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Mobile Interstitial Penalty – Live Today

Back in August of last year Google announced a series of updates specific to its mobile search results. The first of these updates came with the removal of the “mobile friendly” label from its search results. The second and much more notable update was the announcement that a ranking penalty would roll out on January 10th 2017 targeted specifically at intrusive interstitials, that day has now arrived. The reason being Google believes such interstitials damage the user experience making content less accessible.

So let’s explore exactly what is an interstitial, common usage and more importantly how such elements should be utilised moving forwards to ensure a potential ranking penalty is avoided.


What is an interstitial?

An interstitial typically refers to a popup banner which is displayed while a user is viewing a webpage. More crucially Google defines an intrusive interstitial as a popup banner which covers a high percentage of the content on a webpage when viewed on a mobile device.

Example Intrusive Interstitials

Interstitials have become a common tool in the online marketers arsenal. Interstitials are commonly utilised to boost user engagement and ultimately promote increased conversion rates.


Best Practice Interstitial Recommendations

Following the roll out of today’s update its crucial measured action is taken in relation to the use of interstitials. Its key to note we do not propose the complete retirement of all interstitials, as they are a key tool for boosting user engagement and Google clearly states it is not against such conversion tactics.

Firstly the interstitial penalty only applies to mobile search results. Secondly Google has advised the following types of interstitial remain acceptable if used responsibly:

  • Legal notifications / obligations
  • Age verification
  • Login dialogue boxes

Example Acceptable Interstitials

In addition to the above interstitial usage scenarios the method for triggering / dismissing interstitials can also impact whether or not a penalty is served.

  • Option to easily dismiss – All displayed interstitials must include the option to easily dismiss with a touch target easily selectable on a mobile device.
  • Method of trigger – Google has advised that it is specifically targeting the penalty towards interstitials which trigger on load. Interstitials which trigger based on user scroll depth, timer delay or at time of exit remain ok. This was confirmed by John Mueller, a google Webmaster Trends Analyst shortly after Google’s initial announcement.
  • Trigger page – Google have also stated that the ranking penalty will only apply to entrance pages. As a result interstitials triggering on deeper pages as a result of timer delay for example continue to be ok. This specifically includes pages such as basket and checkout.

Chris MannChris is our Technical SEO Manager here at twentysix. With over 10 years professional experience, Chris delivers expert SEO knowledge with a strong technical focus.

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