interstitial ads
Aug 25, 2016 — TrackFive

Optimizing for Google’s Interstitial Mobile Ads Penalty

Earlier this week, Google announced that there will two changes coming to mobile search in 2017. With this announcement, Google may have single-handedly signaled the end of the ad blocker war. Mobile users, prepare to say goodbye and good riddance to annoying and intrusive interstitial mobile ads! Publishers, prepare to optimize your mobile sites, or be hit with the wrath of Google.

I’m going to leave you with some tips to optimize your mobile site to make sure you’re not penalized, but first, let’s explore why Google had to make this change.

Everything Changed When the AdBlocker Nation Attacked

If you remember back in April, I wrote a three-part blog series about the rise of ad blockers. I really suggest you read it to get a full view of the intrusive ad problem, but I’ll give readers pressed for time a brief summary.

I discussed the rise of the digital ad tech war that continues to wage between content consumers and publishers. Between January 2013 and January 2014, desktop ad-blocking increased 124 percent. By 2015, over 198 million internet users were using ad block plug-ins on their desktop.

Publishers, losing billions in ad revenue, began blocking users using ad blockers, requiring them to disable the plugins for access to content. However, internet users had a good reason for blocking ads. One reason is sites like Forbes forced readers to disable adblockers, and then served their readers malvertisements. (Did you like that full-page intrusive ad experience?? )

When consumers blocked ads, they also saw significant decreases in their monthly data usage.

This left consumers and publishers in an ad tech stalemate of sorts. Publishers want readers to understand that the “free” content they provide is paid for by the ads. Consumers want publishers to stop making ads so annoying and intrusive that you cannot even access the publisher’s content. What is the solution?

Enter stage right: Google

Who else would save the internet from itself except Google? With Google Search, the goal is to “help users quickly find the best answers to their questions, regardless of the device they’re using”. We know this is certainly true, evidenced by Mobilegeddon 2015 when sites with non-mobile-friendly pages were dropped from organic rankings.

So what are the changes that could pose the start of Mobilegeddon 3.0, and the end of the ad blocker wars? The first change is that Google will be removing the mobile-friendly label on mobile search results. The reason for this is that Google recently found that “85% of all pages in the mobile search results now meet [mobile-friendly] criteria”. However, they also want webmasters to know that the mobile-friendly criteria will still be a ranking signal.

Sayonara Annoying Interstitial Mobile Ads!

The major change that will certainly delight web users who do not employ ad blockers is the crackdown on intrusive interstitial mobile ads. While many pages are now mobile-friendly, according to Google (and anyone who uses the internet on mobile devices) many of these “pages show intrusive interstitials to users”.

Google’s issue is that these intrusive ads provide a miserable user experience. Users are super frustrated because they cannot access the content they are searching for. If your site provides users with a poor ad-filled mobile experience, Google will start lowering your rank in search results.

Interstitial Mobile Ads Don’ts

Google gave some examples of what they do NOT want to see. If your site is utilizing any of these techniques to serve ads on mobile, Google will deem your site problematic.

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial ad that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Interstitial Mobile Ads Do’s

These are interstitial ad techniques Google will not punish:

  • Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.

You still have time to serve annoying interstitial mobile ads before being penalized. However, if Mobilegeddon taught anyone anything, it’s that Google does not mess around when it comes to user experience. If your mobile website is providing a problematic experience, you have until January to fix it!

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