Google announced on Tuesday August 23, 2016 that it plans to launch a new search algorithm penalty intended to demote mobile pages with “intrusive” interstitials that interfere with users’ ability to access content.
Set to launch on January 10, 2017, Google said this new algorithm will try to make these intrusive pages “not rank as highly” as they once did. This is new signal will actually replace the app interstitials ad penalty that was launched back in September 2015. Although that penalty is going away, the new penalty targeting intrusive interstitials will have the same impact on app interstitials ads.
Are Your Mobile Pages at Risk?
So how do you know if your interstitials are going to cause your mobile pages to plummet in Google search? According to Google, if the interstitial will “make content less accessible to a user,” then it’s a risk of lower rankings.
In the announcement made at the Google Webmaster Central Blog, a few examples of “intrusive” interstitials are mobile pages:
- Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.
- Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
- Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
Some of the examples Google shares of interstitials that can make content less accessible include:
Conversely, Google offers a few examples of interstitials that when used responsibly will not be affected by the new algorithm:
- Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
- Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
- Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.
A few examples Google presents of interstitials that will not be influenced by the new signal, if used responsibly, include:
More On Google Mobile Search & Usability
To take into account the app interstitial ad penalty change, Google also made updates to its Search Console mobile usability report, stating:
App install interstitials will no longer trigger an error in the Mobile Usability report; therefore, you may see a drop in errors in this report. However, although no longer reported as an error, the presence of all types of intrusive interstitials are used as a ranking factor for pages in mobile search results.
The response in the search marketing community is overall favorable as most individuals are happy with this announcement. Google is giving webmasters and search marketers plenty of time to implement any changes they need to make.
At Captivate Search Marketing, we agree with the community’s consensus, and believe that the new penalty will help to enrich user experience on mobile devices. And from a SEO standpoint, the penalty may prompt some site owners to kill intrusive interstitials, helping to enhance engagement metrics like time on site and bounce rate. In turn, these changes could help their mobile search rankings.
Image credit: SERoundTable.com