Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Like any company, Google continually changes and updates the way it functions and ranks websites. The Google algorithm, sacred and highly secret, is the key to creating quality SEO organically, but there’s always an air of uncertainty to it. Some changes come along because they are improving their techniques. Some are because they are trying to reduce sites that try to “work the system”. Some changes are caused when Google wants to protect its ability to generate revenue. Sometimes it is a little bit of each. Recently, Google altered the way it ranks sites that use interstitials in an intrusive manner. This is primarily targeted towards mobile web browsing since there is considerably less real estate and consequently the ads cause more of a disruption. But what does that mean for your website, content, and SEO?
So first, it is important to understand what an interstitial is, if you don’t already know. The most popular form of an interstitial ad is the classic pop-up. These have been around ever since someone decided they wanted to monetize the internet – which I would assume was the same day that the internet was created. There are other forms of interstitials: exit intent ads, opt in ads, and sticky banner ads. All of these interrupts the users access to the information that they are trying to get. This is especially true on mobile devices where any kind of ad can dominate the screen space. Not all are bad, but in some cases they are used in a way that the user will find obnoxious or prohibitive to a good experience.
What is considered “intrusive”?
Google has deemed that some of these interstitial ads are intrusive; meaning they are too disruptive. I think we have all been on a page reading the content and an opt in ad pops up. They want us to subscribe, download or take some other action. But that is not what we were wanting to do; all we wanted was to read the article. This is intrusive. Or if a pop-up takes up the entire screen and you have to answer a question or fill in data to continue. Or maybe there is a “sticky” ad that stays at the top or bottom of the page as you scroll. This is not how Google wants you to market.
Why is Google doing this?
This is where it gets interesting. For the most part, Google wants to send its users to sites that provide the best content and the best experience. In modern day technology, the user experience is a high priority. Google recognizes that they will maintain the dominate search engine as long as they continue to provide the best results. Google views sites that use interstitial ads on mobile devices at risk for providing a poor experience. This has caused them to release an update to how they rank those sites.
The other angle that some are speculating about is Google wants to prevent users from downloading apps that replace web usage. Many sites are promoting, via an ad, for the user to download their app. By tapping the ad, the user is taken directly to the app store to download, the app. Google does not want this as they earn income when people use the internet to access sites. If users stop accessing a site because they download the app then Google makes less money. Now obviously Google is not stating this but they are putting in practices to alter the way that companies market. Google has that kind of power.
What you need to do
Mobile web use has been on the rise ever since the first smartphones hit the market and that is not going to change. Google is aware of how important mobile web traffic is to you and to them. So in 2018, you need to revisit how your site uses interstitial ads. Many are recommending that these ads not take up any more than 30% of the screen space. This is quite drastic when you think that most are using that ads that occupy 75 – 100%. In addition, you will want to find new ways to reach your users with your call to actions. Consider putting “opt ins” and downloads as online ads.
There is no doubt that Google will continue to update their views on how sites use ads to convert visitors to customers. And while it may be important to know the reasoning, it is even more important to devise a plan to adhere but still be successful. Take time to review how your site behaves on desktop and mobile then take action as soon as possible to avoid being penalized by Google.