No Clicks For You

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The early promise of online marketing was that everything is highly measurable… down to the clicks and transactions that follow the ads, but what happens when the clicks run dry?

We’re about to find out – exactly – what happens when the clicks run dry. "The number of online Americans who click on display ads has dropped by 50% since 2007 – and now stands at only 16% of all US internet users," says the news item, Display-Ad Clickers Nosedive 50%, from MarketingVox on October 6th, 2009. The new items is based on a report titled, Natural Born Clickers, from comScore, Inc. and Starcom MediaVest. It gets a little worse than the realization that only 16% of all Internet users click on banners ads, the report also states that it’s actually 8% of all Internet users that account for over 85% of all clicks as well.

Don’t act shocked.

Once the clicks started drying up several years ago, the conversation had already shifted to new ways to measure online advertising efficacy. The most obvious metric was the branding effect. From that, we started seeing the proliferation of more big-box banner ads or one brand taking over all multiple-media placements on a page (this also did a great job of killing what was a confusing webpage for most consumers, where different brands with different banner ad sizes would clutter and try to out-blink one another). Additional new strategies have developed over the years as well, including rich media banners that allow consumers to engage with a brand without ever leaving the page they landed on. There were also full-on take-overs and much more.

Basically, we’re trying a lot of stuff, but the results are still very "traditional."

And, that’s probably the rub for brands and agencies with clicks, display ads, etc… In the end, it’s nothing new (really). Even if you’re running ads or letting consumers play games in-banner, it’s not all that original, and the net result is that you want them to click on something to either buy or give up some personal information. It’s also not that Social Media Marketing is so different and that makes it worth pursuing over traditional online advertising, it’s more a function of what the traditional advertising metrics bring to the brand table: through repetition and having your brand highlighted on a space that your consumers frequent, perhaps they will link whatever it is that you’re selling more clearly to you… and give you the business.

Maybe, the clicks never really mattered in the first place?


  1. Maybe? Tell us what you think, Mitch?
    This is exactly what Gian Fulgoni is saying. It’s wrong to measure clicks.
    Fair enough. I believe that at a large enough (or fast growing niche brand) scale, a multi-channel strategy is logical and will provide brand lift. But we have reasons to question in all channels whether customers actually see and are affected by the media buy, and we have reasons to want to know what each one is worth relative to the other.
    So… the customer never comes to your website? Never engages in anything but what might be an impression (but might not be)? How do you price that?
    It’s certainly mysterious.
    Just as the world is moving in the direction of performance marketing, because – unimaginative as this sounds and hating to parrot the philosophy that launched the world’s largest digital advertising company, Google ($25 billion in revenue for this year), it *performs* – there is yet another wave of claims in favor of marketing (online) that is much harder to measure, and is less and less wanted by users and consumers.
    When you don’t measure performance, outside of the top tier of the most reputable inventory from the most reputable networks, there’s an old elephant in the room. It’s essentially fraud. Numbers inflation. That half or more of display in 2000 was based on inflated and outright fraudulent impressions was a big part of why the air went out from that market.
    So if our metrics sound more mystical than trustworthy in this attempted repeat of that bubble, I’d expect ongoing resistance to the mystique from the part of the world that buys performance (as opposed to the publisher side that sells inventory).
    The flipside of media saturation today is companies that build through genuine word of mouth and public relations cachet. Companies are succeeding with enormous spends (with potentially negative ROI); medium sized (performance based) spends; and potentially very low direct (only indirect) expenditures and genuine, deep commitment, community building, etc.
    Which of those three sounds like the most hype? To me, it’s the one that requires the big spend without demonstrating results.

