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Google to crack down on ‘intrusive interstitials’ by January as it refines mobile search still further

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Google has announced plans to crack down on ‘intrusive interstitial’ adverts on mobile from next January as it tightens its grip on mobile search.

Back in March 2015 Google introduced the Mobile Friendly label to mark out – and prioritise in search results – mobile sites that were fully optimised for mobile devices. This has resulted in some 85% of sites being mobile friendly, the search giant says.

Its next target is to get rid of interstitial ads and pop ups that are making these sites less than friendly to mobile users in its view.

Interstitials comprise adverts such as popups 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. They can also be standalone interstitials that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content, or advertisers using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been in-lined underneath the fold.

By contrast, Google will allow interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification. It will also allow login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.

Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible will also be allowed. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.

“Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible,” says Google product manager Doantam Phan, in a blog post. “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.”

Phan continues: “We previously explored a signal that checked for interstitials that ask a user to install a mobile app. As we continued our development efforts, we saw the need to broaden our focus to interstitials more generally. Accordingly, to avoid duplication in our signals, we’ve removed the check for app-install interstitials from the mobile-friendly test and have incorporated it into this new signal in Search.”

Commenting on the move Paul Thomson, VP EMEA, at location advertising company Blis, says: “This initiative marks another key step in the battle against poor quality advertising, and Google should be applauded for recognising that consumers deserve to be protected from unscrupulous advertisers that want to grab attention at all costs. As we’re seeing with this, and Facebook’s decision to disable ad blockers and commit to improving the quality of advertising, the user experience is now becoming a key priority for a growing number of channels. This in turn is driving demand for new, more user-friendly advertising formats such as native, which is mutually beneficial for advertisers, publishers and consumers alike; native formats are proven to dramatically increase consumer engagement, and have the added advantage of being bypassed by ad blockers. With IHS predicting that by 2020 in-app native advertising revenue will generate almost two-thirds (63.2 percent) of mobile display advertising revenue, amounting to $53.4 billion in total, it’s clear that the advertising landscape is changing, and shifting away from the interruptive or annoying adverts that cause the surge in ad blocker downloads.”

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