October 7th, 2015 by Mark

Although it has been noted many times that “last-click attribution is dead”, most marketers still use last-click attribution, often simply because it’s the default setting in the tool they use to measure conversions, like Google Analytics. You might say “But Google Analytics has these other models you can pick!”. Sure, but they are still click attribution models, aren’t they? Totally awesome if the first-click attribution model suits your marketing better than last-click, but what do you do when you’re using media where The Click is not the most relevant KPI to judge the media?

In a study, Quantcast argues that:

“For display advertising, clicks aren’t just suboptimal—they’re anti-optimal. And they’re likely to produce significantly poorer results”. (PDF here)

It’s not a surprise that marketers are so click-focused; the Click and the CTR are great indicators of your campaign health – when you run a Search campaign, that is. And Search just happens to be the channel online marketers spend their lion’s share of budget and time one. In search, optimizing clicks is essentially optimizing for conversions because they’re so closely aligned. With display ads, if you optimize for clicks, you get . . . clicks. But, you don’t want clicks, you want conversions, right?

eye icon google analyticsThe display experience is quite different from the search experience for consumers, and the influence of a display ad is more nuanced than that of a search ad. Display is most appropriately seen as a touch point that stimulates consumer interest along the path to eventual conversion and purchase. Rather than clicking and immediately buying, ad viewers waited, visiting website sometime later, and perhaps via another channel or device, to make a purchase. Mind you that this holds for paid search ads as well; it takes 3.5 days on average for a customer to convert after an initial click on a paid search link.

Optimizing for clicks is a proven and effective approach for search advertising. For Display,  optimizing for clicks to drive conversions will not get you far; if you’re optimizing your campaign for clicks, there’s a good chance you’re actually anti-optimizing for sales. And although clicks may work for some banner campaigns with limited reach, looking at clicks will certainly keep you from seeing the value in video. Which should not be super surprising, as videos are meant to be viewed; last time I checked Watch Time still was YouTube’s video KPI and not Click Time, or is it?

So, instead of clicks, you should optimize toward your ultimate objective—the campaign conversion rate—rather than toward the click-through rate and focus on developing the necessary systems and skills to understand the true impact of your ad investments throughout your customer’s path to purchase. Are you a Google Analytics user? Then a great example of a ‘necessary system’ is this ever-in-beta feature called GDN Impression in Multi-Channel Funnels Reporting”. The Analytics blog post nicely aligns with the story above:

Every customer journey is different — a customer may see your display or video ads, receive an email, and then click through to your site from a search ad or organic search listing. Often, viewing display ads can attract your clients’ interest in your product and brand even if no click occurs. Traditionally, measurement technology separated out impressions or “view throughs” from clicks, but this separation missed out on valuable data on the impact of display advertising.

Thanks to our integration with the Google Display Network (GDN), Google Analytics can now break down the separation between clicks and impressions and give a more complete view of the customer journey. When a user views display ads on the GDN, or video ads on YouTube, and later visits your website and converts, these interactions with your brand can now be captured in Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels reporting.

Quantcast in the article mentioned above lists the following advice for getting the most out of display media:

How to Optimize for Conversions

If, like most advertisers, your objective is conversions rather than clicks, you can optimize your display campaign to capture them. Here are four steps to get you started:

  1. Understand the characteristics of your click-based and view-based audiences. As we’ve seen, clickers may not be your buyers.
  2. Measure view-based conversion volume as well as click-based conversion volume. Buyers are likely to take another look, and perhaps another and another, before deciding to purchase.
  3. Judge your campaign by the conversion rate rather than the click-through rate. Or better yet, use effective cost per action (eCPA) to measure the effectiveness of your entire advertising investment no matter how you’ve chosen to buy it.
  4. Develop and apply a multi-touch attribution approach. This involves developing a model to better account for the impact of all of the ads that touched your customers along their path to purchase and can help you overcome the shortcomings of click-based and last-touch attribution (attributing all credit to the last ad seen).

Posted in Attribution in Online Advertising, Attribution Model, Attribution Modeling, Conversion Rate Optimization, Last Click Attribution, Marketing Attribution Tagged with: , , , , , ,