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Interpreting Ad Data: The Basics

Kelly Giles
Director of Marketing

One of the beautiful things about digital advertising is the capability to collect mounds of data. Ad data can inform future strategy decisions, provide insight about your target audiences, and help improve your campaign performance. To get to those great outcomes that data needs to be analyzed and interpreted! High performance on each different metric- like impressions, CTR, and conversion rate- means something a little different, so let’s start with the basics.

Impressions, Clicks, and CTR

Every time your ad shows on a screen, it’s an impression. Every time someone clicks or taps on your ad, it’s a click. Clicks divided by impressions is your click-through rate, or CTR.

What does it all mean?

A high number of impressions helps drive top-of-mind awareness. The more times people in your target have a chance to see your message, the further up you inch in their awareness.

A high number of clicks and a high CTR indicate similar things.

  1. Your creative is attention-grabbing. To break through the clutter and have a high number of people want to interact with your ad, it must look intriguing!
  2. Your targeting settings are working well to match your ad with people who will be interested in its content.

CTR, rather than sheer number of clicks, can allow for a simpler comparison of ad data to previous time periods and/or other advertisers, but that doesn’t make it black-and-white. Many other factors can also impact results.

Conversions and Conversion Rate

A conversion is a pre-defined action that is counted when someone first clicks your ad, then completes the action on your site. That action should hold distinct value to your purchase funnel. For an institution, maybe it’s clicking the “Apply Now” button or submitting a request-for-information form.  The conversion rate, percent of users who complete your action after an ad click, is calculated by dividing conversions by clicks.

Why should you care?

A high number of conversions, once again, indicates attention-grabbing and compelling creative. After all, you need clicks in order to get conversions! A high conversion rate also suggests:

  1. A call-to-action on the ad matches users’ current place in the decision-making process. If you ask someone to “Apply Now” in an awareness-building tactic (for example, a banner ad) they may not be ready to take that action.
  2. The expectation that the ad creates is accurate of the user experience after the click. If your call-to-action is “Explore Programs,” the landing page had better allow them to actually… you know… explore some programs. That’s why they honored your ad with a click.
  3. The landing page is reminiscent of the ad creative. A seamless experience across platforms and tactics makes a user more comfortable taking the next step.
  4. The landing page is easy to use and interact with. Don’t make your potential students/customers work too hard!
  5. There is a clear user path to the conversion event on (or from) the landing page. When someone clicks on your ad, the conversion action you’ve defined should be a natural next step- for example, a “Request Information” button right on the landing page.

A strong conversion rate indicates all the pieces are working well together! In fact, all of the above metrics are connected. You need impressions to get clicks, clicks to get page visitors, and a strong user experience to get visitors to want to convert.

Once you understand what the ad data means, don’t forget to use it to optimize your marketing!

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