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Google tweaks in-app ads to cut down on accidental clicks

With accidental clicks on banner ads continuing to be an issue for marketers, Google is rolling out a new feature for in-application units that aims to improve the quality of leads generated from mobile ads.

Accidental banner clicks are an ongoing issue for marketers wary of investing in mobile advertising. To help with this, Google has launched a tool called confirmed clicks into all in-app image banner ads.

?We believe that tackling the issue of accidental clicks is good for users, advertisers, publishers and the entire mobile ecosystem,? said Allen Huang, product manager of mobile display ads at Google, Mountain View, CA.

?We've always been focused on delivering clicks that are valuable to advertisers, and removing accidental clicks is a big step in the right direction,? he said. ?By doing this, we hope to give advertisers more confidence and better results when advertising on mobile.?

New ad formats
Given the small screen size, especially on smartphones, it is common for consumers to tap and click-through on mobile ads unintentionally.

Not only can these clicks be expensive for marketers, they can also generate leads that are not valuable.

The new tool is area-sensitive and basically lines the corners of a banner with a message requiring users to confirm that they want to view the ad?s content once a click has been detected.

When an ad is clicked on around the borders, the unit flashes a message reading ?visit site? that users must click on to confirm.

According to Google, the company sees the most accidental clicks around the corners of mobile banner ads because they hit in areas where users are trying to click or scroll on nearby content.

However, if an ad is tapped from the middle of the unit, it is assumed that the click is intentionally and the consumer will be directed to the ad?s content without confirmation.

Although click-through rates might dip with the new tools, the new ad formats have shown to improve conversions, per Google.

Google has taken a few measures recently to improve transparency in its ad units for consumers and advertisers.

For example, Google began testing the confirmed clicks in in-app text ad banners a few years ago, according to the company.

Additionally, the company rolled out a new set of tools this summer to help marketers using in-app advertising to promote app downloads. The ad units now contain more information about apps before consumers download them (see story).

?By expanding confirmed clicks to in-app image ad banners, we?re now making this improved user experience consistent across the vast majority of the ads that we serve in mobile apps,? Mr. Huang said.

?We've also been looking at other mobile ad formats beyond apps that would benefit from confirmed clicks, but are excited to tackle the biggest chunk with this launch in apps now,? he said.

Not a cure-all
Some experts argue that Google?s new tool only focuses on click-to-Web and does not tackle the other ways that marketers measure accidental clicks. For example, time spent can also indicate if a consumer intentionally clicked on an ad.

?This will be a lose-lose situation for both marketers and consumers,? said Srini Dharmaji, CEO of GoldSpot Media, Sunnyvale, CA.

?Each call-to-action on mobile is different and some come with built-in user confirmation such as click-to-call, where the phone dialer comes up and asks the user for confirmation to call,? he said. ?There is click-to-lead gen, where the advertiser pays only when the user voluntarily enters personal information to be used by the marketer.?

Although the new tool cuts down on accidental clicks, the majority of mobile ad business is still based on a cost-per-click model, per Mr. Dharmaji.

Additionally, asking users to perform an extra step by confirming their intention could seem annoying to some consumers.

?It may drive more demand for mobile ads, but, is fraught with the risk of annoying the mobile consumer and bring down the click-through rates significantly,? Mr. Dharmaji said. ?Not good for the entire ecosystem.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York