February 10, 2011

Unequivocal Proof That No One Has Ever Clicked On A Web Ad

Here at Ad Contrarian Global Headquarters, we sometimes enjoy role playing. Not the French maid kind of role playing, the business kind. Not that we have anything against French maids...

Today, I am going to role play. I am going to pretend I am a web data analyst and use the mathematics and logic of web analysis to prove to you that no one has ever clicked on a web ad intentionally. Sound like fun?

Here we go.

Last week, several trade publications reported on a study by Webtrends that claims that click-through rates on Facebook ads have dropped to .05%. To those of you who were not math majors, this means that for every 10,000 ads served on Facebook, 5 get clicked on. This is described by Adweek as "abysmal."

It is worse than abysmal. It is mind-blowingly, incomprehensibly, abysmally abysmal.

But that's not the end of it. According to a Facebook insider, the 5-clicks-in-10,000 number is actually a gross exaggeration. This person says that the true number is actually less than half that -- 2 clicks per 10,000.

You're probably not as unstable as I am, but maybe you've noticed something. Every now and then, as you're wasting your life away on the web, you accidentally click on something that you didn't intend to click on. I call this Unintended Click Syndrome. In my case, at least half the time I find myself facing a display ad, I had no intention of clicking on it. I got there as the result of being a victim of Unintended Click Syndrome.

According to Google, CNET, and Forbes, the number of these "invalid clicks" may be as high as 10% of all clicks (they define "invalid" clicks as those that are either unintended or fraudulent.)

Let's be generous here and say that only 5% of clicks are unintended. Now let's do a little math.

If the Facebook click-through rate is 5 in 10,000 (let's be generous again and use Webtrend's number) , and the invalid click rate is 5%, then of 500 clicks in 10,000 are invalid. It is, therefore, quite possible that all the clicks on Facebook ads are invalid and the actual click-through rate for Facebook ads is zero.

But this is not just true of Facebook.

The click-through rate for all web ads is 1 in a thousand. If the rate of unintended clicks is 50 in a thousand (5%) then, once again, it is possible that the rate of intended clicks on all web ads is zero.

My conclusion -- no one has ever intentionally clicked on a web ad.

Case closed.

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