Google Rolls Out a New Penalty for Mobile Popup

01.20.17 Published by

Google Penalty for Mobile Popup Image

Google has ramped up their search engine regulations for web and mobile standards with another penalty for those who do not follow their best practices. If you are reading this now, the Google intrusive mobile interstitials penalty has already gone live, so you’ll want to read up to ensure your site does not get unknowingly hit with a penalty and impact your hard earned search engine ranking position (SERP)

First, what are intrusive mobile interstitials?

According to the official Google Webmaster Central Blog, “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 will frustrate users because they are unable to quickly access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result.”

Examples of intrusive mobile interstitials:
Popup intrusive – One that covers the user’s intended content, either immediately after the user clicks to the page from a search result, or shortly after scrolling down the page.

Standalone interstitial – Similar to the first example, one that requires a user’s action to dismiss it before allowing access to the intended content. This interstitial typically takes up the entire screen of the user’s device until being dismissed.

“Above-the-fold” interstitial – Design layout to display the interstitial “above-the-fold” or the portion of the webpage that is visible without scrolling. The intended content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Image Source: Google Webmaster Blog

Second, why is Google now implementing this penalty for mobile?

Intrusive interstitials provide a poor user experience where content should be immediately accessible. This is especially problematic on a mobile device where often a mobile screen will be much smaller, and the viewable real estate is limited. Google continues their quest to improve search results and user’s web experiences by penalizing pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results.

There are some exceptions to this new rule for interstitials, for example:
Legal Obligations – Interstitials used for Cookie usage notification, or age verification. These fall in the boundaries of acceptable interstitials for a website.

Login for private content – Content that is not publicly indexable without authorized credentials, such as email or content behind a paywall. This interstitial type has been approved by Google and does not diminish the user experience.

Reasonably spaced banners/notification – Ever see those “Do you want to install the app?” banners provided by Safari and Chrome when visiting a site that has an app in the App Store/Google Play? That’s a good example of banners that uses a reasonable amount of screen space, non-intrusive, and easily dismissable.

Image Source: Google Webmaster Blog

Third, how to avoid intrusive mobile interstitials and the penalty that surrounds it?

  • Review your site from a user’s point of view. Using your mobile phone, browse through as a customer and take note of any interstitials that may cause a bad user experience, it may not cross your mind as an e-commerce owner. For example, immediate pop-ups to subscribe to your newsletters may sound like good marketing to get subscribers but viewed as an annoyance before getting to the content.
  • Instead, try using an interstitial outro – which would appear when the user is exiting your site or at the end of their session. For example, at the end of checkout.
  •  Use banners that do not entirely obstruct the main content to notify visitors of promotions, deals, etc. Use a similar design as the “Install the app” banner often seen. These are non-intrusive and easily dismissable by the user.

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