It’s user engagement, stupid.

What key performance indicators (KPIs) are really driving brand awareness in digital? CTR? Impressions? A recent article in AdAge,
Click-Through Rates May Matter Even Less Than We Thought, makes a compelling case for the death of CTR as a KPI for brand marketing in digital.

Over nine months, Pretarget analyzed more than 260 million ad impressions across the campaigns of 18 advertisers, the company said, and tracked conversions ranging from filling out an online form to downloading software. In the analysis, Pretarget found that the Pearson correlation (a common correlation methodology) between clicks and a conversion was 0.01, the lowest correlation rate among metrics tracked in the study (a 0 result would mean there is absolutely no correlation, while 1.0 would signify the strongest possible correlation.)

Pretarget’s big data analysis showed conclusively that clicks don’t equal brand lift or awareness. What should digital brand marketers be focusing on then?

At the high end of the correlation spectrum for the metrics tracked was what the companies referred to as “ad hover/interaction,” or when a web user moves his or her cursor over an ad, thus “engaging” with it. That interaction registered a correlation of 0.49.

Getting users to interact with your branded content drives the greatest returns. As an industry, we have to realize that an impression doesn’t always equal an impression. The nuanced nature of interaction needs to be factored into the value derived from paid/earned media. Thankfully the social web (Facebook, Twitter, Imgur, reddit, Tumblr) is making this easier to do everyday by providing compelling native advertising opportunities on the fastest growing sites on the internet.