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Conversion Therapy: What Makes Us Click On Ads

Digital marketing is all about leveraging intentions to drive user interaction with ad content. This is the everyday bread for creatives, marketers and business owners - it all starts with a click.

So what makes us click on ads? This is a blog exploring the notion that clicking is a core aspect of the paid advertising ecosystem, using pay per click advertising on Meta as a core example.

Click hierarchy.

You've clicked today. That click is a command to proceed towards your interests and a signal to marketers. It’s an action that duplicates as a data point, leaving a trace that allows digital marketers to understand your behaviour in order to give you the necessary stimuli to maximise the chances for a purchase to happen - conversion. A quest to transform your clicks into sales - to convert.

By definition, paid digital advertising performance relies on the question: is the campaign the investment? Does the 'pay' justify the 'click' in Pay-Per-Click. You’re paying for ads, and seeing reach, clicks and potential results in your advertising dashboard. And at the end of the day, you count your pennies.

If the pennies counted amount to a smile, then your conversions were great. If not, then you see the number of clicks generated - if you maintain a neutral expression, the clicks were cheap or not many.

Then you sort of glance at the reach metrics and forget about them once you get to the engagement part, showing a harsh comment left on your Facebook feed ad post. Something about your ad looking like it was made by a toddler. You hide the comment and call it a day.

Conversion, click, reach, engagement - and many more types of metrics are part of the social media pay-per-click advertising ecosystem. When marketers say 'data is everything' they are referring to the entirety of data, viewed as a single case. However, it is true that not all data has the same value and this is why I follow a click hierarchy to know what to prioritise.

If you’re a business owner or a young marketer, I recommend understanding the click hierarchy and the 3 stages of ‘clicking’ in paid advertising. It consists of:

  • Engagement - the user is presented with the ad content, and is attracted enough to engage with it. We’re talking about any and all interactions on the ad vendor or platform itself as part of the ad viewing experience. You go on a Meta ad and the video starts on autoplay. You click pause, enable/disable the volume, open the comment section and explore while the video is playing - all of that is engagement with the ad. We're looking for the intention in all user interactions when attributing a higher value, so an accidental click has the same value as a 'view' because there's no intention behind the click - it is not a metric of engagement. Interaction with the ad on the ad platform - commenting, liking, sharing, saving - anything prior to the click to access the sales vendor outside the platform is a metric of engagement.

  • Click-through - the user is interested enough to click on the ad and is redirected to the landing page. The landing page is typically outside the advertising platform - it is a digital environment that enables the user to perform a purchase directly from the primary vendor. It's called a click-through because marketers correlate the action of clicking and waiting time for the internet to take the user to the destination interface as a singular action. So if the user clicks but doesn't reach the landing page, that can be considered an accidental click.

  • Conversion - the user makes the final decision to check out and purchase your offer. The user views the ad, clicks through to access the vendor and is then converted into a paying customer through a series of final clicks.

In a nutshell, the click hierarchy is the structure of user interaction on a digital user interface as part of the search engine advertising platform experience. It can be applied universally to most mainstream digital marketing platforms, be it Google Ads, Bing Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc.

Ad placement is key.

Your ad will pop up in designated ad placements within your chosen platform if it appears to be relevant to the target users' interests.

You can allow platforms, such as Facebook, to determine relevancy automatically, set it yourself from the ground up or follow a hybrid approach, where you set up the initial key interests and then gradually feed data into it based on the key metrics as identified in the click hierarchy.

For example, someone interested in purchasing a new car might see an ad for a nearby dealer. If this user does not scroll in the social feeds but is active on Messenger as well as a local car enthusiast community group, your ad will most likely reach them while they’re interacting with the former two platform functions. When the user clicks on your ads, you will be charged per click regardless of where the successful ad was placed.

The potential click may come not only from the feed but also from 7 other major placement categories on Meta. Here’s the 2022 Q1 list of potential ad placement categories on Meta:

  • Feeds Get high visibility for your business with ads in feeds. Ads appear on Facebook News Feed, Instagram feed, Facebook Marketplace, Facebook video feeds, Facebook right column, Instagram Explore, Instagram Shop, Messenger inbox.

  • Stories and Reels Tell a rich, visual story with immersive, full-screen vertical ads located in Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories, Messenger Stories, Instagram Reels and Facebook Reels.

  • Facebook and Instagram In-stream Quickly capture people's attention while they're watching videos.

  • Reels overlay Reach people with sticker or banner ads as they watch short-form content.

  • Search Get visibility for your business as people search on Facebook.

  • Messages Send offers or updates to people who are already connected to your business.

