Bad Clickthrough. Who’s guilty?

Bad Clickthroughs Who's Guilty

You spend months searching for and experimenting with the newest and freshest marketing strategies. At last, after another long-awaited release, you stumble upon the one that works. Unfortunately, the exact same moment you start scaling it, all your marketing successes suddenly come to a dead stop because of a clickthrough drop.

Welcome to the Murphy’s Law of marketing:

“Even the most perfect marketing strategies end up with the terrible click-through rates.”

Let’s match a couple of historical metrics and look at the rather worrying tendency:



Of course, there is a huge amount of various elements that make up this 1650% difference, but the conclusion is obvious – the click-through rates of the legacy web marketing channels fades away over the course of years.


Check out what happened to an email click rate:

email open and clickthrough rate

It proves my point that the effectiveness over time and scale decline even more if you take into consideration that the amount of daily sent email has peaked at 32bn/day this year.

Every single legacy channel decays over time, so it’s really good to know that the new ones keep constantly coming. Often times, they bring better performance thanks to an absence of competitors and new techniques that correlate with the targeted demographicsThe priorities change as well. Mobile notifications are valued much higher than ad banners these days.


There are 3 key points I’d like to highlight:


CTR Think about these points


Let’s focus on each key point and then think how can we fight the “law of fade”.



Of course, one of the most significant drivers of action is that every customer corresponds to fresh marketing signals (like it or not). Remember the first web banner? Looks horrible, doesn’t it?



It was launched by HotWired in 1994 and had a colossal CTR of 78%! It worked because people wanted to see the experience. The same thing goes to the emails with invites. You notice them for a while, then the effect gets diminished and you start ignoring them all together,

What can you do?

There are in fact two instruments that you should leverage in your marketing experiments – creativity and clear a call-to-action (CTA). Keep the creative elements constantly alternated. Keeping even the most creative ads untouched for long periods of time will reduce the CTR.

Creative CTR drop over time

Which tiny creative details can play a big role in the value of your campaign? Let’s look at the most common ones:


Color is a great tool for capturing attention. Vibrant digital marketing material, on average, performs better than the dull toned one. It doesn’t mean that you have to fill every detail in a toxic fluorescent paint, but putting vibrant elements to accent the muted charcoal colors is a good practice.


We can often see an increase in marketing performance when they involve interesting personas. For example Mailchimps Freddie, not only is a great representative of the brand but with his help, their emails achieve higher CTRs.


MailChimp Evolution


I know it may sound trite, but having a “traditional” button correlates with a higher CTR. Assuming that “Come on! It’s an ad! People know where to click” doesn’t always work.


Banner Blindness

Banner Blindness is a term that describes visitors trend to avoid looking on a page section that is traditionally associated with ads (even if that space is occupied with valuable information, rather than banners.)

Banner Blindness example
Visitors avoid looking at the traditional banner zones

This is a massive problem for the publishers since consumers ignore ads on their websites, which significantly drops down the click-through rate.

My idea is that we as humans, always look out for freshness and easily recognize patterns. Users will learn to filter even your best marketing strategies if they don’t find them truly useful.


Being first is great, but doesn’t last long

What we learned from the previous paragraph is that marketing strategies decline over time by themselves. But usually the very first moment you find them working, your competition starts activating. There is a whole industry dedicated to tracking and researching your competitor marketing strategies. The data they provide is necessary for making quick adjustments and follow their successes.

Let’s take Airbnb for instance.

We can easily find out how much (approximately) they spend on Google ads, what keywords are they ranked for organically and what are the paid ones. Take a look at the results from a free tool like, you can imagine what kind of data more sophisticated tools can extract for every possible marketing channel.


Airbnb ctr
Airbnb search engine requests


Airbnb competitor search terms


Anyone from their list of competitors can quickly follow everything they do marketing wise. This rapidly weakens their fresh ideas and destroys their CTR.

However you should still try to reach the market first, but remember that there is little time to enjoy your great marketing performance.


More scale results in less qualified customers

This key point is based on a sociological model called “A Rogers bell curve”. In short, it displays an adoption lifecycle in which early adopters chase your product by their own just to because its new, and the rest of the crowd waits to get convinced that it really solves their problem.


innovation adoption

Basing your strategy on the early adopters and bringing in some PR and precise targeting ads across the niche society will bring in great results. However, the moment you leave this comfort zone, your CTRs might start vanishing.

If you are an e-commerce business and you did test your marketing strategy by capturing limited groups of customer you inevitably run into a problem. It is that any of the hypotheses you make based on that data are positively biased. If your data indicates that it takes 20$ to acquire a customer and you can start making a profit in half a year, there is a chance that a 25% increase in Customer Acquisition Cost (Read how to Calculate CAC here) and a 25% decrease in Lifetime Value will kill your business altogether.


Do not pay attention to small-scale marketing researches without having a broader view.


So does it mean you should stop fighting the fading CTRs?

Someone might even find it counterproductive to fight because its unavoidable. However, I think there is a decent chance to prolong your marketing efforts over the years rather than dropping it after just a few weeks of launch by constantly developing new creative approaches, testing new channels etc. Don’t forget to market with valuable information, beautiful eye-catching ads without meaningful content inside have a very limited shelf life.

There are only momentary solutions to declining CTR and new marketing channel adoption is the main of them. If you decide to adopt some relatively fresh channels such as mobile notifications chances are that they’ll bring some decent performance figures for the next couple of months or maybe years if the advertised content is valuable for them.

Thank You for reading.