Clicks will always matter -- and when premium publishers tell clients and buyers they don’t, these publishers make the very problem they are trying to solve even worse.
Before I get to how this is true, let’s look through some common-sense lenses at the reasons why less than 1% of users click on ads -- and yet 99% of clients care about their campaign’s click-through rate.
1. If you ignore the “rate of clicking” and focus on the raw sample size, the number is most often in the thousands. Tough to find one client that doesn’t feel better upon hearing thousands of people visited their site.
2. If you paid for online ads from your own pocket, you would care about clicks -- no way you wouldn’t.
3. Have you ever contributed a comment to a group conversation on Facebook, and then later learned someone clicked that they liked your comment? How did that make you feel? That’s how clients feel when users click on their ads.
4. Premium publishers that are telling clients that clicks have no value are talking to advertisers that collectively spend billions of dollars a year paying for clicks in search.
5. Clicks will always matter, because the most effective form of display targeting -- which advertisers are purchasing in droves, through networks and exchanges -- is “retargeting.”
Once users hit the home page of an advertiser’s site, pixels placed on every page of their site deposit cookies. These advertisers then scour the exchanges buying impressions to reach “their users” while on other sites, as identified by this cookie data. So now Target.com, for example, knows what ad to send to someone who went to their site’s home page, and which ad to serve to those who visited the kids section.
Clicks from other forms of display advertising that deliver a user to an advertiser’s site, increase the size of this conversion pool clients are successfully swimming in.
I so get why premium publishers want and deserve more credit for the intrinsic branding value they bring to the table. Disposing of clicks as a value proposition makes a clearer statement why an advertiser should run on a premium publisher’s site, and “get your performance elsewhere -- we deliver branding.”
The first mistake in this narrative is making this an either-or scenario instead of packaging clicks as an incremental benefit. Branding plus performance increases a premium publisher’s value in the online display landscape. Branding or nothing induces a choice that doesn’t include publishers.
The second error in this disposal of click value will prove to be fatal for publishers in the wake of a perfect (shit) storm. That’s because buyers are nodding their heads in agreement that clicks don’t matter -- but for the exact opposite reason why publishers are saying it. Premium publishers see disposing of clicks as a way to shed ROI accountability, while buyers see it as a way to hold publishers more accountable for conversions.
Without clicks, buyers will continue to shift their evaluative focus from how many potential customers a publisher dropped off at the front door of a client’s restaurant, to how much these people ordered and paid for food that publishers did not prepare, cook or serve. All of a sudden, clicks don’t taste so bad, do they?
Premium publishers are losing their footing in the land of online display advertising, and dismissing clicks as incremental value is like climbing into their own ditch. I’m not so sure they’re getting out alive.