Did you ever stop to wonder why marketers like digital so much? When the internet first became ‘a thing’ in the world of commerce, somewhere around the early nineties, it wasn’t as if people immediately stopped listening to radio, watching TV and idly eyeing billboard ads on their way to work.
Marketers valued the internet not only for its potential to revolutionise the way we communicate, but for also for the way it allowed us to measure user behaviour. For the first time, we could see exactly how many people had viewed a given piece of content, and whether or not it led them directly to a purchase.
Thus, digital marketing analytics was born, and click-throughs and conversions were established as benchmark measures of success in digital marketing.
The purpose of the click-through is to ‘measure the ratio of clicks to impressions of an online ad or email marketing campaign’. The theory goes that the amount of people that visit a page equates to how interesting, engaging or useful that page might be. Since its discovery in 1994, the click-through has been the go-to measure of campaign success in digital marketing.
The conversion however is slightly different. A more commercially focused metric – it measures the ratio of specific action completions to the amount of views (or sessions) a given page receives. Most often, the action involved is a product purchase, a contact point or a download. Conversion rates are extremely important for telling you how many people are landing on your page with the intent to buy your product. This is the #1 metric for measuring the success of your products!
These two key performance indicators have remained unchanged for the best part of 20 years. Whilst conversion rates are essential for keeping you informed about the success of your sales funnel, the reliability of click-throughs as a measure of content engagement is still up for debate.
I argue that focusing on click-throughs as a measure of engagement can give a misleading impression of the quality of a campaign or a piece of content. Not only that, a ‘clicks first’ mindset can be actively detrimental to your business’s digital presence, especially for small-to-medium sized businesses. Here’s why:
1. The ‘more clicks equals more interest’ theory is broken
As suggested above, click-throughs are said to give an impression of how engaging or attractive a piece of content might be. The glaring problem here is that the click-through action is counted before a user has even landed on the page. It gives no indication of how long a user spent on the page, whether they actually viewed the content, or if they got any use or value out of it.
What click-throughs do tell you is how visible a piece of content is to your target audience. They show you how many people were both a) exposed to your content online and b) attracted to your headline and/or feature image. Neither of these elements reflect the actual significance of the content you created as far as your audience is concerned.
2. Attention does not equal sales
There’s a myth in marketing that an increased brand presence must inevitably be followed by more sales. This is a classic case of believing that correlation implies causation – just because everyone in the country knows what Red Bull energy drink is doesn’t mean we all drink the stuff!
This is a very important distinction to make when creating your eCommerce marketing strategy. Just because a Facebook post gets a lot of attention, it does not mean that more people will convert from it. Sure, more exposure does mean that you’re more likely to find people that are ready to buy your product. However, if the value displayed by your eCommerce marketing isn’t correctly aligned to your users’ needs, then no amount of Facebook likes in the world will increase your bottom line.
300 die-hard fans will always bring more revenue than 10,000 readers with a passing interest in your product. Broad exposure works for big companies who are trying to dominate in a generic marketplace. Whilst it’s tempting to follow suit, remember that these companies are playing totally a different game to you.300 die-hard fans will always bring more revenue than 10,000 readers with a passing interest in your product. Click To Tweet
3. Digital platforms are closed systems
Internet users are territorial creatures. There’s so many thousands of platforms out there that there’s no way one person can keep track of everything at once. As a result, we tend to stick to a few main platforms that allow us to consume content in a format that we enjoy. For example, a person that keeps a close eye on their email inbox may not be so interested in browsing Reddit. Likewise a Facebook aficionado may find Twitter too limiting.
This is why it’s best to view digital platforms as closed systems. If a user is browsing their email inbox, chances are they’re going to want to stay there until their ‘new mail’ count reaches zero. By encouraging them to click through to your blog or landing page you’re forcing them away from their main purpose – checking their email. Working against the user is always going to be an up-hill struggle for marketers.
4. A focus on clicks undermines the ‘value driven marketing’ mindset
If you’re constantly striving to get users to change on to a different platform, then you’re forgetting the main purpose of digital content – to attract customers to your business by providing value and solving problems. A focus on clicks is a focus on what you can get from your readers, not what you can give them.
To see the click-first mentality in action we just need to look at ‘click-bait’ content mills like Buzzfeed and Jezebel. These sites creates massive amounts of content with little-to-no practical value or use, relying mostly on strong headlines to attract clicks, which it then uses to leverage advertising opportunities with large businesses. This approach might work for a company with $50 million in venture capitalist funding that pumps out 400 articles per day, but it’s not going to work for you!
Avoiding the click-through trap
The key to creating highly engaging marketing content is to provide value where your customers want to find it, in the format they like to consume it. This means no more two-line Facebook posts with a link to your blog. Instead, try providing a detailed summary of the blog post that users can read right on their Facebook wall. The same goes for email; try delivering as much of the content as you can in the email body, without trying to force users to land on a page.
Sure, you might find that this approach drops your click-through rates and page views. However, you’re more than likely to see your conversation rate go through the roof. The reason for this is that the people clicking through are doing so because they’ve decided on their own terms that they’re interested in finding out more about you and your product.
Offer massive value to your customers on their terms, where they like to find it, and you’ll dramatically increase the chances that a customer will buy from you (and come back time and time again!).
Alternative measures of engagement
So if click-throughs don’t give a full picture of whether or not your pages are doing their job, how do you measure the success of individual pieces of content?
Well, there are a variety of ways you can do this. Some methods are totally free whilst others require tools or applications.
Think carefully about the way that people comment on your content. Has it helped to solve your readers’ problems? Does is it resonate or conflict with the values of your target audience? Are they excited or bored by it? If you’re seeing lots of positive feedback then it’s a very important sign that you’re sending the right message to readers. If you’re seeing lots of page views but few comments (or worse, negative comments) then it’s a sign that you may have to rethink your approach.
Scroll maps allow you to see how far users scroll down your page, which is helpful in determining how much of your blog posts they’re choosing to read. If readers are bouncing out of your content before they’ve even read 25% of the page then chances are your post isn’t resonating with them. One of the most popular tools for scroll maps and click maps is Crazy Egg, but if you don’t want to buy a complete tool for analysing scroll activity you can always use the free Google Analytics plugin here.
Time on page
This one is a favourite metric of analytics expert and Chartbeat founder, Tony Haile. It tells you how long users spend on each page of your site, giving an overall impression of how deeply engaged with the content they become. Of course, longer active on-page times imply a stronger engagement with the page content. Not a lot of analytics software offer this as a metric, but it’s a flagship engagement stat of Chartbeat.
Whilst some users might not want to take the time to leave comments (especially if there’s a lengthy sign-in process), polls are quick and easy to engage with. Ask users what their opinion on your chosen topic is; you’re bound to gain some great insights into your target audience. Highly polled content will give you an idea not only of what content is resonating with people, but how the feel about the content.
The ultimate measure of successful campaigns is, of course, more sales. Look for spikes in your conversion rates and sales figures. Chances are you’ll see higher conversion rates when you run real value-giving campaigns.
Thanks for reading. If you have great success using the metrics above then let us know in the comments section. Good luck building your high-value campaigns!