It's not often that we use the letter "x" enclosed in brackets in our article titles. But we feel that this small little [x] will be relevant in improving customer experience, as Google has introduced a way for web readers to mute display advertisements with a few clicks.

It's all about user experience, Google says. Display ads have become a mainstay among publishers for monetizing their content and a popular way for companies to market their brands. However, there is sometimes a barrage of ad imagery on the user's end. While Google tries to put things in context to ensure relevance, sometimes a user will find an ad to be uninteresting or inappropriate.

Now You See It ...

Google has previously given users more control over the ads they see. In YouTube, for instance, a small [x] icon gives the viewer the option to hide AdWords ads on videos. On Google Search, a "Why this Ad?" link appears to explain the rationale behind sponsored listings.

Google has quietly introduced a new way for web readers to somewhat tailor-fit the advertising experience. By clicking the small [x] button at the corner of display ads, other promotions from that particular campaign will be muted. The search and advertising giant has started by showing these icons in ads based on re-marketing and interest categories.

Mute This Ad on Google
Who knew that such a small [x] icon can be so powerful?

The ability to mute ads will benefit the entire ecosystem, says Google product manager Michael Aiello.

[U]sers have a way to control their experience and signal that they aren’t interested in certain ads; advertisers are no longer paying to show ads to people who aren’t interested; and publishers will receive better performing (and potentially more valuable) ads, and spend less time filtering out ads they think won’t be of interest to their audience.

... Now You Don't

When a user clicks the [x] icon, a confirmation appears explaining that the ad has been muted. Users can then change their settings from within the Ads Preferences Manager. Google does not guarantee that a particular ad will no longer appear in the future, though. These may still appear if shown by a different advertising company, or through a separate campaign targeting specific content. However, the guarantee is that the same ad will no longer appear from within the campaign in which the user pressed [x].

Context may not always be the solution for targeting ads. When context does not work, it will be up to the user to help fine tune the system. Being able to mute ads is a big improvement in the content and ad-targeting process, which ultimately helps make the web a better place for users.