We’ve all seen them. The annoying popup ad layered over the page of a website which prevents us from reading the content after we’ve followed a link on our mobile device.

Google has decided that these interstitial mobile ads are intruding on a mobile user’s experience by preventing the user from immediately accessing the page content from a search result link.

On January 10th, 2017, Google instituted its Interstitial Ad Penalty and began penalizing mobile website pages that have intrusive interstitial pop-up ads that initially obscure page content for a user.

Google explains that this is because they provide a “poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible.”

Google’s Interstitial Policy Rationale

In their announcement on Google Webmaster Central Blog, Google explains:

“Pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results, may not rank as highly. As we said, this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking and the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

This could adversely affect the bottom line of many companies who rely on interstitial ads as a significant source of their revenue. Read our article How to Improve B2B Website Usability in which we touch on popups and the public’s distaste for them.

3 Forms of Mobile Interstitial Ads Being Penalized

There are 3 specific forms of mobile interstitial ads that are at risk of being penalized with this recent Google interstitial update:

  1. Pop-up ads that immediately cover the main content after arriving at a mobile page through a link from a search result.
  2. Pop-ups that force a user to dismiss them before page content will be displayed.
  3. Sites that make the above-the-fold components of a page appear as though they are a standalone interstitial, underneath which the original content has been inlined.

Mobile Interstitial Ads NOT Affected by Google’s Update

Methods of interstitial use which are not affected by the new Google mobile ranking signal penalties include:

  1. Interstitials that are legally obligated to be on a page, such as age verification or cookie usage, are not affected.
  2. Site logins where content is not indexable for the public, including content that is private, or behind a paywall.
  3. Banners that can be easily dismissed, and use a reasonable amount of screen space.

Wondering what is a “reasonable” amount of space? Google does not indicate what proportion a reasonable amount of screen space constitutes, exactly. From the banner images in their mobile phone image examples in the article, the banners appear to take up approximately 1/4 of the screen.

What’s the Future of Interstitial Ads?

Personally, I’d like to see the same penalty system rolled out for desktop search. Ever come across a pop-up ad after clicking on a search result link? These seem to become more and more common and are just as annoying to visitors today as they were when they first appeared.

What is your experience with interstitial ads on mobile or desktop?

If you want more information on how interstitials as a ranking signal might affect your website, contact us at 1st on the List today at 1-888-262-6687, and we’ll answer any questions you might have.