Continuing to lose face among marketers, new research shows that clicks and total impressions are far from the best way to measure online conversions.
Rather, new findings from comScore and Pretarget -- both of which market ad targeting services -- show a stronger correlation between ad “viewability” and hover time, and conversion rates.
The findings indicate that the traditional way of buying mass impressions and hoping for conversions, i.e., “spray and pray,” is not the most effective approach, according to Kirby Winfield, senior vice president, corporate development at comScore.
“It once again demonstrates the perils of relying on click-throughs for measuring the performance of display ad campaigns, with this metric showing virtually zero correlation with total conversions,” Winfield said.
To arrive at these initial findings, the “intent targeting” specialists at Pretarget analyzed 263 million impressions over nine months across 18 advertisers in numerous verticals. Pretarget then used comScore validated Campaign Essentials to collect “viewability,” and hover data and a DSP to collect click and cookie-based conversion data.
Pretarget performed a Pearson correlation analysis of the data, including gross impressions, “views” -- 75% of ad within screen, either above the fold or after scrolling -- time in-view, hover/engagements and total hover/engagement time, clicks and conversions.
“This study shows why other non-click metrics of engagement, such as interaction or hovering, may be much more important in evaluating campaign performance than the click ever was,” Winfield added. “It’s time to start measuring the impact of campaigns using metrics that really matter, not just the ones that are most easily measured.”
According to Winfield, traditional display ad impression measurement and reporting simply verifies the number of ads that were sent by an ad server to a user’s browser. For a variety of reasons, this way of counting impressions does not ensure that the ad was ever rendered within a browser.
In addition, ads can load below the fold, which means that most users will probably never see the ad unless they scroll down. In the worst cases, some ads load within 1x1 pixels and therefore never render as viewable impressions.
The results showed that ad hover/interaction (correlation = 0.49) and viewable impressions (correlation = 0.35) had the highest correlation with conversion, while gross impressions (correlation = 0.17) was significantly lower.
Perhaps most interestingly, clicks (correlation = 0.01) had the lowest correlation with conversion, far under-performing all other metrics analyzed in the study. These findings suggest that advertisers and media planners ought to break their addiction to clicks and instead look to more meaningful metrics for evaluating campaign performance.
The Pretarget analysis supports several third-party studies with consistent conclusions, Winfield noted.
MediaMind “2009 Benchmark Report” released in July 2010 found that “on average, increasing Dwell [hover] from 5% to 15%, increases conversion rate by 45%, from 0.4% to 0.6%.” Also of note, Casale Media’s 2011 “Ad Visibility Report,” found that “ads appearing above the fold were 6.7x more effective at generating conversions than those appearing below the fold.”
Pretarget previously found that approximately 89% of display ads on its network load above the fold or appear after a user scrolls down, creating an opportunity for a user to see the banner.