Impressions / Clicks / Conversions

Many of my customers, as they are first developing their Internet marketing plan, become confused over the priorities of various Internet marketing aspects. For instance, Don from, has a nice site with all the correct SEO (Search Engine Optimization) things done, but was concerned that he had not sold anything on his 2 month old website. He started to discuss changing the presentation of the product line. He sells beautiful pictures with explanations of the universe from the Hubble Space Telescope that are framed and ready to hang on a wall. He also wanted to start changing the actual products. His ads in a popular magazine are not coming out for another 2 months and he expressed his concern that he really needed to start selling something.

I thought about that and realized that my strategy of allowing a person new to Internet marketing to sort of figure some things out on their own was not working. So, I asked Don about his Google Analytics and how many visitors he was getting a day. Oh its only 2 or 3 a day he said. We looked each other in the eye and he said, I'll bet one is you and the other is me. I said yeah that's right and the third is some lost and lonely stray. At that point it was time I told him about Impressions vs Clicks vs Conversions vs Stinking Thinking:

Impressions - This is when someone is browsing the Internet and sees an ad with a link to your site or a comment on a blog about you with a link to your site or a link in some other venue that gives them a possibility of going to your website. The easiest to understand is an impression on a click ad such as Google. I will focus on Google Adwords for this conversation because it is the most accurate and measurable. Adwords come in various forms but the most prevalent are those ads that you see next to the organic search results on Google. An Adword campaign is handy on several levels. Besides trying to get customers to your site, you can measure responses to various keyword combinations and even see if enough people are interested in your product to make it viable. For Don I used a keyword tool and discovered that the keyword 'Hubble' had 200,000 searches a month, 'Hubble Telescope' had 90,000 searches and 'Hubble Telescope Pictures' had a mere 40,000 searches. I wrote an ad for Adwords that I thought was appropriate for the keyword 'Hubble Telescope Pictures', set some display parameters and placed it.

Clicks - Now that I had an accurately measurable ad placed for a keyword that I felt actually represented what we were trying to sell, I waited to see if any of those 40,000 searchers took the bait and clicked on my ad. A click is when somebody sees your link and then clicks it and goes to your website. The ratio of the number of clicks you get divided by the number of impressions you have had is a percentage called the 'Click Through Rate', normally just referred to as CTR. I gave it an hour and then checked to see if anyone was interested. 33 impressions but no clicks, darn. I checked again an hour later, and the clicks were starting to come in, 5% CTR almost instantly. By the time the ads shut down for the day they were at a fantastic 20% click through rate and not just on a dozen impressions either. So that told me that there is considerable interest in the keywords describing the product but can we turn those clicks into conversions.

Conversions - Clicks sometimes 'convert' into sales, hence the name conversions. Conversion rate (Conversions divided by Clicks) is a key measure of the success of your campaign. You can have a lot of impressions but no clicks if your ad is wrong or the keywords are misdirected. You can also have many expensive clicks and never sell a thing. Lots of possible reasons: ugly website, not working shopping cart, nobody likes your product (that's the worst), or maybe you have just not explained the product well enough or the pricing/options. Once you have a healthy CTR and people are actually looking at your product you can then consider tweeking product or the website.

Summary - Final thoughts before you read the following rant. Developing a website and marketing it is a step by step process that can be done in a rational and methodical way. There are specific measures of success to be watched such as CTR and Conversion rate. There are a wide variety of venues for Internet marketing but the appropriateness of each must be carefully considered. If this is a business for profit then treat it like a business and don't make decisions based on emotions.

Stinking Thinking - This comes in many forms that usually originates in our previous life experiences or future hopes without consideration of the situation with a sufficient level of critical thinking or understanding of reality. In Internet marketing this comes in various forms of getting talked into some kind of advertising that has no method for people being solicited to be able to directly respond (get to your website):

  • Name Recognition ads, this ones drives me crazy, sales people wanting me to advertise in a venue where it increases 'Name Recognition' but we can not measure the results. Well the result is that I spend a lot of money.
  • Mailers, tried it, spent $5,000 to send out 500,000 postal return cards and had 3 clicks on the special url on the card and 140 people that could not get to the internet so they wanted us to send them a 'Catalog', what do they think my 500 plus page websites are if not massive searchable catalogs. Don't target people that won't buy the way you can sell profitably .
  • Ads in newspapers, magazines, etc. This is usually a sales pitch that is combination of name recognition and we have 6 million readers. Number of readers does NOT correspond to the number of impressions on a keyword search. Most people read a magazine casually and when they do not have anything better to do as in a doctor's office. They probably aren't looking at the ads in the back and they certainly do not have a computer to jump on and look at your website. The exception is, and this is a big one, if you appear in an article about you or your product. Then readership matters.
  • Banner Ads, so far I have not been successful with this one. The sales pitch is similiar to the pitch for paper media. "We have 40,000 visitors a day so you will be exposed to that many people a day. So wrong, first off they will want to charge by impression of the page not the viewers that actually notice your ad or click it. Many times your ad will appear 'below the fold' so as a page is being scanned top to bottom your ad will not even be seen and yet you will be charged. The other issue is correctly targeting the product ad to a group that has an interest in that product, cooking ware on a cooking site or hunting equipment on an outdoorsman site. Weight Loss on a hunting site maybe not so logical.