What Are Interstitial Ads, and How Can They Boost Ad Revenues?

Interstitial ads are designed to grab the attention of a user on a web page or app as they move from one page to the next. These are full-screen ads, so they’re extremely hard to miss. As such, they tend to have higher clickthrough rates (CTRs) because you simply can’t miss them.

Users either have to engage with interstitial ads, wait for them to complete, or (in some cases) reach a point where they can close them. Even if the user waits to close the ad, they’re still forced to view it — unlike others ads that they can stroll past.

Interstitial ads are used on desktop websites, mobile sites, and apps. These ad formats typically feature images, videos, and rich media. In many apps, you’ll see interactive videos such as playable demos for games or rewarded videos where users get a reward for watching or engaging. Some interstitial ads will require viewing the entire ad while others allow closing them in five seconds or so.

Interstitial ads can provide advertisers with high-profile engagement and provide additional monetization for publishers from their ad unit.

Some adblockers will also allow interstitial ads or interstitial video ads to play.

However, there are also some downsides to running them. In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of using interstitial ad units, the impact on your web page or mobile advertising, and best practices if you decide to use them.

You can also learn more about how in-app advertising works, including pricing models, in our Ultimate Guide to In-App Advertising: Tips, Exchanges, Payouts & More.

Does Anyone Like Interstitial Ads?

Typically, users don’t like interstitial ads so you’re always taking a risk when using them. If you have a high-quality site or app, users will often wait for them to complete the content they want to load.

That said, interstitial ads are most common in mobile apps, and 57% of game publishers take the chance to derive ad revenue with rewarded video ads.

The choice of using interstitial ads–knowing user retention may decrease, but ad revenues may increase–is up to you..

Why Do Publishers Use Interstitial Ads?

If users don’t generally like these types of ads, why are publishers using them, and why are advertisers willing to pay higher rates? 

Well, they work. Interstitial ads see a higher level of user engagement and deliver higher CTRs. A study by Smaato and Liftoff showed that in-app interstitial ads generated more than double the number of clicks as native display ads. Even though these ads cost 42% more on average, they delivered a higher return on ad spend (ROAS) than display ads because of higher click rates.

One of the reasons advertisers are more willing to pay higher rates for interstitial ad units is that they also tend to generate higher conversion rates.

For publishers, this forced engagement creates more impressions which in turn drives more clicks. This creates more revenue whether these ad units are sold as cost per thousand (CPM) impression campaigns or pay per click (PPC) ads.

How Do Interstitial Ads Impact User Experience?

Since interstitial ads are intrusive, they get mixed reviews from users.

Google put together some guidelines for using interstitial ads to avoid search penalties, including:

  • There should be clear starting and stopping points.
  • Ad placements should complement the natural flow, such as transitioning between pages or after users complete an action.
  • Consider allowing a close option after five seconds.
  • Be careful about invalid activity. Because mobile screens are limited in size (compared to desktops), the wrong ad size can produce inadvertent clicks.
  • Avoid interstitial ads that appear above the fold where the main content is only viewable if users have to scroll to see it.

By definition, Google considers standalone interstitial ads requiring users to dismiss them before accessing the main content as intrusive. They will take this into account when deciding which sites to feature in their search engine.

Google said they do not penalize sites for using interstitial ads that appear to be in response to fulfilling a legal obligation, such as pop-ups that are verifying age before accessing site content or explaining user privacy. These penalties also do not apply to any content that is not publicly accessible, such as content behind a paywall that is not indexed or login screens.

Some other industry rules have emerged. While not all publishers follow these guidelines, they are generally accepted as ways to avoid a poor user experience. These rules include:

  • Interstitial ads should not appear as soon as the app or webpage is opened
  • Interstitial ads cannot appear continuously one after another
  • Ads should appear as a natural transition so they don’t interrupt a user’s reading or viewing.
  • Make sure your SDKs for Android or iOS apps meet your preferred guidelines for displaying interstitials.

While interstitial ads can generate additional monetization for publishers, it does impact the user experience in several ways, such as mobile app experience, page speed, and so-called rage clicks.

Page Speed

There’s a direct correlation between how fast web pages load and how long users will wait. For example, on mobile sites, more than half of users will bounce if it takes three seconds or longer. As page load times go from one second to three seconds, the bounce rate increased by 32%. If a page takes five seconds to load, the likelihood of a user leaving increases by a whopping 90%.

