If you, like me, often get sick and tired of annoying interstitials interrupting your experience whilst browsing on mobile devices, this article is good news for you. One would have thought glaring limitations on mobile devices, particularly smartphones, such as the relatively small screen sizes that often make it almost impossible to close interstitials without unintentionally navigating to an external page by accidentally clicking on a link, is clear for all to see. Unfortunately, not all webmasters agree that interstitials give users a poor mobile experience, hence the proliferation of interstitials on mobiles that we have today.
It is not often I say this, but thankfully Google is taking sides with the average mobile user. Similar to the introduction of the mobile-friendly label on mobile search result pages, followed by “mobilegeddon” when Google came to the aid of users’ mobile interaction experience, the search engine now wants to discourage website owners from using interstitials that often makes browsing on smartphones and tablet devices less mobile friendly. And guess what? There is good justification for this too as 85% of all pages in mobile search results now meet the mobile-friendly criterion and show the mobile-friendly label.
Consequently, as from Tuesday, January 10, 2017, all mobile sites with intrusive interstitials, where content is present on the page and available to be indexed by search engines but visually obscured to the user, will be hit by the ‘interstitial penalty’. Thus, after January 10, 2017, web pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.
If you are unsure if your site will be affected, below are some examples of acceptable and unacceptable interstitial techniques.
Examples of unacceptable interstitial techniques
Example 1: Intrusive Pop Ups
Example 2: Standalone Interstitial
Example 3: Intrusive Standalone Interstitial
Examples of acceptable interstitial techniques
Example 1: Interstitial for Cookie Usage
Example 2: Interstitial for Age Verification or Login Dialogs
Example 3: Banners that use Reasonable Amount of Screen Space
To avoid being affected, webmasters will have to improve the mobile search experience of their websites. However, note that as always, Google maintains that the interstitial signal or algorithm is still one of the hundreds of signals that the search engine uses in the determination of ranking positions. So, websites that meet this criterion but still perform poorly in other areas such as relevant content, citations, and so on, may still rank poorly.
Therefore, the important point is to continue to focus on the quality of your website and improve its mobile experience at the same time. To ensure that your web pages pass Google’s mobile-friendly test, you can use the mobile usability report in Search Console to evaluate your site.