Google has taken a decision to stop interstitials that are ruining the user experience. Are you affected by this? Find out more about google interstitials and what to do if your rankings are lost!
Pop-ups, interstitials, overlays, modules, etc. have been effective strategies for generating more sales, reducing cart, for recapturing sales, for abandonment, for revenue generation, etc. These interstitials highlight a particular offer and boil down visitor’s decision making. They are also used to satisfy revenue-oriented goals, provide value, etc.
Similar to other marketing tactics, interstitials misuse, poor implementation, bad practices, etc. has tumbledown everyone. The result was a despoiled user experience and moreover Google’s harsh wrath. An impeding interstitial penalty was announced by Google for disturbing Ads on websites. The Google interstitials penalty proved good as it boosts user experience and also assisted site owners to make preparations to avoid losing traffic for their sites. Moreover, interstitials were more disturbing on a small screen like mobiles.
What are Interstitials?
When a visitor lands a page on any site, the ads that appear are called interstitials. This ad comes between the pages and covers the content on the website. This grabs the visitor’s attention towards the ad. There are facilities to skip the ad or get to the original content in few seconds after the ad.
How Interstitials Differ from Banner Ads and Pop-ups?
If we consider banner ads, they are a kind of display advertising because of its visual nature.
Though they do not intervene with the user experience, if banner ads are too flashy and big, they may cause readers to lose focus on content.
On the other hand, pop-ups always appear on top of the content. However, it does not interrupt the user immediately.
In dictionary terms, pop up refers to anything that appears unexpectedly or all of a sudden. It is a kind of online advertising, designed to appeal to customers and result in increased traffic.
The purpose of interstitials is quite the same as that of previous ads, which is to advertise and promote. However, they are different from banner ads and pop ups in a way that they intervene with the user and disturbs its overall content flow.
One great website using interstitials is Forbes. The site has an interstitial that opens whenever you click on the link that directs users to the content on this site.
Whenever a user clicks on a link, which redirects to the website, there is page waiting before the content can be actually viewed.
The interstitials are used by them to advertise services or products and push content to the forefront for rich user experience. As far as SEO is concerned, it boosts the CTR as well as the on-site time of the website.
Further, there are other kinds of intrusive ads, which intend to only manipulate the users.
Such ads provide higher chances for the user to mistakenly click on it and route to some other content, which is usually the website of the advertiser. It is annoying and mostly such ads are highly aggressive.
Usage of Interstitials ads by sites:
Site owners find interstitials ads interesting as they are capable to grab the attention of users by drive response and ads. These ads dominate the screen and hence, positive results are seen by several brands. When taking a look at global statistics, the number of brands has seen positive returns. For example, game developers reaped a 7X elevation in conversions, a 25X rise was seen in the hotel chain industry through videos, etc.
Also Appflood, China reported that there is a 70% increase in mobile ad revenue through interstitial ads. Though, the value and prominence of these ads declined after Google’s penalty came to light.
About Google Interstitials Penalty:
A warning was given by Google to website developers to penalize sites that used intrusive interstitial advertisements. The search engine announced that sites that utilized interstitial ads that disturb the user in reading the content would result in lower website ranking. Google also announced the category of interstitial ads that they would focus on.
- Ads that pop up and cover the main content as soon as the visitor gets to the page after search results. Google would also penalize if ads pop up while reading through the content.
- Before getting to the main page, exhibiting an interstitial where the user needs to dismiss.
- When the above fold part of the page has a layout similar to a standalone interstitial, the original content has been aligned under the fold.
- Google announced that these categories of ads mentioned below will not be penalized.
Interstitials occur by responding to legal obligations, for example for age verification or cookie usage.
- Easily dismissible ads that use reasonable screen size. Examples of the app install banners by chrome and safari.
- Sites that obtain login dialogues that aren’t publicly indexed able. A few examples are private content. These are unindexable contents or emails behind paywalls.
After the penalty came to light in 2017, the effect was seen on many sites. Few sites experienced severe penalty and also went down in ranking. It is hence believed that many sites would still be penalized in the future.
Effects of Interstitials:
- There is a negative emotional response to interstitials. It is said that only 25% of users are satisfied to see an ad on full-screen mode. About 90% are looking for opt-in advertising. When interstitials are considered, users are looking to close the window.
- Opt-in advertising is found to grab attention. People are more involved with embedded advertising than intrusive advertising.
Permitted intrusive pop-ups:
It is said that interstitials are ranking signals for SEO. This also makes it clear that not all pop-ups are to be banned. There are intrusive pop-ups that are agreeable on desktops. Interstitials that have exit intent are allowed.
Google does not mandate to penalize all pages with interstitials, they penalise only the ones that the user lands after search results. An interstitial can be displayed when a user moves from one page to the other. They should not be any intrusive interstitial when a user searches something on Google and lands the page. After a search, landing on the web page, and navigating to other page interstitials are allowed on the page.
