The value of a click.

Now that online users are clicking on display ads less and less, should we lower our expectations of online advertising and place less value on the click-through?¬†According to a 2009 study by Starcom USA, the number of people who click on display ads in a month has fallen from 32% of Internet users in July 2007 to only 16% in March 2009. To make matters worse, only 8% of the Internet user base account for 85% of all clicks. So while the other 92% of users may see your ad, most aren’t clicking through to your website or landing page. Yikes.

Certainly there is value in potential customers seeing your ad. Even if a person doesn’t click, the ad has the ability to raise awareness and keep your brand top of mind. And perhaps, this is the value we should measure for display ads, rather than sheer click-throughs. An increase in online and offline sales, a rise in searches for your company, more favorable dialogue about your services and other marketing goals can all be attributed to campaign exposure. Tracking becomes essential, but also can be a bit murky as, ideally, your display ads are being integrated into an overall marketing effort that reaches your customers through a variety of mediums for the greatest frequency and impact.¬†

I work with a national home builder who does an excellent job of tracking leads. But the leads are only as good as the sourcing data. As buyers come in to the sales center, they are asked how they heard about that particular community. While my client relies on a broad mix of online and print advertising, direct mail, community outreach and events, it is their outdoor advertising that consistently ranks highest among traffic drivers. Why? I doubt it’s because their billboards are the most effective medium. It’s more likely that this is the last place the customer received the message. Like a display ad, a billboard is a highly visible marker that may not necessarily help the buyer form an opinion about the product, but it can lead them through the door into the sales center. However, you can’t discount all of the marketing efforts that led them to take notice of the billboard to begin with, giving them a favorable impression of the builder, information about the homes and timely reminders about the value and reasons to purchase until they were ready to buy. The marketing mix is essential. Online ads have a place in this mix too, but perhaps it’s not just to generate click-throughs.

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