CSE Wishlist – Part 4

January 15, 2009

Digital Marketing ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

This is one that my team and I have been been dreaming about for some time now.

Availability of impressions/CTR data.

Click-through rate (CTR), defined as clicks divided by impressions, is a key metric in the search engine marketing world as well as display adverstising. CSE marketers do not, in most cases, have the ability to analyze this metric since none of the major CSEs provided impression/CTR data in the reporting interfaces. The only CSE I can think of that does make this information available is Smarter.com.

</>Reasons this would be valuable, much as in the SEM world, include:

  • Identfying issues with specific offers: If CTR is low, the offer is not compelling and needs to be evaluated and tested with improvements. This is very valuable information and is alone enough to make this data desirable.
  • Helping to track the impact of changes: Obviously traffic alone is a valuable metric for determining the effects of changes made to titles, promos, pricing, etc, but impressions and CTR are helpful metrics as well.
  • Understanding the size of the CSE opportunity: This is a common question we hear from merchants and it is difficult to answer. Knowing how many page views a merchant’s offers receive would provide additional insight into the level of interest on each engine.
  • Providing insight into market share: This is another question we hear a lot. CTR isn’t really a market share metric (if CSEs want to publish actual share of traffic, that would be great, too, but that seems unlikely), but it does help give some idea. Also, if a merchant’s offer is visible on a product page next to their competitors, knowing the ratio of CTR to number of competitors could be very interesting. Not every impression yields a click so this wouldn’t be a bulletproof metric but something worth tracking.
  • Measuring performance of rank: Some CSEs support bidding at the category and/or product level. Not surprisingly, those that support it also recommend it. These engines state that offers ranked first get more traffic, which is often true. However, in moving from rank 3 to rank 1, if traffic increases 10% for that offer, it may be due to an increase in impressions to the product page and not just increased traffic yielded by the change in rank. Providing impression data at the offer level would help these CSEs make their case for bidding up, and provide the merchant with better information on which to base their bidding strategy.

There is one significant downside for CSEs if they were to make this data available, however. As our friend JP at Downtown Ecommerce Parnters argued many moons ago in his guest post on comparisonengines.com, omitting this data helps to keep merchants guessing. It’s no secret that much of the traffic delivered to CSEs is acquired and not direct, so hiding these impression numbers help mask the details around traffic fluctuations that are at least partially a result of CSEs own marketing/merchandising activities for their properties, as well as the similar efforts of their affiliate partner sites.

For now, we expect to keep dreaming.