Google to punish websites with “intrusive” pop-up ads

24 Aug 201644 Shares

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Almost a year to the day since Google announced plans to reign in sites with interstitial ‘download our app’ ads, it has now focused its gaze on annoying, “intrusive” ads in general. Bye-bye interstitial ads?

It’s two years since Google created a ‘mobile-friendly’ label for websites, setting its stall out early in the shift towards mobile browsing. Unless websites were constructed to flow well on mobile, they were outcasts.

It’s one year since Google then sought to eliminate “intrusive interstitial” pop-up ads on websites that encouraged users to download the app version, rather than allowing them to browse the mobile version.

As if to underline this as an annual event, today Google is broadening the scope of that interstitial war to bring all adverts into the fold. So from 1 January – giving websites far longer than previous decisions – those with interstitial ads “may” be ranked lower on Google.

Google

“Remember, this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking,” said Doantam Phan, product manager at Google.

“The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

However, as publishers will agree, competition is mighty online, with “great, relevant content” hardly a rarity. So playing ball with Google often becomes a necessity.

There are plenty of sites that don’t have a mobile version, or don’t have an app. These are running contrary to the growing body of evidence that these are how consumers browse the web.

However, the majority pay very close attention to search engine optimisation. In that field, there is one company leading the way.

 

Interstitials that make content less accessible (l-r): An example of an intrusive pop-up, an example of an intrusive standalone interstitial, another example of an intrusive standalone interstitial

Interstitials that make content less accessible (l-r): An example of an intrusive pop-up, an example of an intrusive standalone interstitial, another example of an intrusive standalone interstitial

The reasoning behind Google’s decision is not to bring people towards more informative, relevant content, it’s to annoy them less.

If you search ‘Raising a puppy’ and find a website that details the process of dog ownership, it can prove frustrating if the page you click on hosts a full-screen, “intrusive” interstitial advert. That’s not what you searched for. You searched for the content hidden behind it.

“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,” said Phan.

Examples of interstitials that would not be affected by the new signal, if used responsibly (l-r): an example of an interstitial for cookie usage, an example of an interstitial for age verification, an example of a banner that uses a reasonable amount of screen space

Examples of interstitials that would not be affected by the new signal, if used responsibly (l-r): an example of an interstitial for cookie usage, an example of an interstitial for age verification, an example of a banner that uses a reasonable amount of screen space

After last year’s bid to eliminate ‘download the app’ interstitials, the company quickly saw other interstitials as an issue. In 2017, that may no longer be the case.

Main Google image via Ouh_desire/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is a journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com