Study: Clicks Less Effective Than Views

Users who click on an online ad are probably less valuable than users who
converted after just seeing it — according to a new study from CMGI’s ad
network Engage.

In its newest Online Advertising Report, Andover, Mass.-based Engage
reports that conversions — that is, sales, registrations or requests for
information — occur more often from simply seeing an ad than clicking on

Of all advertising-influenced conversions, about 25 percent came through
clicks, while 36 percent came after seeing an ad. Furthermore, Engage said
that 39 percent of the ad-influenced conversions were actually made by users
who converted previously — whether by clicking or converting

Therefore, marketers who measure only the first post-click conversion
miss about 75 percent of their campaign’s performance, according to the
study. Indeed, click-throughs produced about 30 percent fewer conversions
than impressions.

Additionally, the report suggests that users driven to a marketer’s Web
site by seeing an ad dig deeper into its content, than do surfers who arrive
at the site by clicking an ad.

For instance, users who clicked on an ad make up just under half of the
advertising-influenced traffic to a marketer’s Web site. However, they’re
37 percent less likely to seal the deal, whether it’s an e-commerce
transaction or newsletter registration.

“Post-impressions” are also more likely to visit a marketer’s site more
than once. Engage said it found a 62.5 percent greater return rate for
users that received an impression and visited a site, than for surfers who
only clicked through.

Engage also found that there’s an immediate impact to an impression, even
if a user does not click. Thirty-eight percent of all post-impression
conversions occur within 30 minutes of the original impression, while 52
percent of conversions occur within 24 hours. Ninety-six percent of
conversions occur within a month.

According to the study’s authors — Maura Lewis, director of Engage’s
strategic and analytic services, and Rob Lawson, research and media
development director at Engage London — a rapid drop-off in conversion
after an impression suggests that “simply seeing an ad is a strong influence
on user conversion.”

“Users are taking a branding message from the creative, not acting
impulsively on it (clicking), but are finding their way to the advertiser’s
site and converting,” Lewis and Lawson wrote. “This suggests that
post-impression conversions are a crucial part of online marketing
performance, and must be measured if the interactive medium is to be

Despite lending ammunition to growing industry-wide dissatisfaction with
click-through metrics, Lewis and Lawson did make a study of the most-clicked
ad sizes. Surprisingly, non-traditional advertising sizes drove much
stronger performance than more typical units.

Of the generally accepted Internet Advertising Bureau ad sizes, the
250-by-250 pixel “large rectangle” unit has the highest click-through rate,
followed closely by the 160-by-600 “wide skyscraper.” Both sizes have
click-throughs of around 1.4 percent.

The aging banner ad, however, is turning in only a rate of 0.28
percent — a figure that Engage notes has been decreasing steadily during
the past several months. However, the banner ad appears on Web sites nearly
600 times more than the so-called “large rectangle” — suggesting
advertisers in general aren’t using the most effective ad unit if they want
to generate clicks.

That’s music to the ears of groups like the IAB and many leading Web
publishers, who are seeking to justify their bigger banner ad sizes. In
February, the IAB sanctioned new, larger ad units in the hopes that they
would be more attention-getting, and easier to produce, than the standard

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