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Google Introduces a New Mobile Ad to Combat Fat Fingers

When people click on ads in apps, Google will ask them to click again on a button labeled “visit site.”

The “fat finger effect” — the theory that people accidentally click on mobile ads because cellphone screens are so small — is one reason mobile ads generally earn less money than ads shown on desktop computers.

Google, one of the biggest sellers of mobile ads, on Thursday introduced a new way to fight back against fat fingers.

When people click on image ads sold by Google that appear in cellphone apps, Google will double-check that the person wants to visit the advertiser’s Web site before taking them there, by asking them to click again on a button labeled “visit site.”

When clicks are accidental, they usually happen near the outer edge of the ad, Google said, when a fat finger intended to scroll through the app instead. That is when Google will verify that someone meant to click on the ad. Google has already done this in text banner ads in apps.

Early tests have shown that the new feature decreases the number of clicks on ads, but increases the number of people who make a purchase or otherwise interact with an advertiser after clicking, according to Google.

“As devices continue to converge, there will be new challenges in the fight against what many have called the ‘fat finger’ problem,” Allen Huang, a Google product manager for mobile display ads, wrote in a company blog post. “But implementing confirmed clicks is an important step that we think will benefit users, advertisers, publishers, and the mobile ecosystem overall.”

Making mobile advertising work is crucial for Google, which earns almost all its money from advertising, and is trying to figure out how to continue to do so as consumers spend more time on phones instead of computers.

Google has 55 percent market share in mobile ad revenue, and 95 percent for mobile search ads, according to eMarketer. But even though Google’s ad revenue continues to climb, the amount that advertisers pay for each click is falling, in part because there are more mobile ads that are worth less.

As Google experiments with how to fix that problem, expect to see new types of mobile ads from the company. Its new Maps app for the iPhone does not have ads — yet. But its new YouTube app for the iPhone does, unlike the previous version.

NYTIMES

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