Are You At Risk of a Google Mobile Penalty

April 21, 2017

Google is constantly working on ways to improve user experience. One way Google does this is by penalizing mobile websites that don’t follow its guidelines, usually by lowering the offending website’s search results ranking. One algorithm update in particular, the intrusive interstitial update, took aim at intrusive popup ads that interfere with a mobile user’s experience. If your website is in violation of these newer standards, it’s time to look for web design in Toronto for help before your search rankings sink.

The interstitial defined

The term “interstitial” refers to a what appears before or after the webpage expected by the user. It’s something that is blocking out the app or website’s primary content, which is what the user clicked on the link to see. These spaces have been a promo tool for many online marketers. They may contain ads, coupons, newsletter sign-ups, surveys or other calls to action.

What Google is targeting

Pages with intrusive interstitials are no longer considered to be mobile-friendly by Google. The biggest target of this is ads that gray out content, making it so the user can’t access the content for a few seconds or until they hit a tiny “x” to dismiss the ad. Generally speaking, if you want to be on good terms with Google, you don’t want any barriers that could prevent a visitor from reading content on any of your webpages at any time.

Examples the search giant has given as intrusive include a popup window that blocks all or nearly all page content, a standalone interstitial that blocks the content and just isn’t responsive, and a layout with content that seems to be an interstitial above the fold that requires the user to scroll or dismiss it to reach the main page content. Some interstitials that may fall under this description are permissible by Google, depending on their purpose. An age-verification blocker for adult content, for example, is legally required and not something Google penalizes.

Google is not going to penalize every single page with an interstitial. The main focus is the pages that someone could land on via search results. This means you can still have an interstitial when a user is moving from one page to another on your website. However, if a user could find a page by searching on Google, that page needs to be free of any interstitials that are likely to earn you a Google penalty the next time the search engine crawls your website.

What to do

At this point, you need to conduct a page-by-page audit to determine whether your webpages need to have any interstitials removed. If that requires a re-design or you are concerned that you may lose web traffic, seek the services of a web design agency. Some websites have already reported that they were hit with a mobile penalty from Google over their interstitials despite believing they were sticking to the guidelines. A good search ranking is a must for visibility on the web today, and you simply can’t afford to take any chances with it.