Great to see an industry giant such as Google leading by example with a rigorous data analysis of one of its own online marketing initiatives and confronting the reality of its shortcomings. Google’s getting it right by conceding it got it wrong. Google’s case study on its use of interstitials posted on its Webmaster Tools blog last week provides a fascinating in-depth look at its own use of interstitials in promoting the Google+ app. For those of you unfamiliar with interstitials, this is the page that often appears when you’re browsing on mobile, prompting you to download an app version of the site.
A simple example of an interstitial is when you click through to a recipe from a search results page but instead of being directed to the recipe you get a page that says “Download Our App or continue to mobile site”. If you think interstitials are just annoying and unlikely to inspire anyone to download an app if they weren’t already planning to, you’d be right!
Google’s research shows that the campaign seemed to return a decent click-through rate (CTR) of 9%. However, the research also showed the friction caused by the interstitial was doing more harm than good with 69% of users abandoning the site without clicking through to the app or the content page.
Google then took the extra step of testing less intrusive banner ads in place of interstitials. The result was a 17% increase in active users with the rate of app downloads remaining steady overall. This wasn’t enough to save interstitials and Google has ditched them for good on Google+.
Google’s case study has highlighted the importance of accurate, reliable and up-to-date data above and beyond obvious metrics such as CTR. It also highlights how important usability is to satisfying online experiences and brand building. Online marketing, even for Google, is never set and forget.