This can be especially harmful to mobile sites as search engines now put a premium on page speed in how they rank sites for inclusion. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, including fast load times, it can negatively impact where you show up on a search engine result page (SERP).

There are often other areas publishers can adjust to overcome any slowed load times, including:

  • Optimizing CSS, HTML, and JavaScript code by removing spaces, commas, and unnecessary characters.
  • Utilizing compression to minimize image and file sizes.
  • Improve your server response times or choose a performance-optimized hosting solution.
  • Reduce your use of redirects.
  • Cache your web pages, requiring servers to use fewer resources for loading.

Experience on Mobile

In 2022, mobile traffic now accounts for nearly two-thirds of all internet users. It’s topped 60% for more than a year now with an uptick starting in June 2022. As such, you must be careful about the experience on mobile devices where the entire screen is blocked by the ad. On desktops, users can still be productive while interstitial ads play. They might reduce the size of their web browser or open up another window. Mobile users’ only option is to close the app or wait for mobile interstitial ads to complete.

“Rage” Clicks

When users get frustrated with slow loading times, technical issues, or unclear ways to close out interstitial ads, they often click repeatedly to try to move things alone. This can lead to accidental clicks or unintentional clickthroughs.

Not only is this frustrating for users as these unintentional clicks can accidentally take them away from the app or web page they’re trying to access, but it can also to sites being tagged with invalid traffic. High levels of invalid traffic can result in your ad serving privileges being suspended or disabled.

When monetizing sites, publishers always have to be aware of the balance between user experience and ad placements. This is yet another reason you should always partner with a high-quality and trusted ad network that understands how to create and manage ad units to avoid rage clicks.

Best Practices When Adding Interstitial Ads to Your App or Website

If you do decide to use interstitial ads, some best practices can help prevent a reduction in user experience or page speeds. These practices also tend to increase CTRs by providing a better ad experience and a reduction in accidental clicks.

Here are some of the best practices for adding interstitial ads to your app or website.

Avoid Surprises

Ads should appear as a natural or expected flow. This might be when a game ends or as users transition from one webpage to another. If it interrupts the action or displays outside natural transition points, it can hurt user experience and result in rage clicks or higher bounce rates.

Manage Ad Units Carefully

Interstitial ads are intrusive by design, so publishers will want to make sure they use this type of ad selectively. Overuse can lead to users deleting apps or not returning to a webpage. Publishers also need to balance their overall ad strategy carefully to maximize revenue opportunities without impacting the user experience.

Watch Timing

There should also be a delay within an app if the user is using it to play mobile games so it gives them a clear break when the ad will appear and prevent any accidental clicks. It’s also a good idea to serve interstitials after completed actions before requiring users to hit the “next” button, especially when moving between pages or game levels. This can also cause users to be surprised by an unwelcome ad.

You’ll also want to consider how often you use interstitials. Google prefers you limit interstitial ads on the web to no more than one per hour for each user. While there are no guidelines for use on apps, you want to avoid annoying users.

Preloading Ads

Google recommends preloading ads to avoid potential latency. However, this can also slow down overall page speed loading times so publishers will need to weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Clear Exit Buttons

Users get frustrated if they can’t easily identify and find an exit button for an interstitial ad. You’ll want to stick to intuitive methods, such as a clearly marked X in the corner of the ad. Advertisers and publishers should be consistent in how they display exit buttons to override interstitials to avoid confusion.

Mobile Ad Viewability

Interstitials have high visibility on your site or app. You’ll want to manage their viewability along with other ad units to maximize your revenue.

Conclusion

If overused, interstitial ads can hurt page load speed and user experience. Publishers will want to think carefully about their use and manage how they are used. At the same time, however, interstitials can be a lucrative strategy to generate revenue at higher rates than native ads and many other forms of advertising.

Following the best practices and industry guidelines and getting expert guidance from industry professionals such as Newor Media can help optimize revenue without impacting the user experience.

Newor Media can help publishers run interstitial ads on their apps or websites by matching them with ideal advertisers and providing 1:1 advice and guidance to get their ads running in the most lucrative way possible.

Regardless of what you decide about interstitial ads, there’s substantial money to be made by maximizing your digital ad opportunities. Don’t wait!

Publishers should contact Newor Media to learn more about how to optimize their revenue with online advertising.

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