Last updated Feb 26 2020

CRO glossary: click-through rate

What is click-through rate (CTR)?

Click-through rate is the percentage of people who click on a specific link or call to action (such as the ‘Learn More’ text at the bottom of a marketing email) divided by the total number of people who were exposed to it. For example, if 100 people see an ad and 5 click to learn more about the product, that ad has a CTR of 5%. 

CTR can be used to measure the success of pay-per-click search results (on Google and other search engines), CTAs on a landing page, or hyperlinks in blog posts and email campaigns. 

Why CTR is (sort of) important

Let's take the example of a paid ad that directs people to your website, e-commerce store, or landing page. An ad’s CTR lets you know how effective the ad is at drawing in potential customers; you can then compare ads, emails, and CTAs to see which has the highest CTR.

However, CTR is not the only metric you should use to evaluate your ads’ effectiveness, and a high CTR might be a problem for one important reason...

Click-throughs and conversions are NOT the same thing

A CTR will tell you the percentage of people who click, but it doesn’t tell you the total number of people who converted (e.g., made a purchase, signed up for your newsletter). In other words, an ad can have a high CTR with a very low conversion rate, leaving you with a high cost per conversion when you’re getting charged per click. 

A low-converting ad with a high CTR means that one (or both) of the following is true: 

  1. Your ad is doing a poor job of weeding out non-buyers
  2. Your ad is failing to attract enough qualified leads (those leads who are most likely to convert). 

So, how do you increase the odds that only the most qualified customers click?

Market to your ideal customers for better conversions (not just high CTR)

Ideal customers are those who would get the most value out of what your business has to offer. They are likely to return again and again if you treat them well, forming the backbone of your customer base—so of course you want to target them with your advertising. 

The way you figure out who those people are and what they want from a company like yours is by running some research and building user personas. 

Build data-driven user personas

A user persona is a semi-fictional character based on demographic and psychographic data of the people who buy your products.

A simple user persona answers the following questions:

  1. Who are your customers?
  2. What is their main goal?
  3. What is preventing them from getting what they want?

The following tools can help you answer these questions so you can tailor your messaging to their needs, helping to overcome their objections, and drive actual conversions. 

  • On-page surveys can help you find out who your customers are and what problem they’ve turned to you to solve. You’re looking for details like “office admin who manages stationery and invoices for 100+ colleagues", which sum up a lot about your persona’s perspective when it comes to choosing and using your product.

    Pro tip: consider polling customers once they’ve converted, with special attention on those who almost didn’t convert. That way you’ll uncover objections that may be preventing similar customers from buying. 

  • Customer interviews: sit down with paying customers (or do it virtually by getting on a phone call) and get inside their heads. Ask them to tell you about the first time they decided to search for a solution that your product or service solves—and let them talk. Customer interviews won’t give you hundreds of data points like polling does, but they will let you know about needs and drives you never knew existed.

Once you’ve got a clear understanding of who your customers are, what they want, and what’s keeping them from getting it, you can create ads that draw in your ideal customers and convince them to convert.

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