Do You Accidentally Thumb Over Ads All the Time? Google’s Working on That

Cutting back on all the extraneous mobile clicks

Headshot of Marty Swant

Everyone with a smartphone has accidentally thumbed over an ad they had absolutely no interest in seeing. Google wants to do something about it, while improving the user experience as well as advertising performance.

The tech giant has been working on reducing accidental clicks on ads for some time, but it's announcing today that it's extending the initiative from only dealing with search and displays ads to also entailing native ad formats. And Google is offering stats that illustrate why the larger effort is crucial to advertisers' return on investment.

In Google's world, accidental clicks are a lose-lose for everyone. Users lose time by clicking on an ad they didn't mean to click on, and advertisers lose money by paying for a click they likely didn't even want. (Google also says accidental clicks drive down the value of ads in the long term. There's not necessarily a direct correlation, but cost per click has fallen. According to parent company Alphabet's most recent earnings report, CPCs fell by 9 percent in the first quarter of 2016.)

Google said the protections put in place for mobile web and mobile apps prevent tens of millions of accidental clicks per day and saves tens of thousands of hours of wasted user time. The search engine giant says protections can also end up increasing overall conversion rates by 10 percent on average, with minimal impact to long term ads.

"When we look at the effect for advertisers in mobile apps, we observe double the value per click," Google said in a blog post set to be released today. "We work hard to ensure that the clicks advertisers are charged for are more meaningful, and we hope sharing insight on these protections helps raise awareness and guide the wider advertising ecosystem."

One way Google is able to prevent accidental clicks is by ignoring accidentally fast clicks on interstitial ads. The company said it's like a professional baseball player having 680 milliseconds to react and swing at a 90-miles-per-hour fastball.

"That's fast, even for a professional who's paying close attention to hitting the ball," Google said. "We think it's virtually impossible for someone to read, understand, and take action on an ad in that amount of time."

Google will now also ignore when the user misses adjacent content and accidentally clicks on the edge of an ad. The company found "dramatically higher" conservation rates and user intentionality when a click happens in the middle of an ad.

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.