Natural Born Clickers – Online Marketing

Published by • February 12th, 2008 RSS News Feed

Ever wonder whether online advertising is effective and do you ever think to yourself, “how the heck does anyone make money off these lame ass ads, I would never click on the damned thing!”

Well, some new research suggests that up to 50% of the clicks on advertisements are done by serial clickers.   These people make up 6% of the total Internet population, but their attention is grabbed by ads in a way that overwhelms and throws off previous research on the topic.  With a potential 6% of Internet surfers responsible for 50% of the clicks online, does that make branding and CPM ads that more important?  The research claims that although this small percentage of Internet users are online for hours more than others, they are not as likely to purchase the goods after they click.

The average salary of these surfers — that in my non-professional opinion I’d attribute to OCD — is below 40,000 / year.

The study was carried out by the media agency Starcom USA, behavioral targeting network Tacoda, and digital consumer insight company comScore.  They worked on research that would study click-through rates, their source, and the effect it has on online advertising.

The study reveals that a very small group of consumers who are not representative of the total U.S. online population is accountable for the vast majority of display ad click-through behavior. 

This is an interesting story because online advertising is such a hot topic right now and every major Silicon Valley company is trying to gain ground in a market that Google currently dominates.

While many online media companies use click-through rate as an ad negotiation currency, the study shows that heavy clickers are not representative of the general public. In fact, heavy clickers skew towards Internet users between the ages of 25-44 and households with an income under $40,000.

Their relatively younger age tells us a lot about their behavior alone.  I’d imagine that this group is the prime targeting group for marketers as they probably tend to be more impulsive and more easily distracted from the content by animations and vivid marketing visuals.

Heavy clickers behave very differently online than the typical Internet user, and while they spend four times more time online than non-clickers, their spending does not proportionately reflect this very heavy Internet usage. Heavy clickers are also relatively more likely to visit auctions, gambling, and career services sites – a markedly different surfing pattern than non-clickers.

While this may be seen as a ‘negative’ because conversion rates are low, it’s an obvious benefit to the ad serving companies like Google because they can leverage the additional hits for CPM ads and also use the inflated hit count to negotiate better deals.  As far as CPM ads are concerned, the analysis that came about as a result of the research did not allow them to conclude that there is a correlation between  branding and click ratios.

Starcom data suggests no correlation between display ad clicks and brand metrics, and show no connection between measured attitude towards a brand and the number of times an ad for that brand was clicked.

Of course, advertisers will probably use this data to try and shift the burden on ad servers to yield better production or reflect this fact in the price.  It’ll be interesting to see if any companies budge on this matter, though, since Google itself dominates the industry and has a virtual monopoly on online quality ads and sites.  They are also cutting down on spam sites and domain parking exploitation of ad serving — although not entirely, as Google has deals w/ companies like Go-daddy to serve their ads.

“There is more and more emphasis by advertisers for greater return-on-objectives in campaigns, particularly in the digital space where the accountability data is so readily available,“ says Starcom USA Director of Connections Research and Analytics Grant Prentice. “Natural Born Clickers shows us that we can’t count on click-through rate as our primary success metric for display ads; Starcom is more reliant on shifts in brand attitude metrics and analytics tying on-line exposure to sales as the true measures of online advertising efficacy.” 

This doesn’t mean a whole lot because of how ad publishing works though.  Basically the market decides how much each click is worth, marketing agencies and departments have to decide how much they are willing to pay for targeted traffic.  Sometimes branding is more important than selling products, especially early on and CPM might actually be less effective than a CPC type model.

 “While the click can continue to be a relevant metric for direct response advertising campaigns, this study demonstrates that click performance is the wrong measure for the effectiveness of brand-building campaigns,” said Erin Hunter, executive vice president at comScore.

“For many campaigns, the branding effect of the ads is what’s really important and generating clicks is more of an ancillary benefit. Ultimately, judging a campaign’s effectiveness by clicks can be detrimental because it overlooks the importance of branding while simultaneously drawing conclusions from a sub-set of people who may not be representative of the target audience.”

I  know that bloggers and small business providers are usually at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to their revenue interests, but it sure would be nice if research would yield results that benefits the little guy, too!  In my view, I don’t think advertisers are paying enough for sites with quality content.  If they want to pay peanuts then serve their ads at spam sites.  For producers of strong original content maybe the big boys should consider raising prices based on venue. This may actually encourage higher quality content online rather than mass producing garbage sites to make a dime off unsuspecting Internet users.

Itola Author

is an Attorney, Entrepreneur, and Blogger from the Silicon Valley.
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