More Online Ads Should Require Users To Confirm They Meant To Click

Apps using Google's AdMob system now feature ads that require the user to verify they want to visit the advertised site.

Apps using Google’s AdMob system now feature ads that require the user to verify they want to visit the advertised site.

Last week, Google introduced a new feature on its mobile ad network that seeks to cut down on accidental ad clicks by requiring the user to verify they want to visit the site linked in the ad. We think this is a great idea that the entire Internet could use.

“[M]any 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,” explained Google’s Allen Huang in his announcement of the new system.

Obviously the most problematic ads are the ones pushed to the margins on mobile sites, as those of us with big-boned thumbs have a tendency to bump into them during the course of regular use without any intent to check out the latest Uggs or read about Caribbean time shares.

Mobile advertising is also a big issue because of lower data caps and limited screen real estate. But there are plenty of ads that draw incidental clicks when surfing the Internet on your computer. Think of site wraps, those all-engrossing ad campaigns that you frequently see on pop culture sites. Accidentally clicking in the margin of the site will pop open a new window and probably launch a video player. But if you had to click a second time in order to verify that yes, you really, really want to learn about that new high-concept romantic comedy starring that British guy and a recognizable TV actress, it would save many users the annoyance of having to close windows while confirming to the advertiser that the person who viewed the trailer is indeed their target audience.

There is also the growing trend of super-headers, those humongous ads that appear at the top of the web page. Many of these now do the auto-expand and contract, so that they gradually reduce in prominence on the page, but there is sometimes an odd delay that has you clicking an ad for your local car dealership instead of that headline about a heroic cat. The accidental click only heightens the aggravation that these ads already present to the reader, so having a “are you really sure?” intermediary step would go a long way toward alleviating the irritation.

The same goes for those ads that randomly float out into the middle of your page, asking you to take a survey. Or the footers that expand into the page when your cursor goes nearby. Or those pre-roll ads that run before a video and take you to a new site if you miss the volume button by a little bit.

Problem is, so many sites — big and small — rely on accidental clicks for at least some of their revenue. In a past life at an ad-supported website, the entire pitch from the sales people at some ad networks was that we’d make a guaranteed amount of money each month based solely on clumsy web users.

Google’s move toward click-verification is a huge step forward. If adopted by larger ad networks, or even just instituted by Google on its browser-based networks, it could result in fewer “oops” clicks, which should translate into higher ad revenue for sites, networks and advertisers who create quality ads and know how to target consumers correctly.

Or it could just lead to more sneaky placement and new types of ads that are even more prone to accidental clicks.