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Is the Click Still King?

ROI lags behind in measurement

Online marketing has been touted for its measurability, a quality that should make it easy for marketers to determine effectiveness and value for money. Despite widespread recognition that the click-through does not measure the full effect of an online ad—even ones placed with direct response objectives—and calls for better branding metrics, many marketers still rely on the easy-to-track click as their top performance metric.

A March 2010 survey by Chief Marketer showed the click remained on top, with 60% of US marketers reporting they measured performance in click-throughs. Fewer than two-fifths measured overall return on investment (ROI).

Those responses were similar to the 2009 edition of the same survey, and Chief Marketer suggested respondents were sticking with “old-school metrics” while paying lip service to the importance of ROI.

Similarly, Collective reported that in February 2010, click-throughs were the most common measurement of ad network performance, used by 64% of responding advertisers.

Datran Media found in December 2009 that marketers worldwide considered conversions the most important success metric, with nearly 90% saying it was “very important.” Click-throughs were rated important by 56.7% of respondents. But when Datran asked what types of measurement marketers actually used, clicks came out on top, with 72% of respondents tracking them.

These measurement practices left one-quarter of respondents to the Chief Marketer survey unsure whether interactive campaigns produced greater ROI than traditional marketing efforts.

The CMO Council’s “State of Marketing” survey did not ask about click-throughs specifically, but found marketers worldwide were most likely to measure their campaigns through page views, registrations, and the volume and origin of site traffic.

Asked about their online marketing performance measurement ability, the plurality of respondents to that survey (44%) were either working on increasing their capabilities or “struggling” to put a value on their interactive spending.

“Marketers’ familiarity with clicks is only one factor that contributes to its continued usage as the top metric,” said David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer. “Click are easy to count, too, and therefore an inexpensive metric to gather.

“In contrast,” Mr. Hallerman said, “measuring either brand effectiveness or the indirect effects of online ads—such as how display ads contribute to search clicks—is more complex and typically costs more to accomplish that just tallying up clicks.”

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Check out today’s other article, “When to Respond to Negative Buzz.”

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