All Clicks Are Not Created Equal

Folks, this article is not about banners, site design or click-through rates. This article is about something that is not talked about very much. It is about traffic and about how all site traffic is not created equal.

In my view, the nature of the advertising medium (and the message) has more impact on the quality of the click-through than any other factor. This article talks about some of the ways we’ve measured the quality of traffic to our site, and has the ultimate goal of encouraging more quality traffic to your site.

We have become conditioned to believe that the click-through rate, or CTR, is a meaningful metric. In fact, it has become somewhat of a mantra. Our egalitarian impulses almost require us to believe that surfers who take the plunge and click on an ad, or visit a web site, are all indistinguishable from each other.

Conveniently, those who sell media encourage this false egalitarianism. They would rather have their responsibility end with a click — or worse, the initial impression — than bear responsibility for delivering quality traffic.

But all clicks are not created equal! Some click-throughs, in fact, are far more valuable than others.

There are a few ways to glean which click-throughs are better than others. For example, if you have a commerce-enabled site and sell products or services, you can figure the order conversion rate to measure the “quality” of clicks.

Here are some of the ways we’ve measured the quality of clicks on our site.

Test One

We placed the PulseTV URL above the 800 number for an infomercial selling the video, The Best of Just Kidding. The TV viewers who clicked through to the order page were 10 times more likely to purchase than were online surfers who just happened to click through to the order page. We created two duplicate order pages to differentiate the informerial-inspired orders from normal site traffic.

Test Two

We also measured conversion rates from visitors that came from our affiliate network and compared it against our average conversion rate for the site. Affiliate traffic had a 50 percent better conversion rate than our site average. Since most of our affiliates match content with appropriate videos, this makes complete sense.

Test Three

We compared the average time users hung around our site when they arrived via a banner versus when they arrived via an affiliate. These results were even more astounding. The average length of time a user stayed on our web site after clicking on a banner was 17 seconds! This compared with an average stay of over two minutes from an “affiliate click.”

Now, even if you do not measure order conversion rates because you are more interested in branding your site, the average user session time difference outlined above is profound. Branding is about occupying mind share, and the only mind you can occupy in 17 seconds is a hyperactive child who neglected to take his Ritalin!

Test Four

Last month, we tested several banner promotions designed to sell videos. In one week, we ran an assortment of banners for titles like South Park, X-files, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Riverdance. Approximately 1.1 million banner impressions ran resulting in a mere six orders generated from these banners! Yet with South Park, we measured a whopping 5.35 percent click-through rate!

After examining what Nick Usborne calls the “sales pathway,” we surmised that the fault was the advertising medium and not some over all deficiency in closing the sale.

Test Five

The last medium for testing “click quality” was advertising in email newsletters. We placed 50-word text ads in millions of daily recipes, jokes, quotes, and trivia newsletters emailed to opt-in subscribers. We discovered that not only were click-through rates higher on average as compared to banners, but order conversion rates were 20 times better. In other words, the “click quality” was superb.

The thing to remember is that in each of the above cases, the site was the same, the ordering mechanism the same, and the offers the same. The only difference was the advertising medium. If you are only measuring CTR and have no sense as to “click quality,” you are probably wasting a lot of advertising dollars.

Below is a summary of our conclusions:

  1. Traffic driven from television direct response advertisements delivered almost 4 percent of the total visitors to the web site (the other 96 percent were telemarketing and mail orders). In addition, up to 16 percent of these visitors actually purchased.
  2. Traffic from affiliates who matched the videos they offered with the content of their sites delivered a “quality click.”
  3. Traffic generated from email newsletter advertising generated a “quality click.”
  4. Even when banners delivered a high CTR, the traffic quality was poor (as measured in order conversion rates or overall time spent with us). In fact, banner advertising is the most useless advertising medium we have ever encountered in over 20 years of buying media.

There are certainly other forms of advertising on the Internet. Rich media, opt-in email, site sponsorships and others. And when we test these, you can be sure we will look beyond CPM and CTR to try to measure “click quality.”

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