Natural Born Clickers and the Rest of Us

A study by Comscore, AOL’s Tacoda and Starcom back in February 2008 showed that 50% of all clicks on banner ads were done by just 6% of Internet users. A repeat of the study, published in October 2009, shows the core group of heavy clickers (8% now) are responsible for 85% of ad clicks.

And these “natural born clickers” are not the most desirable demographic for most advertisers: They skew toward Internet users with household incomes below $40,000 who spend more time than average at gambling sites and career advice sites.

Digg’s lead scientist, Anton Kast, recently shared with me an analysis of who’s clicking on Digg Ads, the ads on Digg that give readers the option of Digging and burying them like regular Digg stories. Since advertisers buy Digg Ads on a cost-per-click basis, I was eager to see the results.

Instead of concentrated click activity by a small group of (inexplicably) click-happy individuals, clicks on Digg Ads (red line) are spread across a wide population of light clickers. In other words, the branded content items promoted by Digg Ads units is appealing to lots of people, each of whom clicks on an occasional ad. The profile of these Digg Ads clickers roughly matches Digg’s upscale demographic, unlike the “natural born clickers.”

Digg Ads (still in beta) doesn’t yet offer much targeting, so relevance can’t entirely explain these better results. Digg Ads do, however, offer advertisers an opportunity to speak to Digg readers in the “local vernacular” of Digg — blue headlines that point to content next to yellow boxes with numbers in them, and the option to Digg and bury the sponsored content just like organic content stories on the site. Kind of like the paid search ads on Google results pages, which I bet have a diversity of clickers that goes well beyond the “natural born clickers” too.

Targeting (relevance) is great. But finding ad formats that are native to content experiences may be just as important.

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