Mueller Says Mobile Interstitials Are Fine Under These Conditions
Google SEO specialists aim to provide users with the best experience when visiting their websites, but some factors could hinder them from achieving this goal. One negative page experience factor is mobile interstitials. However, Google’s John Mueller tells SEO specialists that there is a way to show interstitials without giving their users a negative site experience.
What Are Mobile Interstitials?
According to Google support, interstitials are full-page ad units that appear between screens as users navigate a mobile app. Interstitials show users a full-screen app experience at various transition points, including launch, game level load, and video pre-roll.
Interstitial ads are highly engaging because they are huge and use rich media; thus, they help attract more potential clients and boost clickthrough and conversion rates. They are also the perfect format for brand advertisers since their vast size presents an ideal canvas for storytelling. Because of the benefits they bring, many brand and performance mobile advertisers use them.
However, there is one downside of using mobile interstitials. Some online businesses and site owners use intrusive interstitial advertisements that significantly cover a web page and prevent users from reading the content.
There are two types of mobile interstitials. The first type of interstitial is overlayed over most of the page and requires users to click it to close it. The second type covers the entire web page.
Google Anti-Interstitial Negative Ranking Factor
In August 2016, Google announced that it would make mobile interstitials one of its negative ranking factors. Soon enough, the company added it to their algorithm update in January 2017.
Google specified in detail why these pop-up advertisements result in poor user experience:
- Interstitials can obstruct the main content, either while the users read the content or after they navigate to a page from the search results.
- Some standalone interstitials require users to dismiss it before they can access the main content.
- Some websites use a layout where the page’s upper portion looks similar to a standalone interstitial, but they have inlined the original content underneath the fold.
An SEO recently told Mueller that they were aware of Google making interstitials a negative ranking factor in 2017. Even monetising with AdSense Vignettes is limited to displaying once per hour. However, they said they prefer interstitials to banner ads because the latter uses too much screen space. Therefore, interstitial ads have become common in mobile apps.
The person asked Mueller if Google would ever change their stance on interstitials. They also wondered if using mobile interstitial ads would negatively affect their rankings.
Google’s Stance On Mobile Interstitials In 2021
Mueller said that Google’s stance on mobile interstitials has never changed or evolved in 2021. Google still uses these intrusive interstitials as one of its ranking factors. Moreover, they are a part of the page experience and elements.
But he also made it clear that Google may approve of non-intrusive interstitials. He then suggested a proper way of showing interstitials without triggering a negative ranking factor from Google’s system.
He said that if SEOs use interstitials in a non-intrusive way when a user visits a website, it is never an issue from Google’s perspective. However, if people visit the website and the first thing they see is a big interstitial ad that blocks the entire content, Google would consider it as intrusive and might penalise the website.
On the other hand, if the interstitial ads do not intervene with the user experience, it would not negatively affect one’s rankings. For instance, let’s say that a visitor started playing a game on the website, and at the start of the next level, they find an interstitial ad. This is a good example of a Google-approved interstitial.
Aside from considering the best user experience when interacting with page elements, one should also find the balance between the number of ads they want to display and how they want to present those ads within that session.
Google’s stance on mobile interstitials is that users should have a great experience with the page’s content as soon as they click on a search result. When users click on a specific search result, Google wants them to find the best answer to their search query; they do not want a mobile interstitial ad to get in the way. But based on Mueller’s response, using mobile interstitials is fine as long as it does not negatively affect the site’s user experience.
For SEOs who want to use mobile interstitial ads on their websites, here are some things they should avoid:
- Immediately upon app load or exit – One should not display interstitial ads immediately after the user clicks on an app or tries to exit the app.
- Repeating or recurring ads – One must not display interstitial ads after every user action, including swipes, clicks, and more. They should also not show a second interstitial ad after the user closes the first one.
- As a rule of thumb, one should limit one ad between every two user actions within the app.
- Unexpectedly launched – One should not place interstitial ads that suddenly appear when the user is supposed to focus on a task at hand – for instance, filling out a form, reading content, or playing a game. Doing so may result in accidental clicks.
However, some interstitial ads are fine to use and will not result in Google penalties. Here are some exceptions:
- Page-to-page interstitials – One can display an interstitial ad when a user navigates from one page to another. But if the user can find that page by doing a Google search, the site owner should not include any interstitials.
- Age verification interstitials – Google SEO specialists can display age verification interstitials for certain content, such as adult-related or alcohol-related articles.
- Cookie usage interstitials – The EU permits interstitial ads used for cookie consent notifications.
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