Google found that many users used engines to hunt for results in their mobile devices. As users are unable to understand the real relevance of the pages accessing from mobiles, the mobile index came to light. It is nothing but the algorithms that are the contingent mobile version of the site. By taking a deeper look, mobile interstitials became apparent. These mobile interstitials annoyed the users after clicking from search and experienced a concealed content.
Google Wants a Positive User Experience:
It initiated in 2012 when Google started devaluing sites delivering too much ad space above the fold.
Later in 2015, an announcement was made by Google for downgrading websites, which display annoying ads on the full page and prompting users to install mobile apps. In November 2015, the interstitial penalty app from Google went live.
Till today, Google closely watches on distinct intrusive advertising formats online, which creates a negative impact on the entire experience on a site.
One important date to consider is January 19, 2017, when Google penalized sites having content, which is not accessible to users in the transition from mobile search results. Such an update was introduced to help users conveniently access preferred content on various devices including mobile.
For this, Google even stated that this new signal is among various signals, which are utilized in ranking and still search query’s intent is a highly strong signal. Hence, a page must still rank high it is consists of relevant, great content.
Further, Google introduced a complete subchapter about misleading, disruptive, and distracting ads, titles, and additional content.
Websites that were unable to match the expectations of users were penalized.
There are two conditions where ads are believed to have a disruptive nature:
- First, when the ads actively showcase over the main content even when you scroll down a page. Even, such ads are quite tough to close. It becomes difficult to read and utilize the main content as it is mostly covered by moving ads.
- Second, an interstitial page that redirects the user away from the main content without providing a route back to the main content is known to be disruptive by Google.
In addition to these, there are innumerable reasons why ads are considered misleading and distracted.
Google Interstitials Impact on SEO:
In the year 2016, there are multiple unconfirmed updates that experts identified. Moreover, there is an on-going debate around these dates when they occurred.
Only 4 updates have been recorded by Moz:
- February 1 – Unnamed major update
- January 10 – Intrusive interstitial mobile penalty
- March 8 – Fred unconfirmed
- February 6 – Unnamed major update
While these are only 4 updates, there were more updates identified by Barry Schwartz and Glenn Gabe. This clearly indicates that there is a difference between them.
As far as our point of view is considered, there was no update from Fred. It is just a name offered externally to a group of updates, which we have been performing over time. It does not mean that there is anything, which is altering in the search.
Such changes are made in search every time and we always make attempts to try to figure out ways to drive more relevance, rich content to the users, and things which can affect a range of sites.
Till now, there have been innumerable opinions and immense vague information. However, there is only one that is aware of the truth.
Interstitials hurt SEO:
Depending on the look of the ad, there is an impact on SEO. The pages of the ad should not cover the content completely. Also, the main content should not be disturbed leading to the advertiser site. Such aspects never affect SEO. The cases apart from this would get through SERP instabilities, and also ranking inability. After the emergence of Google’s update on the interstitial penalty, there was a drop in traffic and also SERP fluctuations. Ranking declined down for sites that displayed a full-page ad along with the “buy now” images on the side, which have clickable options.
The extent to which interstitials hurt SEO depends on the way your ad appears. If there are no pages that cover the entire content and it does not whisk over the core content to the website of an advertiser, mostly it will not hurt the SEO.
In some cases, there might be fluctuations in SERP, instability in the ranking, and eventually, you will get invisible in the search results.
After recent updates made by Google on the interstitial penalty, there were a lot of webmasters who witnessed a drop in traffic or SERP fluctuations. For most of them, the interstitial penalty has hit them.
One example of this Vic Holtreman, who confirmed that this happened to him as his full-page ad appears on each side of content.
Because of this, there was a severe drop in the rankings of this website. The rankings dropped severely when the interstitial penalty was introduced from Google along with other major updates.
Though the website owner tried hard to reduce ads, improve readability, and enhance content quality, he was not successful in recovering for higher rankings.
There is a lot of stuff going on this site. It has an unnatural looking link profile and with full-page ads appearing all over the content, there was a high drop in the rankings.
Do Ad Penalties Exist?
It is an official announcement from Google that a site can be penalized for interstitial advertisements on mobile devices.
Other experts believe that the penalty is genuine. In order to enhance the search experience for mobile users, a webpage, where content is not conveniently accessible to the user on a transition from the mobile search results, may not rank high in Google.
Preventing Intrusive Ad Penalty:
It is first essential to use accepted ads, which are those that don’t appear over the main content and blocks user’s access to information. Further, the ads must not send them to a different website.
To prevent penalties, it is best to use ads in the following manner:
- Blockers for age verification
- Cookie usage confirming the guidelines of Google
- A legally needed pop-up that needs a considerable volume of screen space
- Use accepted ads
The interstitial penalty is among hundreds of other signals used by Google to analyze your site. It is an important factor that impacts the ranking of a website in search engines.
To make sure you don’t experience any such penalty, be careful while using ads on your website.