Pop-up ads have long been the bane of Internet users everywhere, and thankfully they have become less and less common over the years. But that doesn’t mean the principal has been completely abandoned – more repackaged. But starting early next year, Google is going to be doing something about it.
As announced this week on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, starting on January 10, 2017 Google will be penalizing sites that use interstitials on mobile sites. (You know when you get to a site and have to click a hard-to-find “x” to close an ad before you get to the main content? Those are interstitials.)
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 screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after 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.
Luckily for some webmasters, Google will be making a distinction between interstitials that it considers problematic and those that are genuinely useful. Interstitials that block main content or dominate the portion of the page above-the-fold? Not good. Interstitials that inform users of cookie policies, those that are used for age verification, and those that take up a “a reasonable amount of screen space” will be unaffected by the new penalty.
Examples of bad interstitials:
Example of good interstitial:
So, what will this mean for most businesses? Probably not much. Interstitials are mostly used by larger companies and media sites, and won’t affect desktop sites (yet, anyway).
The biggest takeaway from the news for most will be a reminder that Google takes its commitment to user experience seriously. Whatever new changes Google makes to its algorithms or policies in the future, sites that focus first and foremost on delivering the best possible experience to users will be unlikely to have anything to worry about. All things considered, we feel that’s a good thing.