Best Practices Are Hard To Find

It doesn’t come as a surprise that most digital practitioners struggle to qualify the audiences they are purchasing through display campaign strategies. Unfortunately, display ads have never been the easiest digital marketing medium to understand. That being said, we’ve put together a guide to help you learn the upper funnel and lower funnel metrics to successfully qualify your display audiences and measure success.

Programmatic advertising continues to evolve beyond the familiar Google display everyone has become accustomed to. In the past couple year we have seen new players on the block that are proving out significantly stronger performance. That new player…..Amazon Ads.

Amazon Ads has spent the last couple of years building ad products that are truly shaking up the industry. It was only a matter of time until Google and Facebook would have significant competition in the marketing world. But before I get into all the politics….

Here is the guide to understanding your display ad metrics.

The Beginners Guide For Display Ad Metrics


An Impression is a view of your ad with or without engagement. This means the ad was likely “above the fold” where the user is clearly able to see the ad.

display ad example on

Impressions are important for your brand to build frequency and deliver the targeted message across to your target audience.


This is probably the most over-looked metric across the digital marketing industry. However, it is the most important metric to evaluate the quality of both the media buy and delivery of impressions.

You may be surprised to know that not all impressions are good impressions. Unfortunately, bad actors do exist in the programmatic space.

Have you heard of “bot traffic”?

Yes, the traffic that counts towards your media performance but does not deliver value to your brand. Bot traffic, fraudulent clicks, and creative guidelines that do not meet the required specifications are many reasons why viewability is such an important metric to measure.

Viewability is the percentage of all impressions that have viewed more than 50% of the display ad creative for longer than 1 consecutive second.

The industry average is roughly ~57% across Google (source:

Click and Click-Through Rate

The industry average is .05% (source: Google Doubleclick) yes… it’s low

How low can it go?

In all seriousness though, CTR on display ads across the industry is absolutely terrible. Countless articles across the web have plagued the industry’s understanding of CTR as it relates to display. So let’s get something straight, Google display vs Amazon display would be like comparing apples to oranges because Amazon display is only served to logged in Amazon users.

This mitigates wasted ad spend and delivers an overall higher quality impression.

What does a good CTR look like on display?

Display CTR performance is largely dependent on a few key areas.

  1. Creative
  2. Audience
  3. Message
  4. Call To Action

In the world of Display you have a plethora of creative options to help you achieve your business objectives.

There are predominantly two core delivered display assets: Static and Dynamic

Both have vastly different performance when it comes down to CTR and conversions.

How do they perform differently and why?

Static creative assets are delivered as it sounds, with one creative asset design that is delivered to your target audience. When using static creative, you may have more available creative freedom to articulate your brand message. This however has some disadvantages because you are serving the same message to a larger audience, not every user will resonate with the creative. In other terms, the campaign lacks personalization.

This results in average click through rates of around .02% – .05% when delivered to prospective audiences (audiences that have never interacted with your brand).

Dynamic Display Ads

Dynamic display ads on the other hand will produce significantly higher CTR and performance vs static creative assets. The reason for this is due to the ability to personalize an ad creative in multiple resolutions with different messages and creative image assets.

The benefit of dynamic display is using the audience segments available in the DSP (demand side platform) to present a different creative iteration based on the level of intent or user behavior that particular audience presents.

Dynamic display ads are proven to deliver between .15% – .25% CTR vs static display. On average, dynamic display has 200-300% more engagement. Here is a case study that validates dynamic display drives more vehicle sales.

Dynamic Inventory Ads on Amazon DSP

Cost Per Milli aka CPM

CPM is your cost per thousand impressions and is the core metric for efficiency as it relates to the audiences you are purchasing programmatically.

It is important to be able to contextualize your cost metrics as it relates to both the performance of your display ads AND the audiences you have chose to advertise to.

Pro Tip

Compare your display CPM performance across competing channels such as social media to get an idea of efficiency and media effectiveness.Vasilios Lambos

Does a Lower overall CPM mean better performance?

A lower overall CPM does not always mean better performance.

When you are putting your CPM in context against your other display metrics you will want to ensure that the level of engagement ie. CTR and Conversions warrant the cost associated with your campaign.

The Bottom of the Funnel Starts Here

When we are discussing bottom funnel marketing metrics we want to ensure we have a clear understanding of the marketing funnel. If you have never seen an example of the marketing funnel check out the one below:

Marketing Funnel

Since we covered the core upper funnel metrics (Impressions, Clicks, CTR, CPM) we’re going to focus on bottom funnel metrics such as time on site and conversions.

Time On Site

This metric is hopefully self explanatory but we’ll cover this briefly so that there is no confusion when evaluating your on-site display ad traffic.

The biggest misconception for display ads is that time on site should be long. In fact, industry benchmarks have shown that time on site for display averages between 15-30 seconds. Reason being, display ads reach a significantly wide audience that may convert on-site but have a stronger propensity to purchase offline.


Conversions are the campaign objectives used to determine the display ad campaign goals. These are the most important actions you expect your target audience to take when viewing, clicking, and spending time on-site.

Most display ad channels require that you set up conversion tracking through a website pixel. The pixel sends conversion activity back to the campaign report. Similar to a marketing funnel you should analyze conversion data intent from top to bottom. The top of the funnel would entail sessions and website page views while the bottom would include call to action engagement.

The most popular CTA engagement for many companies being a lead submission.

Dynamic Display Conversion Funnel

Measuring Offline Attribution Across Display Ads

In the past couple years large companies such as Google and Facebook have struggled to provide offline attribution in a meaningful and effective manor. Facebook managed to provide the ability to match back offline sales starting around 2018 but recently had to reduce their attribution reporting due to privacy laws and third party cookies.

Fortunately for Amazon Ads, offline attribution has not had many constraints. In fact, Amazon Ads enables sales attribution through AMC (Amazon Marketing Cloud). The Amazon Marketing Cloud allows advertisers to match back sales to media exposure without the use of mobile IDs and third party cookies.

Retail businesses such as automotive dealerships conduct most of their business offline at the dealership. Offline attribution allows marketers to upload data such as sales data from a CRM to a marketing cloud instance that lets the advertiser know whether someone who engaged with the display ad ended up converting.

Cognition Digital Offline Attribution

Connecting The Entire Display Marketing Funnel

Now that we’ve covered both upper funnel and bottom funnel display measurement we can close out our guide with a few next steps.

First off, evaluate whether you currently have an effective report to analyze your display ad campaign performance.

Second, I recommend if you are not confident in your current media plan or display strategy to reach out to the team for advise on improving your display ad performance.

Thank you for the time.