Warning: New Google Penalties for Mobile, Are You Compliant?

In its relentless quest to supposedly improve the online user experience, Google has introduced rankings penalties for mobile websites featuring intrusive pop-up interstitial pages, such as subscription lightboxes, promotional offers, etc.

Google announced the impending change in August 2016 and this week officially announced that the program was live, with a reduction in rankings applicable to non-compliant sites, according to the Google Webmaster blog. The big G’s rationale for the algorithm change is as follows:

“Although the majority of pages now have text and content on the page that is readable without zooming, we’ve recently seen many examples where these pages show intrusive interstitials to users. While the underlying content is present on the page and available to be indexed by Google, content may be visually obscured by an interstitial. This can frustrate users because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result. Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

 

Admittedly, interstitials on mobile devices can be a frustrating component of the user experience, especially if it is not immediately obvious how to clear the interstitial to get to the underlying content, but the threat of a penalty has webmasters and digital marketers scrambling. Are you compliant? Below are the examples from the Google Webmaster pages of ‘intrusive’ mobile pop-ups and subsequently, the type of interstitials that pass Google’s spamminess standards.

Google mobile interstitials that will be penalised Google mobile interstitials that will be ok

Though the ranking penalties for intrusive mobile interstitials were introduced this week, there have been no reports sighted by Power Retail so far indicating reduced rankings. Google reiterated with its update this week that the new mobile interstitial ranking signal is just one of hundreds of ranking signals, and may not necessarily impact a site’s rankings. It is important to note specifically that Google’s intent is to improve the user experience from a search results page to a mobile landing page, where the content on that mobile landing page indexed by Google is not obscured by an interstitial. That means there is no need to throw out your mobile subscriber pop-ups or offer pop-ups altogether, but modify to suit Google’s guidelines.

In addition to the intrusive mobile interstitial focus, Google also announced it will be removing the “Mobile-friendly” tag from search results pages, as the majority of websites become mobile-optimised. Mobile-friendliness continues to exist as an important Google ranking signal, but will not be overtly promoted on the user search results pages anymore.

Has your rankings or others you know of been affected yet by the update this week? Let us know.

6 thoughts on “Warning: New Google Penalties for Mobile, Are You Compliant?

  1. So far we haven’t seem many sites negatively affected by the change, but Blue Acorn is tracking about 10 different ecommerce sites that are known to use mobile popups/interstitials (typically on load). Should be an interesting few weeks as the change takes a while to really go into effect as it’s rolling updates and tied to sites getting crawled.

    Reply
    • Carolyn
    • 18th January

    Does this mean that a ‘sign up to our email’ popup that comes up 60 secs after a person lands on your website, will be penalised? Even if there is an option to say ‘no thanks?

    Reply
      • Curt Quayle
      • 18th January

      “An option to say ‘no thanks'”? Wow, how kind of you!

      Reply
    • Tony
    • 18th January

    @Carolyn
    Only on mobile versions of websites, not your full desktop version website, I believe

    Reply
    • Curt Quayle
    • 18th January

    Love that there’s a stupid pop-up on this very page.

    Reply
    • Melissa Pepers
    • 24th January

    Doesn’t Google sell interstitial ads?

    Reply

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