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Determining how consumers perceive, interact with, and respond to advertisements posted on the websites they visit remains the Holy Grail for any advertiser. Existing metrics can indicate clicks on ads, but these click rates are so low on average as to be nearly meaningless. Therefore, advertisers often just assume that website readers are most likely to see ads above “the fold,” that is, on the top of the landing page of an article or site they have accessed.

That assumption might represent a classic mistake, according to new software by the web analytics firm Chartbeat. Rather than the top of the page, where readers usually spend only a couple of seconds, it might be more beneficial for advertisers to locate their ads lower down in the scroll, after consumers have started reading the content contained on the page.

The reason has to do with the difference between browsing and engaging. Chartbeat identifies engaged online readers by not just the amount of time they spend on the page but also the number of movements (i.e., scrolling up or down or moving the cursor) they make while on the page. These more engaged readers glean more content from the main site. They also exhibit better recall of the advertisements that appear next to the informative content. For example, when readers spend 5 seconds on a site (i.e., they are less engaged), only half of them could recall an ad on that site. If they spent 15 seconds there, more than 70 percent exhibited recall of the advertisers.

Furthermore, according to analyses of 1 million online users, Chartbeat showed that 66 percent of engaged reading took place below the section of the page that the readers see when they first open the web page. Using newspaper-era lingo, Chartbeat refers to this area as below the fold, and it recommends that advertisers make better use of the traditionally ignored space.

BrandingThe software continues being tested, but if its beta test proves successful, Chartbeat could change the way companies bid for and insert their advertising. It also stands to make a lot of profits from advertisers desperate for new insights into how online consumers recall advertising.

Source: Jason Del Rey, “Chartbeat Aims to Show Publishers if Their Ads Work,” Advertising Age, March 15, 2013