Whether its click fraud, or the accidental click, media agencies and their clients are yet to come to grips with these pitfalls in display advertising. Besides, click fraud (usually, clicks appearing on impressions that were actually never even seen), the accidental click is something that seems unavoidable at the moment – happening typically on mobile and tablet, and sometimes on gaming content sites.

Google Adwords advised us in mid-2015 that studies by various third parties estimated that up to 50% of clicks on mobile and tablets were “accidental”. So much for bigger phone and tablet screens.

The problem for advertisers (and their agencies) with the accidental click is that there is never any intent there towards conversion – and no matter what Click Through Rates say, it is conversion that really counts.

One quick giveaway for the accidental click is the high CTR (Click Through Rates), but low conversion. Typically, a good agency will spot this, domain by domain, and try and block that domain from campaigns or raise the issue with the publisher/SSP where this happens. One way to tackle this is also design. One cannot but blame the incredibly small size of the mobile ad and the even smaller call-to-action button for this – so at design stage this might be worth considering.

The accidental clicker will not convert – you simply need to accept that. In fact, typically, the accidental clicker absolutely hates the way he or she was drawn into that accidental action – and they end up frustrated, and with a pretty negative impression of the brand in question. Brands must be more accepting of higher CPC rates because often agencies will not pursue their goal of helping avoid the accidental (or the fraudulent unseen click) if they are chasing low CPC rates.

With today’s programmatic options, you need to recognize display advertising for what it is: that display actually works well (often in multiple impressions) along the customer journey path – and you can track that. There’s this concept of ‘view-through’ conversions – which means that the actual conversion (the Zero Moment of Truth per Google) actually may happen on another channel because the user has seen several display reminders before arriving at a decision. Search is usually one of those final decision moment channels – but it happens (that coveted final click to convert) because of the sowing of the display seeds.

Forbes published a piece on this and how Google were handling this “Google found most of the accidental clicks on app image ads happened at the outer edges of the ad, no doubt because people were trying to scroll up or click on adjacent content”. Google have identified the image border as an area prone to the accidental click, and have structured it so that the viewer must click closer to the center of the image to navigate through to an advertiser’s website or app.

Additionally, Google has added a prompt to “Visit site” whenever people click on the outskirts of the ad. It’s an extra click, but it also ensures that’s really what the person wanted to do.” As well, a ‘clickability’ delay factor now allows user to actually take a longer, harder look at an ad rather than accidentally click on an ad that just suddenly popped up.

Meanwhile, in Cupertino, Apple continues to fly its flag against the online ad in general – beyond the accidental click. They’ve made it easier for iOS9 users on Safari to block ads, period. In the mobile format, certain advertisers are now facing a choice offered to users each time between “Leave News – View Ad” or “Don’t View” while surfing Apple’s mobile news app.

Regardless of publisher and format, with increased consumption (specially reading) on mobile devices, every one is trying hard to make that experience streamlined, easy, interruption free and fast. Ad blocking software is the new black for consumers, and they’re taking to it quick.

In summary, the accidental click cannot simply be attributed to ‘fat finger syndrome’ on a small screen and wished away. The brand, the media agency, the publisher, and often the design agency need to work closely together to avoid this pitfall. Perhaps a double click to navigate through is the answer. Perhaps a query based next step is. Whatever, eliminating this disruption, this annoying accident will go a long way towards improved user experience and better conversion rates for advertisers who have a product or service to sell that the consumer genuinely wants to know about , to buy and enjoy. Regardless of his finger size.

This article was published in the Gulf News, January 27, 2016
by Tom Roy, CIO, Middle East Communications Network