8% of Internet Users Account for 85% of all Clicks

The results of an update to the comScore highly publicized "Natural Born Clickers" research, conducted two years ago with Starcom USA and Tacoda, indicate that the number of people who click on display ads in a month has fallen from 32% of Internet users in July 2007 to only 16% in March 2009, with an even smaller core of people (representing 8% of the Internet user base) accounting for 85% of all clicks.

Presented by comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni and Kim McCarthy, manager, Research & Analytics at Starcom, at the iMedia Brand Summit in San Diego on September 14, 2009, the original research showed that 32% of Internet users clicked on at least one display ad during the month. These clickers were segmented into Heavy, Moderate and Light Clicking segments based on the group of users (heavy), middle 30% (moderate), and bottom 20% (light).

In 2007, comScore, Starcom and Tacoda found that Heavy clickers, representing 6% of U.S. Internet users, accounted for the top 50% of clicks, Moderate users, 10% of Internet users, accounted for 30% of the clicks, and Light clickers, 20% of users, accounted for 16% of the clicks. By March 2009, those numbers had dropped substantially:

  • 4% of Internet users are Heavy clickers
  • 4% of users are Moderate clickers
  • 8% are Light clickers

Heavy, Moderate, and Light Display Ad Clicker Analysis (Total US Home, Work and University Locations)


Share of All Internet Users

Share of All Click-Throughs


July '07

March 09

July '07

March ‘09

Total clickers





Heavy clickers





Moderate clickers





Light clickers





Non clickers





Source: comScore, September 2009

Linda Anderson, comScore VP of marketing solutions and author of the study, concludes that "...  marketers who attempt to optimize their advertising campaigns solely around the click are assigning no value to the 84% of Internet users who don't click on an ad... "

The results underscore the notion that, for most display ad campaigns, the click-through is not the most appropriate metric for evaluating campaign performance. Rather, advertisers should consider evaluating campaigns based on their view-through impact, says the report.

Despite the precipitous decline in clicks, says the report,  comScore is advocating looking beyond the click because other comScore research has shown that online display ads generate significant lift in trademark search, online and offline sales, and brand-site visitation across all verticals, among those internet users who were exposed to the online ad campaigns - whether they clicked on the ad or not. These results, compiled in comScore's influential "Whither the Click?" white paper, were reported in the June 2009 issue of the Journal of Advertising Research.

Display Ad Lift (Site Reach Weeks 1-4 After First Exposure)




% Lift

Average all












CPG & restaurant




Retail & apparel




Media & entertainment




Electronics & software








Source: comScore, June 2009

John Lowell, Starcom USA SVP/Director, Research & Analytics, notes that "a click earns no revenue and creates no brand equity...  online advertising (is) certainly not to generate clicks... (but) to visit website, seek more information, purchase a product, become a lead, keep brand top of mind... "

For additional information, please visit the SMV Group here.


6 comments about "8% of Internet Users Account for 85% of all Clicks".
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  1. Tilly Pick from Development Practice 360, LLC., October 13, 2009 at 9:12 a.m.

    Interesting metrics report about online behavior. Suggests three things: One is that brand impact is equal in importance to immediate response. Two is the importance of understanding the integrated impact and lag effect of the cume of messages coming at us. And, three, I'm wondering what classic direct marketers have learned about the long-term impact and lifetime value of initial non-responders to a mailing or catalog (e.g. how did the cume effect of exposures drive results versus the immediate appeal?)

  2. Jeff Bach from Quietwater Media, October 13, 2009 at 10:16 a.m.

    I wonder how these stats compare to TV ad (non)watchers? Do 84% of us get up and make a sandwich or use the loo when an ad comes on? Maybe switch to another channel? My first thought was that the internet is a horrible place to advertise, but then I realized it is probably even worse in the TV world......

  3. Scott Gamble from AAA Mid-Atlantic, October 13, 2009 at 10:59 a.m.

    It would be interesting to know how ad networks (AOL, Yahoo, etc.) or behavioral targeting experts like Tacoda interpret this data. It would seem to me that advances in targeting over the past couple of year are (or should be) changing the dynamics of online advertising. I wonder if there are any studies that compare the click and view performance of targeted vs. non-targeted campaigns…?

  4. Scott Brinker from ion interactive, inc., November 5, 2009 at 6:34 a.m.

    Important note: this study is for DISPLAY ADVERTISING not SEARCH ADVERTISING.

    I know the author mentions that in his first sentence, but I keep seeing this misquoted as a "fact" that applies to all Internet advertising,

    That being said, I completely agree with comScore's advocacy to "look beyond the click." There's so much more than can be done in online marketing than myopically pegging one's focus to clicks-on-ads.

  5. David Watkins from MRX, November 5, 2009 at 11:40 a.m.

    This trend has been developing for a while.

    A display ad deemed as successful may only see a 2 percent CTR.

    However some feel there always has been significant BRANDING value to online display ads. Why should the lowly banner ad be dissed just because no one clicks on it. Nobody has an opportunity to engage at all with print, radio, TV (yet), or outdoor, at least without accompanying online exposure.

    Online creative has improved over time, and remains a key ingredient in any successful online program. And the product must be context-sensitive... You would assume that an ad for a big screen TV might outperform that of a kitten screen test for bathroom tissue on on sports website.

    And, the results of a nice editorial link will always trump even the best display ad.

    My two cents.

  6. Zack Krasowski from The Stranger, November 5, 2009 at 1:56 p.m.

    @David: You hit the nail on the head. Ever since traffic reports have been available for online ad campaigns, people have been doing whatever possible to increase the CTR. Before the days of internet advertising, people would advertise on the radio, or in the newspaper, and HOPE for a return. Now they expect to quantify return in the form of CTR. The truth is, a branding campaign has always been and will always be more valuable than the "Act Now!" campaign. Imagine a banner that simply says, "Coke" and has a photo of a perspiring glass bottle of Coca-Cola sitting on ice. That ad, at a 10-20% share of voice in the same position for a year, will ultimately yield higher returns than the "YOU ARE THE 10,000TH VISITOR!!!! CLICK HERE FOR YOUR FREE iPOD!!!" ad (despite the sad fact that the ipod ad probably received many more clicks). The problem is that too many "call to action" ads do very little, if any branding. The Coke ad has no call to action and will likely receive a horrible CTR. Many marketing professionals, however, will believe this campaign to be more "successful" than a gimmicky ad.

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