offers, and taking more time to look at their options before purchasing. 

Looking back to the education vertical, males are more likely to click on an education ad driving site conversion. These conversions are most driven by the strong click conversions coming from males interested in online university programs. However, even among males, ROAS campaigns are less likely to drive click conversions.

Source: Quantcast Platform Data, US, January 2021-September 30, 2021; Terms: CPIAVC = Cost per impression, audible and visible at video completion; CPSV = Cost per site visit; ROAS = Return on ad spend; CPA = Cost per action

Clickers are not your converters

While CTR is easy to measure, it is most often not an impactful part of a conversion journey. Campaigns with the strongest clicks leading to conversions are among campaigns that use actions such as site visits.  Click-focused strategies should be reserved for campaigns that inspire immediate gratification and connect in an emotional way, where the audience is very specific and where timing is key.  

Learn more

If you missed the earlier installments in my series on being ruled by the click, read “You Can’t Measure Display with a Yardstick or Clicks” and “Phishing for Clicks.” 

You can also join me for my upcoming webinar, The Measurement Mindgame, with Rohini Sen on December 8 at 9 am PDT / 12 pm EDT, by registering here. We’ll have time to take your questions at the end, which might inspire the subject matter of future measurement blog posts.