What does it mean to have a high click-thru rate in Digital Advertising? From a marketing perspective, it means your ad message is being seen by the fewest people possible. It also means you're getting the same number of paid visitors to your site as competitors with the same ad budget. What's more, it implies that your ad message is focused on getting clicks rather than introducing consumers to who you are, what you do and how to buy from you. It means you're not disqualifying non-buyers and don't understand online buying behavior. It also means your marketing in a way that benefits search engines and networks more than your brands.
You pay for clicks but your goal shouldn't be to get paid clicks as quickly as possible. If you have a $100 ad budget and you pay $1 per click, you're only going to get 100 paid visitors to your site. A CTR of 10% means your ads will be seen 1,000 times. Conversely, a CTR of 1% means your ads will be shown 10,000 times. A high click-thru rate accelerates your exit from the marketplace and prevents you from reaching your best customers. This is reflected in the low conversion rates of most retailers -- regardless of onsite optimization. If you send non-qualified visitors to your site, you produce conversion rates of 1-3% overall and less than 1% for non-brand paid traffic. Your cost per conversion is high, and your exposures within markets are low.
It's understandable that many in the young profession of Digital Advertising would rather focus on clicks instead of core marketing principles. Ad networks, agencies and common wisdom within the profession promote the idea that clicks are the primary metric of measuring a campaign's success. Most certifications emphasize this idea, along with the scarce courses and training available on PPC. This focus better suits a technical, non-marketing orientation where the concepts of brands and branding are ignored or viewed as irrelevant. Better to focus on clicks and put the onus on other technocrats who optimize landing pages for conversions. This has been the dominant approach within my profession.
Unfortunately, as fewer and fewer people click on ads -- the cost to get clicks goes up and the conversion rate of paid visitors doesn't improve. Thus, your cost-per-conversion increases and you're more likely to skew your messaging towards clicks -- losing the advantage of additional exposures via lower overall click-thru rates. When messaging is skewed in this way, it leads to a higher probability of even lower conversion rates. You pay for non-buyers and those just wanting to learn the basics of your offer to visit your site. For thousands of consumers that might have known who you are, what you do, and how to find you -- you're anonymous.
Today, most of the Digital Marketing community is still focused on clicks versus being seen (branding). They proceed with the task of persuading consumers to click, while a radical few attempt to engage in building a brand. They value exposures and being seen far more than clicks -- both within paid search and display. Why? Because they know how customers buy and how brands are built online. They measure the metrics of view-through and impression-assisted conversions via their Google AdWords campaigns -- and realize most conversions happen without a click. They measure Brand Activity (where most conversions occur) and focus on getting more Brand Activity.
Achieving a lower click-thru rate means your message gets seen more often. For this to happen, your message should be focused on building Brand Activity and disqualifying non-buyers. Since most conversions happen by consumers searching for a brand name or going directly to a site (Brand Activity), the name and URL should be obvious within every ad. Product ads should also show the price (especially with initial exposures) and any other information that non-buyers would object to. Disqualifying non-buyers gets you closer to your buyers and true markets. You want your market to know who you are, what you do and how to find you -- not generate clicks from non-buyers.