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Make online image adverts prove their worth

I have to admit, I’m falling out of love with online image adverts. Don’t get me wrong, we can still measure them as being good value. But the greed of some website publishers where they run is constantly reducing their value. I’m seeing more and more AdWords accounts where the number of clickthroughs from image adverts is way higher than the numbers being recorded in the incoming visitor analytics. I don’t know how this is possible, unless the visits are so brief that they don’t even trigger the analytics code. From mobile device advertising, this wouldn’t surprise me. Many sites are now set up in such a way that it’s almost impossible to scroll down on a touch screen device without accidentally clicking on an advert. When you do this, it’s quite easy to hit the back button before the site has even loaded.

That’s where close integration between the advertising source and Google Analytics comes in. If you’re recording what visitors are actually doing on your site, you can measure value for money taking accidental clicks into account. Even for advertisers just using pay-per-click advertising to generate site traffic, this is essential. We always give our clients two sets of data: the cost of all visits, and the cost of all engaged or converting visits. The second one is what really matters.

So, for example, we might see that for search advertising, we paid for 300 clicks at an average of £2.50 a time, for a total of £750, and they were all recorded in Google Analytics. We also set up an engagement threshold there, for example that the visitor spent 20 seconds or longer on the site, or looked at more than one page. We might find that of the 300 visitors, 50% (150) met our engagement threshold, so the cost per engaged click was £5, or as we prefer to present it, 200 per £1000 spent.

For image (display or banner) ads, we might see that we paid for 1000 clicks at an average of 50p a time, for a total of £500, but only 500 of these were recorded in Google Analytics. Of the 500 visitors, 10% (50) met our engagement threshold, so the cost per engaged click was £10, or 100 per £1000 spent.

If you weren’t measuring in Google Analytics at all, you’d see visits costing £2.50 versus visits at 50p. If you were measuring visits in Google Analytics, but nothing more, you’d see £2.50 versus £1. Only if you measure engagement would you see that the search visits at £2.50 were much better value.

If you can take things further, even better. Stronger tests for ‘converting’ visits are quite possible, such as views of data sheets or online store purchases. Google recommends these as a matter of course, but be careful not to set them too strictly, so that you only get a handful each month. The data may then start to get a bit fuzzy, with just one or two random visits making a big difference.