It has been in the common knowledge domain that Google intends to include presence of interstitials as part of its negative ranking factors in its mobile-friendly ranking algorithm. However, what you don’t know is that the same factor is likely to be included with normal desktop results as well.
Interstitials vitiate user experience
Speaking at the SMX Advanced last month, Google’s Maile Ohye warned webmasters that Google intends to consider interstitials in terms of how the search engine will treat pages that implement them for regular search. Ohye said interstitials vitiate user experience on desktop as well as mobile, hence the company’s interest in the matter.
She warned that content found behind interstitials is likely to face devaluing in search engine rankings.
Many websites on mobile use interstitials for the purpose of redirecting users to download native apps rather than visiting the site. On desktop, interstitials are part of monetization efforts – ad displays or commonly video advertisements which must be viewed for a time period before a user gains access to an article.
The latter format is common on many sites, including Forbes. The sites additionally require users to click again before they can actually read the article they are looking for, as opposed to automatically redirecting the user to the required page after the requisite time watching the ad. Some however, redirect users.
Effect on survey interstitials
It’s a matter of interest whether Google has any plans on content found behind survey interstitials. These are those sites which require user to answer some questions before being allowed access to content, and are particularly peeving for most, if not all internet users. In fact, most would rather go back than answer the survey to access the content, no matter how apt.
Naturally, this begs the question whether Google intends to degrade content with overlays or popovers. Web experts suspect although they have not proven that this may also negatively impact search rankings.
This is why many sites are working around it by placing the overlay on second page views, making it effectively invisible for Googlebots. This means the overlay doesn’t show up on the first page from search engines, but does when users attempt to access the next page of the content.
A welcome move by Google
Speaking from users’ perspectives, this move by Google is very welcome. Given Google’s emphasis on user experience, it was only a matter of time before interstitials make the list. For those sites that have interstitials, it’s worth reassessing whether or not the financial revenue from keeping the interstitials beats the potential loss of revenue following devaluation on organic search.
More than likely, they’ll find keeping interstitials not worth the loss in rankings. Likely, Google will also add interstitials to Google Search Console to alert owners that they might be better served by removing them.
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