  2. I agree with Andrew regarding the ‘maybe’? Come on Mitch, tell us what you really think πŸ˜‰
    Clicks are important but I don’t think it is that big of a deal that clicks #’s are going down. Banner ads still have their purpose and to my belief it is all about getting the attention of the consumer with enough repetition, maybe we can call this ‘brand awareness’. Agencies love this stuff!
    Do banner ads still work without clicks? I think they do…….. just as much as billboards on the street do and may be even more effective. I don’t remember being able to click on a billboard.
    Is social media more engaging, Duh! But there is way more swear equity involved and most mid-to-high managers prefer being safe, especially in a recession that is ‘maybe’ showing signs of recovery.
    BUT Andrew, your rant does makes sense, just don’t know why not everyone is listening.
    Alex “Billboard” Ikonn

  3. I think it’s safe to say that banner ads are quickly dying. The stats themselves say they’re nothing more than static on the page. If you’re reading an article on twist, than likely you’ve read enough to know that successful web marketing is changing and those not changing with it will be left behind (likely doing 40k flash banners ads that scream click here!!).
    I don’t buy the branding effect of banner ads; there’s a reason they remain on the periphery of the page – so I don’t have to see them! The truth is they’re cheap, easy to buy and easy to build.
    Let them die off, there are a tonne of other great, under utilized ways to reach, connect and communicate with the group you want to online already.

  4. If the clicks don’t matter to you, how do I find out what matters to me?
    For those of us on the “take what we can get” end of the advertising schtick, the story’s even less fun. If I’m running a site and trying to gain a revenue stream from it in a passive manner – as an example, a publicly accessible blog – what the heck are my options aside from the pennies-per-click thesis?
    All the hype and traffic on the planet won’t make me a dime in the current model unless I have a sponsor, and with the number of blogs out there, who’s going to pay me a salary to rant?
    The people who run sites that make use of ads are running out of options, too. If the services are to be believed, more and more prominent is the answer – but my visitors won’t appreciate that, will they? So I try to find places to hide the banners in prominent positions, use services like Chitika for directed ads – it becomes a juggling game so quickly it’s no wonder no one’s clicking. That’s not your problem – the advertisers themselves have nothing to do with this, it’s an interaction between me, the webmaster, and you as a viewer of my site. Who happens to be advertising in the blocks I’ve set up is on the advertisers, like Google, Chitika and AdBrite – but putting them in places my viewers can see and get interested in, that’s all on me. And there’s no training for web designers and developers when it comes to this kind of gentle handholding of consumers. That’s a salesman’s job, not a codemonkey’s.
    Maybe we need to starting to treat websites as portals, not just the commodity they seem to be. I’m not just talking about sites built around subscription services, or long=letter format get-rich-click schemes, either. Whenever I see an AdSense ad blathering about thousand-dollar-a-day payouts from Google, I want to spit.
    If someone’s producing a 500 word per day stream on widget modification, grabbing no ad revenue but pulling in ten thousand visitors a day, is it perhaps proof enough for a publisher to believe there’s a book in it somewhere? Or, if it’s a video blog, maybe there’s a tv show?
    Even free services like Google Analytics can capture this information with no effort. But where does it place the pressure to produce? The banners do their best, if they’re present. The rest is all squarely on the shoulders of the website owner.
    By and large, it seems, we’re the chumps.

  5. If a 1000 impressions gets you 1 click-through, how many people actually looked at the banner? I think the answer is closer to 1 than a 1000.
    If nothing else, the click-through rate gives you an idea of “true” impressions, ceteris paribus. Should we abandon a metric simply because it’s giving us bad news?

  6. Hi Mitch,
    When it comes to social media clicks do not matter in the sense that – getting clicks without any engagement happening is simply not social media. Often, we find that clients give a lot of value to clicks. How do we move away from this and position our branding efforts as important. How do we give a value to this ‘branding’ before we start a social media campaign? I feel that we get stuck to the clicks concept because we have a challenge predicting it otherwise.

  7. Hi Mitch,
    I am looking for metrics on how much I should pay for someone that I would hire for my social media marketing strategy.
    Do I pay per members or else.
    I am lost.
    P.S. Loved your book!

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