Display ads have an average CTR of 0.05%, ceteris paribus

It’s a question all of us have asked, at one time or another: “is this click-through rate we’re getting good or bad?”

I usually respond to clients in two ways when they ask this.

First, “They’re all over the place, there are so many possible variations and the targeting and context change everything, that any average is meaningless.” It’s a bit of a cop-out, although it is true.

Second, “All that matter is that you improve your numbers as compared to what they previously were. You’re fighting against yourself, no one else.” Also true, and also still a cop-out.

Knowing these qualifications, I have to say: I still wonder, what is the average clickthrough rate?

The true answer: it’s so all over the place that I truly have no F—‘in idea.

But the good news: some other people have aggregated lots of statistics and found out for us–at least for Display campaigns. And they did so recently.

Before we get to the juicy number (although you did read it in the headline, of course) I want to qualify and warn everyone that this is only about display and programmatic ads, not search ads. Search is an entirely different universe. And as every Day #1 PPC knows,

So Automatad reports on a paid report from Smart Insights (that sadly I don’t have access to!) from May 2020 that reports that the average click-through rate for display and programmatic ads online, holding constant for ad size, type, and all targeting, and so forth is… wait for it… 0.05%. That’s one click per 2,000 impressions, folks.

Not much to write home about, and the above qualifications still apply: this is, more or less, a meaningless number. But if you want to construct a meaningful number, how do you go about doing so? Easy: you start with a meaningless number, and then you improve it. You’ve got to start somewhere, and this is somewhere.

Even if that “somewhere” is merely a number to give your clients. And I hope your display campaigns get at least more than one click per 2,000 impressions. If clicks are, indeed, your goal.

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