For more than a year, Google has been increasing its focus on providing satisfying mobile experiences for people who are searching from a smartphone or tablet. They launched a new algorithm that rewarded mobile friendly pages and even included a label for on mobile search results for mobile friendly pages.
Google isn’t backing away from this push toward mobile. They recently announced several major changes to mobile SEO. First, Google plans to drop the “mobile-friendly” label from search results. However, they will plan to increase penalties for certain unpopular mobile site layouts.
The most pressing news is dropping the “mobile-friendly” label. Many website owners were rightfully annoyed when their sites weren’t listed as mobile-friendly due to some minor design issue that Google decided was vital.
But the fact that they are dropping the label is a sign of the success of their campaign. According to Google, 85 percent of sites are now mobile-friendly by their standards. So the label has become unnecessary. This change has already started to go into effect. So business owners don’t need to worry if their site doesn’t say “mobile-friendly” any more. Google’s mobile friendly tests and tools will still be available.
“We recently found that 85% of all pages in the mobile search results now meet this criteria and show the mobile-friendly label,” the company wrote in a blog post. “To keep search results uncluttered, we’ll be removing the label, although the mobile-friendly criteria will continue to be a ranking signal.”
The bigger concern is the tougher stance Google is taking on “intrusive interstitials”. Google uses the term “intrusive interstitials” to describe elements on mobile sites that make it harder for people to see the content they were promised in the search results. Google sees “intrusive interstitials” as a sort of bait and switch. Because the people aren’t immediately seeing the content they clicked on in the search results.
According to Google, here are some examples of techniques that make content less accessible to a user:
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.
You can see some examples below:
Google also provided guidance on which practices would be okay under the new plan:
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.
Here are some examples from Google:
The new standards don’t go into effect until January. So website owners have time to get their mobile site in line before they face a penalty.
For more news about changes to Google, read this article on expanded text for PPC ads.