What You Need to Know About Google’s Mobile Interstitial Penalty

Ryan Clutter

Ryan Clutter

01/16/2017

Last week, Google confirmed they have started to roll out their intrusive mobile interstitial penalty to websites across the web. We were warned in August of 2016 that this was coming.

Here’s what you need to know. Google will devalue any web pages in mobile search that include intrusive interstitials. This is another step towards providing the ultimate user experience and helping searchers find answers to their questions and find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible.

Let’s backtrack a little bit. Interstitials are ads that pop up when a user lands on your web page. What makes that interstitial intrusive is if the advertisement takes up an unreasonable amount of space on mobile screens.

From Search Engine Roundtable, these interstitials include:

  • 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.
  • A standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Utilizing a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page looks similar to a standalone interstitial, but the content appears below the fold.

So, what does this mean for your website? Do you have a popup ad on your website that negatively affects the accessibility of your content? You could see a drop in your mobile search traffic.

Keep in mind: this devaluing of your web page is only going to affect mobile search results, or users going directly from the SERPs to your web page. You can have interstitials when users navigate from page to page, but if your indexed mobile pages have pop-ups directly from search, you need to rethink your strategy.

Many webmasters rely on these pop-ups and interstitials to drive conversions. Whether it’s to alert visitors of an upcoming promotion or event, increase newsletter signups, or grow your network on social media, ad publishers will have to think of other avenues to reach their audience without disrupting the user experience.

What Pop-Ups are Still Acceptable in Google’s Eyes?

Some pop-ups are still required by law. These include a notification for using cookies on the browser or verifying age if you have an age restriction on your site. If your pop-up ad serves a purpose to the reader and doesn’t take up too much space on the page, you should still be in good shape.

When you show an interstitial that is small and non-obtrusive to the user experience, such as banners that are easily dismissible, your site won’t be affected by the mobile interstitial penalty.

What About Page to Page Interstitials?

When a searcher uses Google to find a company to conduct business with or find an answer to their questions, Google wants to provide as little disruption as possible. Google’s John Mueller was asked on Twitter if the penalty would affect page to page navigation.

Think about your organic traffic. If visitors are finding your brand through search, you should remove all interstitials and rethink how to market to your audience. Losing organic traffic by having Google devalue your site can hurt your business more in the long run.

You can think about leaving interstitials for page-to-page navigation, but it would be best to remove them altogether and test different strategies to generate revenue.

What Should You Be Doing to Avoid a Google Mobile Interstitial Penalty?

If you have intrusive interstitial ads on your website, your URL will no longer be considered mobile-friendly. Run your URL through the Mobile-Friendly Test to ensure you’re still being recognized as mobile-friendly.

The more easily accessible your site’s content is, the better shape your web page will be. Google is simply trying to help users find the content they’re looking for without disruption from pop-ups and advertisements.

When you’ve removed the ads, you could experience more time on site from your visitors and a lower bounce rate from your mobile visits.

The mobile interstitial penalty is only affecting mobile websites, and the desktop version of your site won’t be harmed if you continue to display pop-ups. With a focus on user experience, you’ll always be in the good graces of Google.

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