In 2015, Google came harsh with the “Mobilegeddon” phenomenon where it sought to penalise websites that were not mobile friendly. As a result, many web owners and online marketers tweaked their websites to comply with the search engine’s regulation. As if that was not enough, Google is at it again in 2016, but this time round, it is aiming at websites which use intrusive interstitials.
Starting January 10, 2017, Google plans to update its algorithm to penalise websites in which the content is not easily accessible to users due to interstitials. The penalty is targeted at ranking where the culpable sites are likely to see their rankings go down.
Examples of Techniques Google Will Punish
Doantam Phan, the Google Product Manager, wrote in a post that appeared on the official Google webmaster central blog where he shared some of the techniques Google is not happy about and is therefore likely to penalise when the algorithm tweak is rolled over.
- Display of popups which cover a majority of the content a user is assessing either immediately following a user navigation to a page from the mobile search results or as they are looking over the page.
- Display of standalone interstitials which the user must first dismiss before accessing the content
- Making use of a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the webpage resembles a standalone interstitial and the original content inlined underneath the fold.
That being said, not all techniques will be penalised. Some of the techniques such as login dialogues appearing on password protected sites, legal notices, and banners which do not take as much screen real estate and which can be dismissed with ease will be exempted from the penalties.
App Interstitials and User Experience
As a business owner, it is important to know the relationship app interstitials have with your user experience. According to a research done by Google, 9% of users clicked on the Get App button while a whopping 69% abandoned such a page altogether. When the interstitial was replaced with a lesser but smart app banner, Google noticed an increase in active users by more than 17%.
As opposed to a desktop experience, interstitials on mobile sites are more likely to have a negative impact on your incoming traffic because they take up almost the entire screen real estate and are often difficult to dismiss. According to experts, full screen interruptive marketing almost always fosters negative feedback.
The Rift between Users and Publishers
Many users are cheering the announcement by Google because they hope it will bring to an end the tactics employed by mobile and app marketers most of which annoy them. However, there is a group of stakeholders that is not completely happy and thrilled because it believes Google wants to define how publishers run their audience acquisition strategies. According to them, this move by Google will most likely hurt email newsletters the most because a majority of them come up as popups when a user visits a site.
Publishers therefore are very keen as they monitor the Google update lest they find themselves in trouble with the giant search engine. In a quick rejoinder, Google through its product manager noted that the new ranking signal to be rolled out is one of the hundreds of signals used in ranking today and the only difference is the target on interstitials as part of its user experience promise.
What to Do as a Business
It is unlikely that Google will back off from this move because of the strong belief that it will enhance user experience and improve search results which are key components of Google’s mission. However, as a business, it is always advisable to stay on the safe side of Google and you can do this by:
- Ensuring your mobile ads do not incorporate full screen, hard-to-dismiss interstitials
- Generating relevant and high quality content as this will still be an important component in ranking of sites
- Ensuring your site is as mobile friendly as possible so that you do not incur any penalties with reference to mobile compatibility
- Optimising your site with the relevant keywords and building high quality links to rank highly on search results
It is important to always keep an eye and an ear on what Google will do next and if you cannot do this from in-house, you can hire a qualified search engine marketing company like ours 🙂