Google Begins Penalizing Mobile Sites for Instrusive Interstitials

With content marketing, the content that catches the consumer’s attention is rarely the end goal. Normally, a blog post or viral video was created to showcase something else to the consumer, such as a specific business or other marketing goal. This is why it’s common to see ads, banners, sign-up boxes and more on pages with content marketing materials.

However, this can be a problem for mobile devices. When you have a screen that’s only inches in size, attempts to use banners and popup can become annoying to consumers. Google has attempted to guide the way people design mobile sites to promote readability by penalizing sites that use features that hurt the consumer’s browsing experience. Starting this week, Google has begun penalizing sites that using overly large banners and ads, also known as interstitials, on mobile sites.

google-mobile-interstitials-penalty-bad-798x600As with many changes Google implements, the company warned website owners months in advance about this change. So there has been a lot of time for developers to change the way their mobile sites work. Though the basics of the policy were covered in another article on this site, a brief refresher won’t hurt.

What’s happening is that Google penalizing websites that have ads or other forms of content that overly obstruct the readability of the content that was shown in the search engine. To illustrate, say a website has a blog post about popular winter fashion. Someone sees the article on the search engine page results and clicks it. But once they get to the article, the first thing they see is a screen filling ad or popup.

Many consumers find interstitials like this to be annoying. And since Google is in the business of directing people to sites that will provide pleasant browsing experiences, they are now penalizing sites that overly use interstitials on their mobile sites.

The rollout of the new penalty began this week, and so far, there have been few complaints of websites being penalized. This may be due to the months of prior notice about the change, which gave webmasters plenty of time to make adjustments.

It should also be noted that there are a number of circumstances where Google will allow interstitials. As SearchEngineLand reported: Google listed three types of interstitials that “would not be affected by the new signal” if “used responsibly.” Those types are:

  • 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. The app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.

As the terms, “used responsibly” indicate, these are not hard rules that webmasters can hope to game to their advantage. If Google believes a website it still abusing interstitials, even within these guidelines, they can penalize the site.

As the rollout has only just begun there may be more effects to be seen. For more news about recent updates to Google, read this article on recent Google updates based on internet security protocols.

Peter Roesler (1299 Posts)

Peter Roesler president of Web Marketing Pros has 15 years experience in digital marketing.

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