Google To Introduce Penalties for Those Using Intrusive Pop Ups on Mobile Websites

Webmasters who make use of intrusive pop ups, which are known as interstitials, are set to be penalized from January 10, 2017 and onwards as part of a new clamp down.

The ranking algorithm penalty itself is not something completely new and it will serve as a direct replacement for the app interstitials ad penalty which was introduced in September last year in an attempt to deliver an improved user experience on mobile platforms.

However, although this previous penalty is being replaced, the overall effect should be exactly the same where interstitials are concerned.

This means that anyone who uses an app which provides targeted pop ups from an ad server while their main content is loading will should notice their site being significantly demoted in the search engine listings as a result.
As the algorithm update approaches, Google has informed us that not all interstitials will trigger a penalty and make a page rank lower.

In fact, they have provided the following list of examples which will have an adverse effect on search listing positions as they negatively affect mobile performance by making content more difficult to access:

  • Pop ups which obscure the main page content – either while loading a page from the search results or whilst browsing the page itself.
  • Standalone interstitials which a user needs to manually close before they can read the content on a web page.
  • Websites which use a layout where the main content appears inlined beneath the fold of an interstitial that is positioned in the top half of a page.

By the same token, Google have also provided a list of interstitials which would not be affected by the new algorithm update:

  • Pop ups that serve a legal purpose – such as notification of cookie usage or age verification interstitials.
  • Login boxes which are used to grant user access to content that is not publicly available such as private emails or payware content.
  • ¬†Banners that are easy to dismiss which only use a relatively small amount of screen space. These include free app installation banners such as those provided by Chrome or Safari.

To reflect these changes, the mobile usability report in Search Console has also been updated.

According to Google:

“App install interstitials will no longer trigger an error in the Mobile Usability report; therefore, you may see a drop in errors in this report. However, although no longer reported as an error, the presence of all types of intrusive interstitials are used as a ranking factor for pages in mobile search results.”

All in all, most webmasters have welcomed the changes although suffice to say there has been no mention of an official Google testing tool that will enable a user to check whether their interstitials will be deemed as acceptable or not when the new update is rolled out.