Already we’ve faced the twin dangers of the Swirling Vortex of Bad Display Engagement: Excessive Impressions and Damaging Placements. This week, we tiptoe into the back-end basement to check on the two faces of display advertising metrics.
Like a certain fictional British doctor, display metrics can work for you or against you. Choosing the right metrics for display performance can provide the insight of a brilliant Dr. Jekyll, guiding you to make wise data-driven decisions. But if you choose the wrong metrics, you’ll have the equivalent of a Mr. Hyde endangering everything in sight as you make decisions based on misleading data.
There’s a definite danger in evaluating your display activities as a self-contained unit. It’s always a bad idea for a team to split up in a horror movie, and it’s also perilous to split up your marketing channels when evaluating performance.
The true value of your display program can only be understood within the context of the customer journey. Display ads themselves might not lead to direct conversions, but they often form several of the touchpoints necessary to convert a customer. If you only evaluate the strength of display ads by their “last click,” their performance can seem disappointing, and might make them a candidate for elimination.
But that would be extremely unwise. In sports terms, display might not score a lot of direct goals, but it’s great at assists. In horror movie terms, display might not slay the monster, but it’s the character who throws the essential weapon or yells the crucial piece of information to the hero, allowing them to slay the monster.
Rather than evaluating display as a standalone silo, be sure to integrate all your data to include every step along the customer journey, so you can get an accurate impression of the role played by display. Data integration includes sales and revenue-based data, for a complete picture of how all your marketing channels affect the company.
It’s easy to be enchanted by view-through conversions; after all, they often look very impressive. However, performance reporting shouldn’t include all of them. There’s a strong chance of counting the same view-through conversion twice (the dreaded Evil Twin Syndrome), artificially inflating performance stats in a way that will almost certainly not line up with revenue results. Not only can that lead to faulty decisions, it can also damage the credibility of the marketing department.
That said, view-through conversions can be very useful for measuring the impact and reach of individual ads and display as a whole. This information is most helpful on an internal team level, so make sure your team or agency is using a window of only a few days to track the most recent sales cycle without any unrelated impressions from weeks earlier.
Evaluating display performance by click-through rate (CTR) can be misleading for several reasons.
- Artificially low: As noted above, display can often play a supporting role in conversions. Display ads themselves might not prompt a converted click, but they can be an essential part of the overall campaign that prompts a converted click. Judging them by CTR alone can underestimate the impact of display as a whole as well as the performance of individual ads.
- Artificially high: Not all clicks are part of the customer journey – or even generated by humans.
- A 2016 survey by a mobile technology company found that 60% of clicks on mobile banner ads are accidental, and those accidental clicks make users feel annoyed, frustrated, and/or angry. Not a conversion-friendly situation, to be sure.
- Additionally, click fraud (when clicks are generated by bots rather than people) is on the rise. One study reports that in the first 4 months of 2017, the prevalence of fraudulent clicks on desktop devices rose from 19.9% to 24.1%. On mobile devices, it’s slightly better, but still on the rise: from 12.8% of mobile clicks in January to 14.2% of clicks in April.
- Possibly not even relevant: If the objective of your display campaign is to drive visibility and awareness for branding purposes, clicks and traffic aren’t the point. Ad position and viewable impressions are more important, as is making sure your impressions are from the right places and in the right amount.
To get a more accurate determination of CTR, consider investing in tools that test and monitor for click fraud and make sure your team can spot the signs of accidental or fraudulent clicks within their analytics software.
As a data-driven agency, (un)Common Logic knows which metrics matter and which don’t. We pursue end-to-end and multichannel data to keep display performance in perspective. We know the best parameters to use when evaluating view-through conversions and other potentially misleading metrics. And we have both the tools and expertise to determine the validity of display ad clicks. If you’d like to ensure that your display metrics are giving you a complete, accurate picture, contact us for a paid media audit.