Google Working to End Errant Clicks on Mobile Ads

Now if users accidentally click on a banner ad on their mobile device, they'll be prompted to click a second time to confirm that they really want to see the ad.

Google is helping mobile device users to avoid an aggravating problem: That moment when they accidentally click on a nearby banner ad on their screen and the device calls up the ad in full view.

Don't you hate when that happens?

So does Google and many of its users, ad publishers and advertisers, who all are affected by the errant clicks, Allen Huang, Google's product manager for mobile display ads, wrote in a Dec. 13 post on the Google Mobile Ads Blog.

"Ads on smartphones are effective, but many of us have at some point clicked on an ad by accident, which ultimately is a bad experience for the user, the publisher and the advertiser who pays for clicks that may not be valuable," wrote Huang. "Our team has been analyzing the types of ad formats where accidental clicks are more likely to occur due to ad layout and placement, and are constantly looking at ways that we can combat them. Today, we’re introducing confirmed clicks into all in-app image ad banners on smartphones, which reduces accidental clicks by prompting the user to confirm that they intended to click on the ad."
Most of those errant clicks on in-app image ads apparently happen at the outer edge of the ad as users try to scroll to nearby content, according to Huang's post. From now on, though, that will be almost impossible to do in the future.

"Now if you click on the outer border of the ad, we’ll prompt you to verify that you actually meant to click on the ad to learn more," he wrote. "This builds on our previous efforts with confirmed clicks for text ad banners on smartphones, which we introduced a few years ago. In the text ad format, tapping on the blue arrow button takes you to the advertiser’s ad destination, whereas tapping anywhere else in the ad prompts you to confirm your click."

The new "confirmed clicks" approach to the mobile ads will now be consistent for users across the vast majority of the ads served up by Google to mobile users, he wrote. "In our initial tests, we found that confirmed clicks notably improve mobile conversion rates, with a slight decrease in click-through rate as accidental clicks are avoided."

That's better for advertisers who pay for the ads each time someone clicks on them, and for users, who shouldn't have to pay to load the ads carry if they don't want to see them.

"This is only the beginning,” wrote Huang. "As devices continue to converge there will be new challenges in the fight against what many have called the 'fat finger' problem. But implementing confirmed clicks is an important step that we think will benefit users, advertisers, publishers, and the mobile ecosystem overall, and we'll continue to look for ways to improve mobile ads for everyone."

Google's successful mobile ad business is likely the reason the company wants to keep finding ways to keep its users and ad customers happy. Google's mobile ad business could top $4.5 billion this year, an 80 percent boost over the mobile platform provider's 2011 mobile revenues of $2.5 billion, according to an eWEEK report in March.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said at that time that the mobile ad revenue could help account for 10 percent of Google's gross sales in 2012, up from 7 percent in 2011.