Google warns penalties on “intrusive interstitials” come January

Google is reinforcing their mobile search experience guidelines by cracking down on those who still insist on using intrusive web pages displayed before or after the expected content.

Google has announced they are launching a new search algorithm penalty that will essentially downgrade mobile pages that have intrusive interstitials that get in the users way of the intended content. This is happening especially because screens are often smaller on mobile devices and these popups can be damaging the viewer experience.

The new algorithm is expected to launch on January 10, 2017 and will devalue these pages by not ranking them as high as they once did.

This will actually be a replacement of an app that was created in September 2015 to penalize app interstitials that were trying to redirect people to the site’s app rather than just letting them view it on the mobile site. That previous penalty is going away but the new one should have the same impact on app interstitials ads as well.

You might be wondering, “Do I have interstitials that are going to cause my website to rank lower?” Let’s find out. Here are the examples Google gave as “intrusive”:

  • Displaying a popup that covers the main content, either right when the user gets to the page from Google search results, or while they are navigating through the page.
  • Creating an interstitial that the user has to manually dismiss before being able to access main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold part of the page appears similar to the interstitial you have created, but the original content is beneath the fold.

However, if you utilize interstitials, there is a right way of doing it and you may fall under that category, therefore you wouldn’t be affected by the new algorithm. Google said that the following are good practices of interstitials:

  • Interstitials that appear in response to a legal obligation, like age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content in not publicly indexable. This could mean that content such as email is behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of space on the screen and can be dismissed or exited easily. The app install banners that are provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that would be considered a reasonable size.

Most users are happy about this news because they are intrusive interstitials sufferers themselves and would prefer a friendlier user experience. One user commented on the matter saying, “I hate pop ups just as many do, good on them I say.” But others feel like this is just another way for Google to have the power: “This is crazy! Google has no right to tell webmasters what they can & cannot put on their websites. An interstitial does not do anything to violate Google’s guideline nor is it designed to manipulate search results.”

Many are worried mostly by the fact that these interstitials won’t be reported as an error, so you will need to figure out on your own whether or not your interstitial is good or bad. The problem being that if you are wrong, it could hurt your revenue stream.

Although there seems to be some back and forth on the new algorithm, the good news is Google is giving people plenty of time to make changes. With Google making this change, it is likely that other search engines will follow in their footsteps and that’s where we come in.

Shift is an advertising agency that does more than just sling around rhetoric about change. We have solutions to changes that will actually make your brand stronger. We can help you to make sure that you are following the new guidelines by January and building your traffic in the meantime. No need to worry about an impact on search results and revenue stream because our content strategists are already one step ahead.

If you would like to learn more about how Shift can help you, chat with us today! We look forward to hearing from you.