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App Promotion Interstitials: Is It Time To Look For Alternatives?

October 13, 2015 0 Comments RSS Feed

StoryformNative mobile apps bring numerous benefits to publishers: they allow for more precise control of the user experience than the mobile web, they can collect more extensive data, and they provide access to native hardware features that are beyond the reach of web apps for the moment. It’s easy to understand why publishers prefer that users install their native app.

One of the most common methods publishing sites use to create awareness of their native alternative is the interstitial ad. We’ve all experienced these. A user clicks on a link. They expect to be taken to an article, but instead are presented with a large promotional page that encourages them to install the native app.

Interstitials Are Bad UX Design

Up front, we have to acknowledge this truth: interstitial ads provide an obnoxious user experience. They interrupt users’ expected journey. They prevent the user from accessing the content they expect. Often interstitials are designed to be deliberately difficult to close. No one — including the publishers — thinks that interstitials offer a good user experience.

Interstitials are so popular because publishers are making the calculation that a poor user experience and its associated bounce rate are worth the price if a decent proportion of visitors install the native app. I’m not a fan of this way of thinking, but I can appreciate the business logic.

However, the logic is faulty if the consequences of interstitials aren’t worth the price: if the frustration, the bounce rates, and the disgruntled users aren’t offset by an increased conversion rate.

A recent study from Google indicates that conversion rates — app installs, in this case — are actively harmed by interstitial promotions. Google used to display interstitial ads for the Google+ app when mobile web users visited the social network. The interstitial had a 9 percent conversion rate. 69 percent of visitors bounced immediately.

The 9 percent conversion isn’t at all bad as these things go. But when Google replaced the interstitial with a banner ad, 1-day active users of the mobile site increased by 17 percent. There was a negligible decline in app installations.

The lesson to be learned here is that replacing interstitials with a more user-friendly alternative probably won’t lead to a decline in app installations, and will definitely improve the user experience and engagement with the web site.

Think about that 69 percent bounce rate. If search referral traffic comes to your site and immediately bounces back to the search results, that sends a terrible message to the search engines. In addition to harming user experience and being a poor conversion optimization strategy, interstitials can harm your site’s search engine optimization.

What Are The Alternatives To Interstitial App Promotion?

Google itself recommends that publishers replace interstitials with a banner ad.

Alternatively, publishers can improve the mobile experience they offer on their web site, obviating the need for a mobile app altogether. Content management systems like WordPress have long been able to provide an excellent mobile experience, especially with a responsive theme. Publishers don’t get the advantage of a native app, but for most publishing sites, those benefits are negligible to begin with — the web offers all the functionality they require.

Its up to each online publisher to ponder the questions: is the terrible user experience and SEO damage really a price worth paying for a tiny increase in the number of app installs?

Posted in: eCommerce