Google targets intrusive interstitials in changes to mobile search rankings

Google is set to target publishers’ use of intrusive interstitial ads from January 2017, with pages where content is obscured by an interstitial set to be punished in the mobile search rankings.

The changes, announced in a Google blog this week, will see the “mobile-friendly” label on searches removed after the search engine giant found that 85% of all pages in the mobile search results now meet Google’s mobile search criteria.

Google image

“To keep search results uncluttered, we’ll be removing the label, although the mobile-friendly criteria will continue to be a ranking signal,” Google’s blog reads.

However, while Google said the majority of pages “now have text and content on the page that is readable without zooming” the company said it has seen “many examples where these pages show intrusive interstitials to users”.

“While the underlying content is present on the page and available to be indexed by Google, content may be visually obscured by an interstitial. This can frustrate users because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result,” Google said.

Google said that a pop-up that covers the main content, displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing content or using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial are ways publishers can make content less accessible to a user.

SMH's pop-up ad for Offspring

SMH’s pop-up ad for Offspring blocks content on the website

Google provided examples of interstitials that it does not consider intrusive:

  • 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.

As of January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.


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