Running advertising on the web is like walking a fine line: everyone shoots for delighted engagement, but so many advertisers fall on the side of disruptive annoyance. So what exactly is going wrong?
We Need Ads (but not the annoying ones)
Last year, Google ran a global survey which revealed that 69% of people who installed ad blockers did so as a direct result of annoying or intrusive ads.
Now, the internet thrives partly on revenue generated by advertising, so it's in everyone's best interests to keep online advertising alive. But there is a better way.
Enter the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry body dedicated to improving customers' experience of online advertising. Their research, involving 25,000 participants, resulted in the release of the initial Better Ad Standards in an effort to improve online advertising as it is perceived by the user. The information collected from this research was then used by Google Web Tools, who launched their Ad Experience Report, a tool for publishers to measure the advertising on their site: effectively, whether the Coalition's Better Ad Standards had been violated.
So, what type of advertising fails to meet the Better Ad Standards? And therefore, what type of advertising riles your users the most?
1. The Pop-up
Not so surprisingly, pop-ups accounted for 97% of the desktop violations reported in the survey, and 54% for mobile.
50% of overall users said they wouldn't revisit or recommend a page with a pop-up ad. The interruption factor is a huge reason for this.
Tip: As an alternative, full-screen inline ads can be implemented, which are considered less disruptive and provide the same amount of space without covering any content. Takeover ads, which border the main content of a page, are also considered much less distratcting for users.
2. THE Noisy Auto-Playing Video
These ads distract you from the important business at hand by playing video, complete with deeply annoying (and often loud) soundtrack, with no interaction required from you. Users will often close out very quickly to stop the sound which is disruptive and unexpected.
Tip: Videos that require a click to activate the sound are considered less distracting or annoying.
3. THE Prestitial Ad (with Countdown)
These little beauties arrive before the content loads on a page. The user has to wait until the countdown has finished to begin viewing their content. Unsurprisingly, users often don't stick around for the countdown to finish and click away.
Tip: For desktop (not mobile), prestitial ads which can be dismissed immediately met the Coaliltion's standards.
4. the large, sticky ad
These immobile ads will stay on the edge of the page regardless of the user's attempts to dismiss them (the definition of large in this case is 30% or more of the screen space). Grrrrr.
5. just Too Many Ads
Too much! On mobile, If it takes up 30% or more of vertical space in the main content portion of the page, it's going to disrupt the experience. Regardless of the type of advertising.
6. the Postitial Ad (with Countdown)
Here, the user hits a link and is then presented with an ad. They have to wait a period of time before dismissing the ad, or for the ad to close. Are they going to stick around? It's a risk, as the user flow is clearly broken.
For mobile, postitial ads which can be dismissed immediately met the Coalition's standards.
7. the flashing animation
A personal bugbear, flashing animations with rapidly changing background colours were proven to be highly aggravating and distracting for the user.
Tip: Tone things down a little - animations without the "flash" effect met the Coalition's standards.
8. THE Full-Screen Scrollover
A mobile phenomenon, these ads force the user to scroll through them as they appear on top of content. The user needs to be highly motivated to continue to the content.
Tip: An alternative to this method is inline advertising: these ads will scroll with the content , and so smoothly out of sight.
What Can We Do?
In a nutshell, any ads which delay the user flow or obstruct the user view are disruptive and disadvantageous, increasing bounce rate and decreasing session times. In order to serve advertising which doesn't turn the user away, remember these three words:
Immediate: Don't ask users to wait whilst your ad plays out through a countdown. Similarly, AMP ads are worth considering to avoid lengthy load times.
Immersive: Ads that work smoothly with the page (e.g. inline, see left) are far more successful than those which cover content or obstruct the user's view, or scream for attention (e.g. flashing animations, pop-ups), detracting from the site's content.
Relevant: Serving advertising relevant to the user's interests will keep them engaged. Talk to your digital agency about personalisation.
Okay, so no-one goes online thinking "I wonder what amazing advertising I'll be presented with today?". At its best, online advertising will delight, engage and convert potential customers. At is very worst, it will result in users leaving your site and never returning. There are many variations in between; staying on the good side of the Better Ad Standards is a great place to start.
Keen to sort out your online advertising? Get in touch!