Intrusive Interstitials Will Face Google Penalties in 2017

In an effort to further improve the mobile search experience Google has revealed it will be potentially penalising sites with intrusive interstitials from January 10th 2017.
Interstitials are advertisements and pop ups that appear while a webpage is downloading.
In this case by penalise we mean lower the rankings.
Many websites use pop ups like these to promote a particular service on their site or get you to download a whitepaper or sign up to their newsletter. The problem is that if implemented in certain ways these pop up promotions can reduce the positive experience, particularly for users on mobile. Users simply want to read the page or article they have clicked on and will be displeased if a pop up appears that they need to close before getting to the content they want.
Yet it can be a challenge to catch user’s attention and draw them to your best services or newsletters hence the frequent use of intrusive interstitials.
So, what kind of interstitials will be affected by this new penalty and which are still acceptable in Google’s eyes?
If you have interstitials on your website which cover the main content when the user first navigates to the site or while they are trying to scroll down the page to read the content, then this would be deemed intrusive. This kind of interstitial may be penalised come January 10th.
Other interstitials that may put your site in danger are ones that the user must dismiss before accessing the main content. These are highly popular with site owners so many sites will have to have a proper clean up and readdress how they approach pops ups in time for the new year.
If you use a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears simian to a standalone interstitial but the original content has been lined under the fold, then you could also face a penalty under the new regulations.
However, you should be safe from penalties if your interstitial is related to legal regulations, such as age verifications for sensitive content or cookie notifications.
You would also be safe if your site contains content that is not publicly available and requires a log in. Log in dialogs would be perfectly acceptable.
What about the ability to promote other content?
Business owners will naturally still want to promote services, product, whitepapers and newsletters with dynamic calls to action. Google has said that as long as banners do not take up too much space or cover content and which are reasonable and easily dismissible should be acceptable.
Google has explicitly stated that “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”
Many site owners will be concerned but it could be a great step for improved user experience. Want to learn more about search engine optimisation? Take a look at our SEO services.