Click-through rates (CTRs) and the industry average myth

So, is CTR just another acronym?

While click-through rates (CTR) tend to carry a lot of weight with marketing service providers, it is by no means a one-size-fits-all calculation. CTR refers to the percentage of clicks on an ad compared to how many times it was displayed. So, for example, if an ad is displayed 10,000 times and receives 140 clicks, this would generate a CTR of 1.4%. You’ll see this calculation in nearly all ad reports, but what does this really mean for your campaign success?

CTR…what’s even the point?

You’ll find plenty of data online showing average CTR for specific industries and platforms, but these averages are all relative. They are often clumped together and generalized, not taking into account individual campaigns and goals. Ultimately, CTR can provide you with helpful information, but it shouldn’t be the main area of focus for the majority of digital display ads.

What to keep in mind

Key criteria to keep in mind when analyzing your CTR:
  1. What is the goal of the campaign? Are you looking to create awareness? Are you looking to reach as many people in a targeted audience as possible? Are you looking for sales leads? Are you looking for a specific action? There are many other goals for campaigns that will have a significant impact on how important CTR is versus other metrics that better align with the goal of the campaign.
  2. Who clicks the most? Is it out of habit, is it legitimate, is it on purpose, do those people do what you want (take the action to get you to your goal)?
    1. Citizens from Columbus, Ohio, for example, click on ads at twice the average rate for the United States.
    2. Citizens of Sunnyvale, California click 73% less often than those from Columbus and 43% less than the average for the United States.
    3. Mississippi is the highest clicking state, with Utah citizens clicking the least.
  3. If we look at a global audience, the differences in likelihood to click are far vaster. Men aged 24-54 are the most frequent clickers on the internet.
  1. What about bots?
    1. There are a massive number of bots on the web. Some of them are legitimate, while some of them are not. It’s important to make sure you are working with a provider who has systems in place to limit bot traffic as much as possible. If you have a high percentage of bot traffic, then the CTR carries even less significance.There are many variables that can impact CTR, so it is important to keep in mind what your ultimate goal is. Then, consider what metrics can best measure whether this goal was met. If your goal is to reach as much of the audience as possible and have a higher level of frequency, CTR might not mean much at all. If you are promoting something that is likely to result in an off-platform action, then CTR isn’t as important as other actions in your campaign.

You know your CTR! Now what?

In general, a high CTR is often a good sign, but it is not the ultimate measure of campaign success. If your goal is to drive as much quality traffic as possible within a target audience, then you should be looking for a much higher CTR. It is commonly believed that a high CTR is equated with better quality clicks, but this is not necessarily the case. CTR is influenced by many factors, including if your targeting is done right, the quality of your creative, whether the messaging is resonating with the target audience, the effectiveness of the call to action, and much more. These will all impact your CTR and generally how well your ad performs. Overall, CTR can be a helpful metric to consider, but only in relation to how it influences your goals and campaign objectives.