A new study conducted by comScore and Pretarget concludes that ad clickthroughs have "virtually zero correlation" with conversions, which it defines as purchases and users' requests for information. A better barometer of success is whether users see the ad and hover over with the mouse. Here's how the correlation breaks down, highest to lowest:

  • Ad hover/interaction: .49 correlation
  • Viewable impressions: .35
  • Gross impressions: .17
  • Clicks: .01

Kirby Winfield, senior vice president of corporate development for comScore, says in the news release:

“This study shows why other non-click metrics of engagement, such as interaction or hovering, may be much more important in evaluating campaign performance than the click ever was. It’s time to start measuring the impact of campaigns using metrics that really matter, not just the ones that are most easily measured.”

Not coincidentally, comScore has a product, "validated Campaign Essentials" (vCE), that measures viewable ad impressions and when a user hovers over an ad.

Last fall I heard a related argument against the importance of clickthroughs for hyperlocal sites. The marketing coordinator for a Seattle video store said she couldn't tell how successful her hyperlocal ads were because she didn't get clickthrough reports. Tracy Record at West Seattle Blog commented:

Online advertising is ******not about clickthroughs or conversions***** unless you are specifically advertising an online-shopping site and offering a deal to boot ... The whole point of neighborhood online advertising is display, display, display. You are exposed to your potential customers vastly more often than print ads expose you to your potential customers. ... When they are ready to, oh, say, go get a video, they'll remember having seen you mentioned. But they probably won't walk up to the counter and say "I heard about you from your ad on Neighborhood Nooz dot com."

Related: 31 percent of ad impressions go unseen (Folio) | House ads make up 21 percent of ad inventory on news sites (PEJ)