Google Wants You To Stop Relying On App Interstitials

mobile app interstitial header imageAs the world’s most popular search engine, Google understands that people respond to content marketing, and that traditional forms of advertising are no longer effective. In an effort to improve user experience in this new age of advertising, Google has set its sights on interstitials (the pop-ups and overlays that appear on landing pages). Though some brands use interstitials to confirm age before revealing content, many companies have co-opted the interstitial to insert pop-up pages that prompt users to download apps, enter contests, or advertise promotions.

Web users frequently complain about these disruptive and inconvenient interstitials and Google is setting out to do something about it. According to Google these inconveniences are coming to an end as soon as November 1.The search engine confirmed that mobile app interstitials will no longer pass Google’s mobile friendly test beginning, threatening the mobile rankings of websites that use these interstitials.

What Are App Interstitials?

App interstitials are pop-ups that cover most of the content published on a webpage and are often used to encourage visitors to subscribe to a newsletter, download an app, or enter a contest. Users have the option to click on the interstitial and fill out the required information or close the ad and proceed directly to the content.

App interstitials have been used by brands and organizations of all sizes, including Google. The search engine conducted an internal case study in July 2015 by inputting an interstitial on top of the Google+ mobile page to gage employee responses.. The analytics indicated that over two thirds of users were unhappy with the experience and chose to abandon the page.

In the past, app interstitials were commonly found on both desktop and mobile web pages. However, the rise of ad block software has prevented many of these pop-ups from interrupting user experiences, especially on desktop web browsers. Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google, believes more can be done to end these disruptions on mobile sites.

App Interstitials Are Not Mobile Friendly, Says Google

On April 21, 2015 Google released a new algorithm that quickly became known as “Mobilegeddon.” The mobile-friendly update gave preferential treatment to websites that clearly display on smartphones and tablets by rewarding those sites with higher mobile search engine result page (SERP) rankings.

Mobile web use is growing at a phenomenal rate and the algorithm was designed to give users the best possible results when conducting mobile searches. Sites that failed to meet Google’s standards and refused to optimize their pages following an initial warning were removed from the top tier ranking positions.

During a conversation on Twitter in August, Illyes said he would “love” if a ranking penalty could be applied to websites that use app interstitials. He will get his wish very soon.

What Google’s Interstitial Update Means For Mobile Sites

Google’s interstitial update will only affect websites that appear in mobile SERPs, and is expected to exclude desktop search rankings, explains Search Engine Roundtable. The November 1 mobile update will penalize and potentially remove sites that improperly use app interstitials from mobile search results.

However, Google also announced that it will not penalize full-page advertisements, such as welcoming pages like the one found on Forbes Magazine’s website. Search Engine Roundtable provided a visual example of how Google will determine whether interstitials are mobile-friendly or intrusive pop-ups in their November 1 roll-out:

Google’s update sends a clear message; mobile sites should not disrupt the user experience with app interstitials. User experience is an important component of SEO and rankings must reflect the quality of user experience. Illyes and his teammates are working to improve user experiences, and are determined to reduce the number of sites that rely on disruptive app interstitials.

What To Do With Your Website

If your website is already invested in marketing solutions that stress informative storytelling and valuable content over disruptive advertising, the new update should do little to change your strategy. Sites that use content marketing provide better experiences and will therefore reap the benefits of higher rankings.

If your site currently uses app interstitials, your best option is to remove pop-ups from all of your webpages. If you’re determined to keep the interstitials, there are a few ways to customize pop-ups so that they meet Google’s guidelines before November 1. The best solution is to embed interstitials into the interface while ensuring that pop-ups don’t block the content on the webpage. This will not only keep you ranking in Google, but will also create a positive impression of your brand and encourage return visits to your site.

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