High CTR or High Impressions--Which Is Better?

Amrita Hemdev
By Amrita Hemdev
July 25, 2018

Impressions and click-through rate, or CTR, are common metrics used to assess the results in digital advertising. As an advertiser and a small business owner, these are important metrics to understand when optimizing to get the best out of a digital ad campaign.

Higher impressions mean that your digital advertisement had a significant number of exposures to internet users. A higher CTR means that a relatively large percentage of impressions lead internet users -- your potential customers -- to click on the digital ad.

In this post, we’ll review everything you need to know about CTR and impressions, including the differences between the two, why they matter, how to calculate them, and why it’s not always essential for this number to be on the high side depending upon your overall campaign goals.

What is an impression?

An impression is simply a view of your ad. It could be a banner ad, OTT ad, video ad, or text ad. One view equals one impression. Impressions are the total number of exposures to your advertisement. If the same person is exposed to an ad five times, this counts as five impressions.

Unique impressions are the number of unique people who saw your ad, regardless of how many times they viewed it.

Note: If the same person sees your ad on multiple devices (desktop, phone, tablet) they’ll count as a unique impression for each device.

For advertisers, impressions are important because they tell you how many eyes have seen a particular ad. You can calculate the reach of the advertisement based on how many times it was seen.

For business owners, measuring your impressions will help you understand what content can be viewed by the most people the most number of times.

What is CTR?

CTR is an essential metric that can help you gauge the results you’re getting and how effective your digital campaigns are.

When an online visitor clicks on your ad banner, he or she is redirected to your website. This is called a click-through. CTR is a comparison of the number of click-throughs to the number of total impressions.

The metric represents the percentage of people who clicked your ad compared to the total impressions. For example, if you had 10,000 impressions and 10 clicks, your CTR is 0.10%.

Your CTR depends on many factors, most of which you can control. One element that can have a significant effect on CTR is the ad creative (i.e., what your ad looks like will play a big part in whether or not users decide to click). Another factor could be your call-to-action and more.

Across all industries, the average CTR for a display ad is 0.35%.

Here's a look at the average CTR by industry:

 Benchmark data 

CTR reveals how often people who view your ad end up clicking it. CTR can be used to help you determine the quality of your image, brand positioning, audience targeting, and keywords. A high CTR is one indicator of the success of an ad. If a lot of people are clicking, your ad is engaging and noticeable.

How to calculate CTR?

Let’s look at an example:

Your publisher’s site displays three of your ads per page, which load every time. In one day you get:

  • 3,000 ad impressions
  • 10 clicks

To calculate your CTR, you can use this equation: CTR = Clicks divided by impressions (then multiply the whole thing by 100 to make it into a percentage).


CTR formula


In this example, your CTR is 0.33%.

To work out your own CTR quickly and easily, you can use this handy CTR calculator here.

Choosing the right KPI for your business

When it comes to deciding which digital metric or KPI is the most suitable one for your business, consider your digital advertising campaign goal.

If your goal is to build awareness about a new product or service or create recognition for your new brand, getting higher impressions on your ad would be something that you should be aiming at. However, if one of the goals of your campaign is to drive conversions or traffic to your ad landing page, a high CTR = success.

How carefully do you monitor the CTR on your campaigns? Do you use ad impressions to gauge the health of both your campaigns and your funnel? Are you hitting your campaign goals? Not sure what your CTR metrics mean for your campaigns? We can help.

ZypMedia specializes in local digital advertising. We can help you place your digital ads in front of today’s mobile-engaged audience while helping you drive sales and generate a positive ROI. Our team of analysts keeps a human eye on the performance of your campaign throughout its lifecycle to make sure it stays on track to reach your goal. Reach out to us to find out how.


Picture of Amrita Hemdev

Amrita Hemdev

Amrita is an inbound marketer. She studied marketing and project management at UC Berkeley and proceeded to work in a fast-paced, digital advertising tech startup, with a goal of increasing brand awareness. She is currently the Content Marketing Specialist at ZypMedia. Passionate about digital marketing and having six years of experience in this field, she also started her digital marketing and creative agency, Sociato, based in India.