Google’s Intrusive Interstitials Penalty Is Now Live

January 26th, 2017

Google have started the New Year off with a brand new algorithm change designed to give penalties to websites which use intrusive interstitials on mobile devices. This means that websites deploying this technique should see themselves fall down the rankings in the search results pages. It could well path the way for a better mobile experience for us all.

An interstitial is an advert that covers an entire screen, hiding the content on the page and usually requires clicking a button to make it disappear.
The penalty began to roll out on the 10th January 2017 which was confirmed by Google’s John Mueller and Gary Illyes. Penalties are only imposed on websites which use intrusive interstitials that occur straight after going from Google's mobile search results to a specific page. However, not all interstitials fall under the penalties guidelines instead this is a move to stop ad methods that make content less accessible for the user.
 Google have explained the types of interstitials are likely to be penalised:
- 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.
Below is an illustration from Google showing interstitials with the criteria above.
Although some interstitials are acceptable when used responsibly. Google have given examples of techniques that would not be affected by the new signal which is outlined below.
- 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.  
Below is an illustration from Google showing interstitials with the criteria above.
Initial results from this penalty have been far from conclusive. Very few sites were hit hard while many other sites with intrusive interstitials are not getting hurt. Although this could just be a teething problem as webmasters believe the uneven distribution of the impact is due to it not being fully rolled out yet.
This penalty is separate from Google’s mobile friendliness algorithm change named ‘mobilegeddon’ but it does represent the continuation of Google’s emphasis on improving user experiences on mobile devices. In the future we could see more of these penalties being introduced as worldwide internet usage on mobile recently overtook desktop usage.


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