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Measuring the Fat Fingers Problem

Excluding accidental mobile clicks lowers rates—but they’re still higher than for the desktop web

Reports of high mobile click rates seemed too good to be true. Industry-watchers quickly adopted the “fat fingers” theory: that many clicks on mobile ads were accidental, and due to the small screen mixed with clumsy hands and hard-to-avoid placements.

Research from at least one mobile rich media and video ad solutions provider indicates there is an element of truth in the theory. GoldSpot Media reported in October that 38% of clicks on static banner ads it served, and 13% of clicks on rich media banners, were accidental.

These figures are based on analysis of post-click actions—if engagement with post-click content lasted less than 2 seconds, it was defined as accidental.

That drives effective clickthrough rates far down from how the raw numbers appear. GoldSpot found a 4% clickthrough rate on rich media banners, for example, but after removing accidental clicks the percentage was cut in half. Static banners, which were more likely to suffer from fat fingers, lost even more of their clickthrough rate, dropping from 3.1% to 1.1%.

On the bright side for mobile marketers and publishers, these clickthrough rates are still significantly higher than the dismal percentages seen for much inventory on the desktop web. Whether this is due to mobile’s novelty as an ad delivery channel or particular effectiveness, a banner click rate over 1% is nothing to sneeze at. It’s 10 times as high as the average banner click rate worldwide reported in June by MediaMind, for one thing.

But if accidental clicks are so common, it does point to a problem with using clickthrough as a measure of success—or as a pricing mechanism—for mobile campaigns.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Ereader Shipments on the Rise” and “In Western Europe, Rich Media Will Make Greatest Display Gains.”

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