Corporate Eye

Real Impressions Drive More Display Ad Conversions than Clicks

click throughFor years, marketers have relied on two primary ways to track the ROI of online display ads — clicks and impressions (based on how many times the ad loaded regardless of whether or not a person actually saw it). New research from comScore and Pretarget suggests that relying on clicks and traditional display ad impression measurement is a bad idea.

According to the research report, these metrics don’t account for the number of people who convert to a sale or a request for information after hovering over a display ad or engaging with it without actually clicking on it. In other words, traditional display ad ROI measurements are inaccurate because it’s missing critical data related to conversions absent of clicks.

A comScore press release explains the following findings:

“The research findings indicate that the traditional way of buying mass impressions and hoping for conversions (aka “spray and pray”) is not the most effective approach. The results showed that ad hover/interaction (correlation = 0.49) and viewable impressions (correlation = 0.35) had highest correlation with conversion, while gross impressions (correlation = 0.17) was significantly lower. Perhaps most interestingly, clicks (correlation = 0.01) had the lowest correlation with conversion, far under-performing all other metrics analyzed in the study. These findings suggest that advertisers and media planners ought to break their addiction to clicks and instead look to more meaningful metrics for evaluating campaign performance.”

This isn’t the first study to find that clicks don’t correlate to conversions at a rate as high as hovers do. In its 2009 Benchmark Report (released in July 2010), MediaMind reported that, “on average, increasing Dwell [hover] from 5% to 15%, increases conversion rate by 45% from 0.4% to 0.6%,” and Casale Media reported in its 2011 Ad Visibility Report that ads displayed above the fold were nearly 7 times more effective at driving conversions than ads displayed below the fold.

Bottom-line, relying on click metrics is selling your campaign short. You won’t get the full story, and it’s highly likely that far more conversions are being driven by hovers and engagement with display ads placed above the fold than you realize. As Kirby Winfield, SVP of Corporate Development at comScore explained, “It’s time to start measuring the impact of campaigns using metrics that really matter, not just the ones that are most easily measured.”

Of course, until more brands get access to the tools that can measure hover engagement, clicks will remain the go-to metric for measuring display ad effectiveness. However, companies that invest in this type of advanced data collection and analysis will come out on top in the end.

What do you think? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Image: Ariel da Silva Parreira

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.