The reason you may have been hearing the word ‘interstitial’ more lately is due to Google’s new mobile interstitials penalty that was introduced on 10th January 2017. Announced in August 2016, Google aimed to give sites a large transition time in which to weigh up their options and configure their pop-ups. We understand the introduction is specifically aimed at mobile search results, but there hasn’t been any official word yet on whether it will be introduced on tablets in the future.
So, what exactly is an interstitial, and what’s the problem? Google defines an intrusive interstitial as a pop-up where the main content can’t be read as it covers the majority of a user’s mobile screen, or a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing main content. This creates a frustrating user experience for anyone trying to immediately access a website on a small screen and results in a lack of instant content. Any ‘responsible’ interstitials won’t be penalised; ie. anything responding to legal obligation such as cookies or age verification, or banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible.
Google’s response to these interstitials is to introduce a penalty where a website’s ranking will decrease if they match this criteria. With Google’s claim that 85% of pages in mobile results are mobile-friendly, this shows more people are browsing on mobile than ever and they are seeking to improve user experience in response to this. In a world this modern, a drop in rankings will be seriously detrimental to a site’s traffic flow. Other negative aspects involve sites losing new sign ups to their databases – pop-ups drive conversion through email sign ups, sale notifications and social media promotions.
So, how to get around this? Using on-exit interstitials, banner ads, or using an interstitial deeper into the site will avoid any penalties – Google counts these as being between the site and the user, and is only focused on interstitials that show up on the interaction between search click and going through to the desired page and seeing content. Over one month in, experts are already monitoring rankings with mixed reviews. See if you notice any changes in your own searches!