  • In-article Engage with people reading content from publishers.

  • Apps and sites Expand your reach with ads in external apps and websites.

Your ads will pop up on one of these placement vendors and when the user scrolls past them, it will be registered as a 'view', since the ad content was placed in the view of the user as far as it is possible to estimate under the capabilities of the platform.

Simplifying click intention.

When it comes to the in-depth understanding of the intentions of the people clicking on ad content, we're entering the realms of psychology and user experience (UX).

This is because clicking is a conscious signal to proceed towards where your intentions are leading as part of the digital browsing experience.

Clicking is the one and only physical action, that connects the user intention with the user interface. Browsing itself is not a physical activity, as far as the user is concerned. So the whole browsing experience can be simplified to the point of a click.

Simplify how you identify intentions with 4 steps:

  1. Identify the needs that your offer aims to satisfy. To do this, use Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. For example, if you're selling health insurance, you are satisfying two needs - physiological and safety. If you're selling a marketing course, you're satisfying self-actualisation and esteem.

  2. Identify the core marketing element. You do this by identifying what communicates value in the key visual. For example, let's say that your key visual states 'Black Friday Sale. -70% off. Free delivery nationwide.' So in this visual, there are 3 points of value: the fact that it is a Black Friday themed promotion, the fact of discount and the fact of free delivery. The core marketing element here is the '-70%' because it is a very large discount and is likely to exceed the delivery fees.

  3. Embody the user. Go on your chosen ad platform and view what's being advertised to you. Once you see an ad you like, consider the offer and write down the pros and cons of clicking on it. Whether you choose to click or not, write down your intentions. Now imagine replacing the ad with your own ad content and repeat this consideration. You may want to click through and follow the conversion process right until the point of sale to be aware of what your marketing funnel may look like. By viewing ads in the different placements across the platform, you may identify which ones are not suitable for your product. For example, if you're advertising your freelance services in Instagram story design and videography, your campaign may benefit from discarding all the placement options on the platform except Instagram Feed and Story.

  4. Ask the user. The average user may not be introspective enough to be conscious of their own intentions; even if they are, they may not be open about it to you. Regardless, you can identify user intentions by asking indirect questions or by reviewing feedback.

Just like how you double click on your downloads folder to access a document you've downloaded, people have similar intentions when clicking your ads. Data is there to help you understand user psychology and its role in your user experience.

The value of audience targeting.

One of the first things you’ll want to determine is how valuable your potential audience really is. In other words, how likely is your target user to engage with, click through and convert as a consequence of your advertising action?

Click-through rates are a great indicator of an audience’s interest in your content, but only if they’re set up correctly. Research what other businesses or marketers have accomplished with their own Facebook ad campaigns to get an idea of what marketing activity is shuffling the pockets of your industry fellows to catch a hint at what your ads may look like.

Reaching highly targeted audiences means more relevant posts that resonate with customers—leading to higher conversions and improved click-through rates over time. This can work on a number of levels; for example, if you sell maternity clothes aimed at hip millennial moms, there might not be many women who fall into that category living in rural areas—targeting an urban area instead could make all the difference.

An accurately defined target audience maximises the chances of pay-per-click bringing you the most value per click. If your business thrives on conversion and isn't satisfied by the mysterious 'awareness', this area has to become your marketing frontier.

Creativity drives clicks.

Selecting an audience, determining your goal and creating your ad are just a few of the many steps involved in creating a successful Facebook ad. The primary component in your control that can generate an intention to click is the key visual - images, videos, gifs.

But while many businesses use Facebook and have no problem attracting a solid number of clicks with their ad content, far fewer actually convert. The average Meta ad conversion rate across all industries is 9.21%. This is much higher than the Google Ads conversion averages, as is true for TikTok and Pinterest.

Creators and marketers who thrive on these platforms tend to agree that this is because of the richness of the media that is supported as ad content on the platforms. This is why the visual ad content will always be the X factor that makes or kills your conversion rates.

The key visual material that is presented to the target audience as part of your advertising will always be the centrepiece that connects and drives the impulse to click. Learn a few tricks from my AdWorld summary by clicking here.


In a nutshell, to understand how clicks are generated and to integrate this understanding into your digital ad campaigns, you should be acquainted with the conversion process while focusing on where your ads are placed within the platform.

Developing appropriate ad visuals to go with your copy, deciding when to post and measuring results can be overwhelming—but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to start with every piece in place.

You can create a basic ad set, for now, learn more about what works for you and use that knowledge later as you move through different versions of your campaign. The point is getting started—and figuring out how your approaches compare through A/B testing.

let's misbehave,



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