The ability to measure digital media is often touted as one of its greatest advantages over traditional outlets. But in a space crowded with measurement capabilities, honing in on the right metric for specific goals can be challenging.
Does number or length of views matter more? What about expansion rate versus completion rate?
The clickthrough rate (CTR) is often the de facto metric for display campaigns. It’s easy to track and has been around for years. Still, there’s mounting evidence that CTR is not correlated or, worse yet, has an inverse relationship with common campaign goals.
There’s a better way for campaigns to measure persuasion. From experience, we believe the best measurement tool is an ad effectiveness study (permitting the campaign meets methodologically sound research standards). Since 2010, my company has measured the success of digital media campaigns in shifting opinion or awareness on nearly 100 specific questions. During those studies, we simultaneously tracked CTR. Our data reveals a correlation coefficient of just .0065 between CTR and shifting opinions. In other words, there’s no correlation between clicks and shifting opinion or increasing awareness.
Independent research confirms clicks are a bad predictor of offline sales. There’s a certain type of person who is predisposed to click, and the profile of clickers is significantly different than the profile of actual converters (people who take the desired action).
So what should you track to get meaningful, useful data? That depends. If the goal is to raise awareness or persuade people, run an ad effectiveness study (so long as your campaign meets threshold minimums for impression volume and audience target size) and resist the temptation to chase clicks.
If you’re campaign doesn’t meet those thresholds, leverage advanced analytics tools to understand more about the types of people you’re engaging, and what they’re doing once on site. Admittedly, understanding who’s engaging and what they’re doing on site isn’t a perfect substitute for measuring persuasion, but neither is the typical assumption that clicks equal sentiment.
If your goal is to drive measurable action on a site, optimize to the people and strategies (buying tactics, cookie pools, time of day, day of week, etc.) that are yielding the lowest cost-per-action.
If your goal is to drive traffic to a site or content, track CTR and optimize to it. If possible, augment your measurement with tools like Moat or rich media units that move beyond clicks to track attention through hover rates, expansion rates or time on site post-click. These metrics provide a more holistic understanding of the attention your media is driving.
Some campaigns will be left with no option other than to track CTR. In those cases, there’s still something to be cleaned from the metrics. Just remember that CTR is the rate at which people who see your media interact with it to view additional content. It’s not a proxy for persuasion or awareness.
Certainly, viewability measurement is way up, but understand the limitations and remember that measuring whether someone saw your media or not isn’t the same as measuring whether it was effective.
Above all else, remember that while you can track several metrics, you can serve only one master. Identify your true goal then identify the best available measurement tool to gauge success against that objective.
Finally, measure, report, and optimize accordingly. By doing so, you’ll go a long way toward separating the signal from the noise and run smarter, more efficient campaigns.
Jesse Contario is a senior manager at Resonate, an analytics and media company.