Here’s the thing: Most businesses focus too narrowly on clicks as the one true measure of success for display advertising. When it comes to performance, digital display ads play a much larger role in delivering ROI.

We’re moving from the “Click Web” to the “Attention Web,” where overall interest and engagement matters, even when they’re not clicking.

Let me explain …


The Trouble with Clicks

In order to calculate ROI, we have to know what performed and what didn’t. This is what’s called attribution – identifying which marketing efforts generated the desired response.

And traditionally clicks have been how we judge the impact of display ads. If they didn’t click, it didn’t work … right? Not necessarily.

We’re obsessed with clicks because clicks are easy to measure – which makes it seem easier to calculate ROI.

Yet display ads actually assist your campaign beyond the click, by generating repeat exposure and brand awareness. A reader may see your digital ad (or other marketing) several times before deciding to take action – but the click only measures the last point of contact. That’s called mis-attribution, because it doesn’t look at the bigger picture.

A Better Way: Click-Through vs. View-Through


Rather than look solely at click-throughs, we need to include a new metric – something called view-throughs. View-throughs look at an ad’s overall visibility, plus every kind of engagement it generated.

See, readers engage with ads all the time without clicking, like just reading the ad or hovering over it with their mouse. (That’s the “attention” in “Attention Web.”) Shiny new tools let us measure that response. Now we can see how long they viewed your ad, how they interacted with it and even where they clicked, when they do.

This gives us a lot of intel to develop better ads, but also shows us the larger role an ad plays in the path to purchase. (The same applies to SEO, SEM, social and content marketing, but that’s a different post.)

We’re getting closer and closer to being able to tell the whole story. In the meantime, we need to rethink how the pieces fit together and recognize all of the ways an ad delivers the ROI advertisers need to reach their goals.