Google’s Mobile Interstitial Penalty Now Live
Google announced back in August 2016 that it will begin to devalue web pages in mobile search with intrusive interstitials as of January 10, 2017. Going forward, Google recommends using interstitials on mobile pages that only take up a “reasonable” amount of screen space.
Google’s John Mueller and Gary Illyes confirmed the penalty has began rolling out. Google said this means “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”
This penalty only impacts intrusive interstitials that happen directly after going from a Google mobile search result to a specific page. It does not impact or penalize pages after that, so if you have a intrusive interstitial that comes up later in the click path on your website, this won’t impact it: it only looks for the intrusive interstitial after the click from the Google search results page.
Google explained which types of interstitials are going to be problematic, including:
•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.
Here is a diagram from Google to convey the above points:
Explaining the rationale behind the penalty changes, Google said,
“Although the majority of pages now have text and content on the page that is readable without zooming, we’ve recently seen many examples where these pages show intrusive interstitials to users. While the underlying content is present on the page and available to be indexed by Google, content may be visually obscured by an interstitial. This can frustrate users because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result.”
The new interstitial penalty and particular significance as work continues on the new mobile search index. Sites falling foul of the above guidelines could see their sites hampered with poor visibility as mobile becomes the primary search index for web users.
So far, there haven’t been any widespread reports of sites being unduly affected by the interstitial penalty.