August 2016 — Google announced that on January 10, 2017, it will penalize mobile sites where content is not easily accessible to users through its mobile search results. Google believes that sites with intrusive interstitials – full screen pop-ups that cover the interface of their host application – provide a poor user experience.
Google cites a few examples of interstitials that are NOT user-friendly and will be penalized:
- “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.”
- “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.”
Google cites a few examples of interstitials that are responsibly used and will not be penalized:
- “Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.”
- “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.”
- “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.”
WHAT DOES THE GOOGLE INTERSTITIAL PENALTY MEAN FOR MARKETERS?
Interstitials are largely used for one-time promotions or offers; still, these pop-ups make it much more difficult for users to access the content they are looking for. Approached this way, it makes perfect sense for Google to devalue these pages as part of its well-documented push for mobile-friendly sites (2015’s ‘Mobilegeddon’, 2016’s algorithm updates) – this announcement is one more push toward creating a user-friendly experience on mobile devices.
If a mobile site has an interstitial that appears when a page loads, site owners should evaluate whether it meets Google’s standards. If not, it will be critical to create a mobile-friendly strategy in preparation for 2017 updates.