Google: Interstitials okay under One Important Condition
Google’s John Mueller explains in a little more detail how negative ranking factors related to interstitials work...
According to Google, interstitials have a negative impact as far as Page Experience ranking factors go, don’t they..?
According to John Mueller, nothing has changed. Intrusive interstitials are still the bane of users looking to interact with the web pages they find via search. They can have a serious impact on the page experience by covering a web page and keeping us from seeing its content, to many they are about as negative as it gets.
Except not always...
Because if they are used responsibly, those interstitials might not be affected by the new signal in Google’s recently completed Page Experience Update.
So what defines responsible use, how do interstitials differ?
Mobile interstitials are defined as those that significantly cover a page, keeping users from seeing its content. Some are overlaid across nearly all of a web page, requiring a click or tap to close, while others cover the entire web page.
Google went to war on interstitials back in 2016 when the company announced their plan to make them a negative ranking factor; they did exactly that in early 2017 noting the following kinds of ads as triggers for negative ranking:
- “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 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.”
Then and now
Have things changed today, has Google’s policy around interstitials evolved? Maybe not, but their policies around offering help and advice definitely have.
John Mueller was asked this very thing in a recent Google SEO office-hours hangout from August 20, 2021 by someone for whom interstitials performed well but who also had concerns about potential ranking issues.
Mueller made it clear that Google’s stance has not changed but went on to describe a way to show interstitials in a way that would not trigger a negative ranking factor from the search giant.
Here is what John had to say:
“So if you’re using interstitials as something in between …the normal flow of when a user goes to your website, then from our point of view that’s less of an issue.
But really, if someone comes to your website and the first thing that they see is this big interstitial and they can’t actually find the content that they were essentially promised in search then from that point of view that looks bad.
But if people can go to your website, they can do something on there, they can start to play a game, and kind of like at the start of the next level you show an interstitial ad then from our point of view, that’s perfectly fine.
That’s essentially something between you and the user and finding that balance of how many ads you show or how you present those ads during the …session on the site, that’s essentially something up to you
So from that point of view, probably this is less of an issue to focus on.
I don’t know your specific website; I don’t know how it is when users go to it.
But that’s something where probably I would guess it’s okay.”
The one condition is the user experience
It seems that, thanks to John’s words that Google’s position is now much clearer.
Users must be able to see and interact with a page as soon as they reach it from a search result. That is what they expect, if a user is kept from doing that by an (intrusive) interstitial, then it’s a problem.
As long as the interstitial is not the first thing a user sees, then all should be well.