Customers are more likely to survive a plane crash, complete Navy SEAL training, or summit Mount Everest than they are to click on a banner ad. Statistically, 85% of people won’t click on an ad, and about half of the clicks that do happen are “fat finger” accidental clicks. On top of that, 56% of digital ads are never seen by a human. It’s easy, therefore, to conclude that web ads are ineffective—but the truth is that you may have been measuring the wrong thing all along.
The Web Advertising Environment
Web advertising takes a variety of forms. The basic form is the banner ad, which comes in a suite of typical sizes and can be found on every website, where businesses use them as a way to monetize their web traffic. These are the most easily identifiable as ads. Other types of digital advertising include native ads, paid content designed to look like the media in which it’s inserted; ads built to be shared on social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram; retargeting ads, which use data about users’ web behavior to serve them repeated ads that follow them across websites; and search ads, which appear in the results of Google and other search engine queries. An oft-repeated statistic in the marketing industry claims that the average internet user is served more than 1,700 banner ads per month—but that number is from 2007. The ubiquity of mobile devices means that the rate is almost certainly much higher now.
Clients are accustomed to judging the success of web campaigns by the click-through rate (CTR), the number of clicks divided by the total number of impressions. But depending on the type of campaign and its goals, CTR doesn’t tell the whole story. What you measure should vary depending on what your goals are. Here’s how you can plan for and evaluate a successful web campaign.
Setting Expectations and Goals
Before you decide what type of web ads you want to make and how you should measure their effectiveness, you need to set clear, measurable targets. Those goals will then dictate what key performance indicators—KPIs—you should document. KPIs are, more than anything, a form of communication. They allow all stakeholders to check their efforts against an agreed-upon metric of success that builds toward a desired outcome.
Examples of common KPIs could be conversion rates, bounce rates, or unique visits.
When CTR Matters
There’s one scenario in which the CTR is very important: when there’s a call to action on a banner ad. In that case, the goal is to inspire someone to take action (click). If you’re confident about targeting the right audience through your ad buy but you’re seeing a low CTR, then it’s time to tweak the creative in order to inspire more clicks.
CTR directly influences an ad’s quality score or relevance score on Facebook and Google AdWords. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find out what customers are searching for, and use those terms in your advertising—but be sure to back them up with relevant content on your site.
If your goal is simply increasing brand awareness, impressions and reach should be part of your equation.
Impressions are the number of times your ad is displayed. It’s a good starting point for understanding the big picture, but it doesn’t tell you a lot all by itself because it doesn’t mean anyone actually saw the ad, only that it appeared on a web page or app.
Reach is the number of unique individuals who were served your ad. Because ads are generally shown to the same people multiple times, the reach will always be a lower number than the impressions.
On social media, your reach increases exponentially with each share. That’s why “going viral” is such a dream-come-true for marketers.
The problem with using reach and impressions as your main KPIs is that there’s no way to directly track the impact your web ads have on conversion. So while you should keep track of reach and impressions, consider one of the following KPIs as a more educational metric:
A conversion is basically whatever goal you’re leading a customer to the website to complete. It can mean a sale, or filling out a lead form, or signing up for a newsletter. This is the most direct KPI, and it happens near the end of the customer engagement process—as opposed to the click-through, which happens at the very start of the engagement process.
Native advertising and retargeting ads help to focus the audience for web ads and make them more targeted. Users who receive retargeted ads are 70% more likely to convert. Viewers engage native ads 53% more than banner ads.
“Bounce rate” is kind of like the opposite of a conversion. Your goal should be a high conversion rate and a low bounce rate. A bounce is a single-page session on your website, meaning someone clicked on your ad but left your website without looking at any other pages. Typically, this means that your ad is promising something that the website doesn’t deliver. You can test your ad to determine where the problem is by changing one element at a time—the ad copy, targeted key words, offer or landing page—and then watching what your bounce rate does. Google explains “bounce rate” as “single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.”
Engagement is whenever your audience interacts with your brand. On social media it can mean likes, retweets, mentions, favorites, shares, clicks and comments. Brands that incorporate quizzes, games, calculators, assessment tools or contests have the most success increasing engagement rates.
Creating a successful web ad campaign takes time on the front end: establishing your goals, choosing the KPIs that will get you to those goals, and then crafting web advertising that gets you those KPIs—but time put into planning is never wasted. With our track record of winning web strategy, consider letting St. Gregory take the reins on your next campaign.