The Cure For Declining Click-Throughs

There has been a great deal of concern lately about falling click-through rates. A recent study by The Strategis Group does nothing to cause the Internet ad community to put aside its sackcloth and ashes. It turns out that 52 percent of Internet users claim that they don’t click on a single ad in a given week.

And the news gets worse. Three-fourths of those who do click on Internet ads click on five ads or less. Only 9 percent of the adult Internet population is actively engaged in surfing Internet ads, clicking on nine or more ads per week. (View Graph)

What’s more, brand recall is low. Our study revealed that 40 percent of those who actually did click on an Internet ad could not recall a single specific ad they saw in the preceding week. Amazon.com — surprise! — was the most recalled web advertiser.

Why Do They Click?

Before you break out the Kleenex, here’s the good news. You can boost click-through. The Strategis Group’s advertising study shows that users who click on ads do so for specific reasons, like curiosity, discounts and coupons, and product interest. People click on ads for a reason.

Curiosity Works

A large number of those who click on ads volunteered curiosity as a main reason. The study showed that curious clickers varied widely by demographics and other characteristics, so targeting based on curiosity can be effective.

Further, a lot of curiosity stems from general interest in a product or service, not whim. Bonzi Software’s fabled “Speed Up Your Internet Connection” ad is a good example. Neither Bonzi nor its product is directly mentioned in the banner, but users curious about upgrading their connection speed are drawn to the ad.

Coupons and Discounts Attract

Ads offering product discounts and coupons are more attractive to users than those offering chances to win merchandise, cash, points towards purchases, or airline miles. Users are more interested in definite discounts than they are in that one-in-a-million chance of winning a trip to Hawaii. Again, product interest is connected to click-throughs. After all, people want discounts on the products that interest them.

Product Interest Rules

One of the major conclusions of this advertising study is that by far the most powerful driver of click-throughs is product interest. Eighty-nine percent of users who click on ads do so because they are interested in the product being advertised. This is an extremely important conclusion for advertisers, but gets us only halfway there.

Combine Interest and Targeting

Knowing that users are likely to click on ads for products that interest them is worthless without adapting your targeting strategy. Only when an advertiser understands the demographics and psychographics of its customers can it do optimal targeting. Targeting has long been the promise of Internet advertising, but declining click-through rates indicate that targeting in 1999 is coming up way short.

Know Thy User

So how do you plan your ad strategy to maximize its effectiveness? First, understand who is likely to buy your product. Second, you need to know what your target audience does online and what ad approaches appeal to them. The Internet has tremendous potential to improve targeting through technology. But in the meantime, remember the basics.

Forget about the sackcloth and ashes. If you do your research properly, attracting a lot of traffic is not that hard to do.

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