Google: two clicks a charm to eliminate accidental mobile ad visits

One of the many reasons why mobile advertising is slow to catch on with advertisers is that it’s still unclear how many clicks are intentional and not just a case of fat fingers.

Now Google (s goog) is taking a step toward providing some more certainty by introducing “confirmed clicks”, a two-step click process, for its image banner ads in smartphone apps. 

What this means is that, when Google thinks there’s a good chance a user’s click on an ad was accidental, it will verify that they want to view the ad with an extra button that says “view site.” The prompting will usually happen when a user hits the edge of an ad, which is where most accidental clicks happen.

Often, a person is just navigating through an app when they get too close to an ad. As we reported earlier this year, 22 percent of clicks on mobile ads were accidental, according to data from Trademob. A survey about two years by Harris Interactive commissioned by Pontiflex found that 47 percent of app users say they are more apt to click a mobile ad by mistake than they do on purpose.

Google, mobile ads, accidental clicks

Now, Google will know if the click was legitimate, which should help give advertisers more real traffic and should also help improve the experience for users. Google previously employed confirmed clicks for text banner ads on smartphones a few years ago.

Jonathan Alferness, director of product management for mobile ads at Google, told me early testing has found that confirmed clicks can cut down on the majority of accidental clicks. He can’t say how many clicks are believed to be accidental but he said tackling them is important for the health of mobile advertising.

In the short term, he said Google and publishers will likely see slightly fewer clicks as a result, which could mean less revenue up front. But he believes that advertisers will receive higher conversions and more consumer acquisitions on the clicks they do get, which ultimately encourage more investment in mobile ads.

Alferness is hoping that other ad networks will employ similar measures — or, at least, begin a discussion with the Interactive Advertising Bureau about possible standards for confirming mobile ad clicks.

“We’re not looking at near- or medium-term, this is about the long-term health of mobile advertising,” said Alferness. “I want the industry to wake up because we need to stomp out accidental clicks.”

Alferness said this is just limited to smartphone image-based banner ads and doesn’t include rich media ads. Google is looking at extending confirmed clicks to more ad formats.

There are other challenges for mobile advertising. And we still have to deal with some shady developers and publishers who intentionally place ads to prompt bad clicks or do other tricks to register false clicks.

But this is a good place to start. Big-name advertisers need to have more confidence that their mobile ad spend is actually producing real results. If mobile advertising has any hope of closing the gap with online ads, it will need to limit the effects of fat fingers.