Click-through rates are often viewed as a sure-fire way of establishing online ad performance, although new research claims this is far from the case on mobile.

As marketers attempt to find the best metrics to build their mobile campaigns on, a study from ad targeting solutions provider xAd reveals that optimising on CTR only pays off in terms of soft metrics such as impressions. In some cases it can even be found doing more harm than good by influencing lower secondary action rates (SAR).

With these including calls, requests for store directions and further information, there is a danger that brands could be putting their campaigns at risk by sticking to tried and tested online marketing methods.  

CTR hampers SAR

XAd looked into nearly 80 individual mobile campaigns from 12 household brands to see whether various attempts at boosting CTRs led to a direct lift in SAR.  

The group started by analysing campaigns with an abnormally high rate of clicks. These included mobile ads placed within games and entertainment apps, which are known for attracting an above average number of interactions.

Campaigns that were optimised towards CTR were found to be doing exactly that, offering a click rate 38% higher than campaigns without optimisation. Applying focus to driving single clicks did have its downsides, though, as SAR declined by up to 69% in some cases.

The biggest CTR/SAR imbalance came in campaigns for retailers (40% vs. -69%), followed by restaurants (33% vs. -54%) and car manufacturers (16% vs. -46%).

Notes from the study added that interactions on highly engaging platforms such as games and other entertainment apps could be put down to accidental clicks. Thus, driving CTR may not be in the best interests of marketers.

Different avenues 

Other insights from xAd suggested that brands are far better off concentrating on more rewarding metrics than CTR when optimising their mobile ad performance.

Store visitation lifts (SVLs), for example, are made up of the percentage of an ad-exposed audience that went on to visit an advertiser’s store divided by the proportion of consumers who were not exposed to the ad but visited the advertiser regardless.

CTRs are however continuing to rise, with separate research from mobile app marketer Fiksu recently pointing to a fivefold increase in ad clicks on iOS devices and threefold rise on Android devices compared to readings in 2013.

Despite this, xAd deemed CTR a “poor” indicator of mobile ad effectiveness and urged brands to divert their attention elsewhere.