For Google, the name of the game has been and will always be user experience. Their updates, services, optimizations, and everything in between are all done with the intent of providing a better, easier, more streamlined user experience. As we continue to move towards a mobile-only world, it’s only fitting that Google continues to optimize user experience across such devices.
It’s why websites not optimized for mobile are more likely to suffer in rank, and also why a new Google penalty will be put into effect on January 10 for “intrusive interstitial” mobile ads. The penalty will likely lower the rankings of such sites in response to ads that don’t transfer well across other devices. Here’s a visual example:
As a user, you’ve likely seen pesky ads and pop-ups like this while browsing from your mobile device. Google is saying that these can “be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller,” and that “pages where content is not as easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.” Why? Because it takes away from overall user experience across multiple devices, and Google doesn’t like that.
A similar penalty was employed in 2015 pertaining to apps, where intrusive interstitials were running rampant, but Google is rolling that penalty into this one:
“We previously explored a signal that checked for interstitials that ask a user to install a mobile app. As we continued our development efforts, we saw the need to broaden our focus to interstitials more generally. Accordingly, to avoid duplication in our signals, we’ve removed the check for app-install interstitials from the mobile-friendly test and have incorporated it into this new signal in Search.”
In an effort to simplify search results and help users find what they’re looking for, the intrusive interstitial ads will be penalized and less likely to appear as a top result for users. Google sites examples of such ads as being:
- Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
- Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
- Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.
However, this does not mean that all mobile ads are now punishable. Some mobile ads will remain unaffected by the penalty if they are used appropriately:
Even though it’s best to avoid all Google penalties and infractions, it won’t be the end-all-be-all of your website if you find yourself affected by it. In the release of the update, Google notes that this penalty is “just one of hundreds of signals used in ranking,” so if you have a great website with exceptional content, your site could still perform well on the search engine. Regardless, this is yet another indicator that mobile optimization and consideration of user experience across all devices is imperative.