Why Click Through Rates Are Really Not Important

A click through rate is defined as the “ratio of users who click on a specific link to the number of total users who view a page...It is commonly used to measure the success of an online advertising campaign for a particular website.”

Basically, the click through rate is the number of times someone clicked on a link on a web page (whether it’s an ad, article, download, etc.) divided by the number of times that link was shown (impressions) to its visitors. For instance, a web page might show a link to an advertisement to 100 different visitors. If 1 person clicks that link out of the 100, you would have a click through rate of 1%.

That all makes sense, except for the second part of the definition, “It is commonly used to measure the success of an online advertising campaign for a particular website.” While many people do gauge the success of online advertising campaigns with click through, is it really an effective gauge?

More Important Things to Look At

Click through is merely a ratio presented as a percentage. It can’t possibly tell us if our advertising campaigns are effective. In order to tell if our advertising campaigns are working, we need to look at things like engagement and conversions. There are certainly more important metrics than click through when judging how effective your online marketing campaigns are.

So what’s the deal with the big focus on click through rates? Do you really think that just because you have a high click through rate, that your online campaign was effective? I hope not.

Attracting Attention

The reality is you can entice people back to your website all day long. Clickbait, sensational headlines and graphic imagery are all great techniques for getting someone to click on your content. But just because you had a bunch of people click on your content, doesn’t mean that you’re winning. It just means that you’re pretty good at getting someone’s attention.

In real-life, I can get people’s attention too. I can scream and yell, act silly and weird and even lie to attract attention and get people to come check me out. But once they come over to visit and see what my deal is, they realize that I really don’t have anything to offer them, so they leave. Not only do they leave, but they’re probably also a little upset that they wasted their time with me.

The same is true of your online marketing techniques. There’s lots of things you can do to attract attention and get people to check you out, but if they get to your website and realize that you were just blowing wind and have nothing compelling to offer, they too will leave with a bad experience.

But wait. That’s OK right? I mean, you have a clickthrough rate of 15%, so obviously you’re a great marketer and your campaign is a success. Wrong! You failed to offer your audience anything of value, you probably wasted their time, and your ultimate goal (I’m assuming some type of engagement or conversion) was probably never met. You got them to the site, but chances are they turned around and never looked back.

I’m not saying click through rates should be thrown out of the window entirely. I’m just saying that we need to stop putting so much value on that one specific metric.

What's the Big Deal?

One of the first things customers typically ask us is what’s a typical click through rate? They’re not interested in the number of shares or likes or comments for a typical piece of content. They don’t care about time-on-site, bounce rates or other page views. Instead, they want to know the ratio of people who will click on the ad. Who cares! We can easily send 100 uninterested visitors back to your website who will leave right away and probably won’t take any action or make a connection to the brand, or we can send 10 engaged visitors.

And therein lies the next big issue. Websites and publishers typically charge based on clicks (pay-per-click). That means they have a financial motivation to get as many people to click on that link or ad as possible. Do you think they care what happens after the click? Of course not. You wanted lots of clicks and a high-click through rate, so that’s what they deliver.

And you may think you’re winning too. You paid 10 cents a click and got 1000 visitors. Yay! You only spent $100 for 1000 visitors. However, you may find that 95% of that traffic bounced. So actually, you only got 50 “engaged” visitors. Since you really only got 50 good visits, you actually paid $2 per visit ($100 spend / 50 good visitors = $2 per visit). Not the 10 cents you originally thought you were paying. Are you starting to see how clicks and click through rates aren’t really a good gauge of campaign effectiveness?

Quality vs Quantity

Advertisers and marketers need to stop placing so much importance on the number of clicks that we can get and start focusing on attracting qualified traffic. Quality always wins over quantity. When you stop focusing on high numbers and start focusing on creating good, valuable content, you’ll begin to develop good and trusting relationships with your audience which will ultimately result in actual campaign goals being met.