Starting January 2017, Google will start ranking mobile web pages that show interstitial ads to visitors lower, the company said in a blogpost this week.
Posting on the Google Webmaster’s Blog, Doantam Phan, Product Manager at Google wrote, “Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”
Some types of interstitial or popup ads that Google considers intrusive include ones that cover 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 or 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.
“Interstitials are one of the most popular ad formats in India but publishers need to realize that they need to use it with discretion. They are used the world over but we overdo it here,” said Pancham Endlaw, Head (South Asia) at Opera Mediaworks. He also opined that interstitials reduce the user experience, which further pushes up the use of ad blockers.
This is not the first time that Google has attempted to get publishers to clean up their act on the mobile. One highly publicized example was the “mobilegeddon” update in April 2015 when the company tweaked its mobile search algorithm to give more weightage to mobile-optimized websites.
However, this does not mean that publishers should expect sweeping changes in the way their websites are ranked come January opine experts considering the myriad number of factors that go into deciding the eventual ranking.
For example Karan Gupta, MD of Andbeyond.media, opines that pop-ups and interstitials are losing relevance in the mobile web environment in any case though they were once considered premium property (They still are on the desktop and app). “One reason why Google is doing this could be to clean up the mobile web to woo back publishers to a platform that it is really strong in (because of Google Search) as nowadays publishers have a lot of options to host their content on third-party applications like Facebook, Vimeo, micro-blogging sites, etc.,” he added.
Whatever the reason, it might be a good idea for publishers to start considering options other than pop up ads going forward.