What’s happening with clickthrough behaviors on online ads these days? According to comScore, Inc., a digital market intelligence and measurement firm, activity today versus 2007 reveals that ~50% fewer people are clicking on Internet ads now compared to then. In fact, fewer than 10% of all Internet users accounts for ~85% of all ad clicks.
This may call to mind the old adage: “When a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound … and does anybody know?”
On the other hand, it’s good to remember that banner advertising can have branding value. In fact, comScore research also shows that one in five users who click on an ad go on to conduct a search about the advertiser … and one in three visit the brand’s own web site.
Unfortunately, determining just how effective online advertising is can be a challenge to measure – reflective to some degree of the “bad old days” of print advertising. One reason for the difficulty is because of evolving consumer behaviors regarding “cookies.” When consumers delete tracking cookies from their computer, they’re counted as a “new customer” when returning to the site. Interestingly, comScore’s latest data find that nearly one-third of web users delete cookies – many as often as five times per month. And with the steady stream of news items warning of “Big Brother”-type information harvesting, it’s hardly a surprise that cookie deletion has grown by ~20% since 2007.
What’s the implication? Not accounting for cookie deletion can lead to an overstatement of unique visitors, reach and frequency – by about 2.5 times. (Relying on IP addresses doesn’t solve the issue either, because the typical computer in the U.S. has a multiple number of IP addresses.)
Of course, these hurdles don’t mean that an attempt to measure the effectiveness of online advertising is an exercise in futility. Just as in print advertising, there are clues marketers can hone in on that point to whether an online advertising campaign is a success. And prudent companies will discount web traffic statistics by a certain degree in order to paint a more realistic picture … not to mention incorporating conversion tracking triggered by specific actions on the web site such as a purchase, a customer query, or registering to download an informational document.