Time Running Out For Intrusive Mobile Interstitials

Google are set to roll out their penalties for any mobile adverts that make content “less accessible” in just over a month’s time. With the changes due to come into effect on 10th January 2017 webmasters are running out of time to meet the new guidelines which could see them slip down in Google’s page rankings.

Back in August, Google put out a statement marking their intention to crack down on what they call ‘intrusive interstitials’ on mobile. Just in case you’re not up to date with the jargon, an interstitial is essentially a full-screen advert. In this case it’s one that covers the entire screen on mobile and typically appears during a loading screen or after a slight pause, and blocks the content. As usual with Google, their punishment will be lowering the page ranking. Something most webmasters would like to avoid.

A statement on Google's Webmaster Central Blog reads:

“Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screen are often smaller.”

The statement continues:

“To improve the mobile search experience, after 10th January 2017 pages where content is not easy accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

So what do Google class as an ‘intrusive interstitial’? Outlining some examples on their blog, the main problem appears to be popups that cover the main body of content. This includes ads that show up immediately after the user accesses the site from their search results, or at any point during the user’s time on the page.

Other situations involve an interstitial that the user must close before they can continue to the page, or where an advert obscures the content from view. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to work out why many people find these ads frustrating and misleading.

But don’t worry; this doesn’t include all types of pop-up ads. Notices about cookie usage or age verification are still legal requirements and won’t be penalised by Google under the new changes. Login prompts and banners that use a ‘reasonable’ amount of screen space are also permitted.

You might remember that Google introduced a ‘giant ad’ penalty around this time last year. That’s now been scrapped and will be integrated into the new system that we’re expecting in January.

Punishments for intrusive ads are just one of many pending changes that Google are making for 2017. The most prominent of these looks set to be Google’s re-evaluation of their search index system, which they announced earlier this month. When ranking sites, Google will be taking the mobile version of a site into consideration first, rather than only looking at the way it appears on desktop. Although no official date has been given, the changes are expected to take place soon.

If you don’t have a mobile site, don’t worry. Google will default right back to the desktop index. Similarly, if you have a mobile site that’s almost identical to the desktop version, give or take a bit of coding, then you’re all good too.

However, if the desktop and mobile versions of your site are notably different then you may run into some problems. For example, if the mobile version features less content for whatever reason – you may experience a drop in Google’s rankings.

Remember, if you want to be certain your position is safe – make sure to review your site’s ad policy before 10th January, to give Google time to index the changes before this date.

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The author of this news item also blogs on Huffington Post: Mike Gracia

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