Google’s Interstitial Update: Penalty Incoming?
Google Algorithms

Google’s Interstitial Update: Penalty Incoming?

Google announced it was going to begin penalizing websites with interstitials and popups back in mid-2016. Ever since that announcement, there has been lots of speculation about how this update is going to affect webmasters and their websites.

Well as promised the update began rolling out at the start of 2017 and despite being given plenty of warning by Google, people are already starting to see negative effects on their rankings. So what exactly is this update targeting? And are you at risk?

Let’s find out…

What Is An Interstitial?

An interstitial is the name for a popup that covers all of the screen (or the majority of a screen) when accessing a webpage. They block access to content and need to be dismissed before it can be accessed. They are most commonly used for things like email opt-in popups, like us on Facebook popups, or whole page banner ads.

Google has stated that not all interstitials are going to be penalized by the update – some interstitials actually have a required purpose.

mobile interstitials

Examples of interstitials that have been given the OK from Google are things like:

  • Pop-ups that are a legal requirement (Eg: Age verification).
  • Login popups on sites that do not have indexable content (Eg: Email login pages)
  • Small ad popups that do not take up a large amount of screen space (Less than 20% is a good rule of thumb).

Everything else that is not covered by those three bullet points above is probably going to earn you a pretty harsh penalty. However, there are a few exceptions that you need to be aware of.

Only Mobile Popups And Interstitials

So the first thing that you need to know about this update is that it is only targeting mobile. Interstitials are much more annoying when viewed on a mobile device (the small “x” to close them is usually difficult to find and touch accurately).

So if you have interstitials on your site at the moment, disable them on your mobile site and you will be totally immune to this update.

Page to Page Interstitials Are Ok

Google has explicitly stated that it will only be penalizing websites that have an interstitial that displays when directly accessed from Google. This means if a visitor navigates to a second page on your site internally, it is safe to display an interstitial on the second page they visit.

Exit Interstitials Are Ok

Google is only concerned at the moment with interstitials that block the content of the page on the first load. Once they have rendered the page and have seen there are no intrusive interstitials – then they no longer care what happens. So if you currently have an interstitial on the first load, consider changing it to an exit interstitial that displays when your visitor is leaving to avoid penalties.

Sitewide Penalty Awaits Those Who Do Not Obey

One of the most alarming things about this update is that Google has confirmed it is going to be a sitewide penalty.

Just one rogue page on your website could tank its entire rankings in the SERPS.

google penalty

Go to your website and double check every single page to make sure there are no interstitials – especially if you use WordPress.

There are countless plugins that can insert obscure random interstitials that you may not be aware of.

So there you have it. This all you really need to know about this latest Google update. It’s not too complex to understand thanks to Google giving us lots of first-hand information, and the penalties are reasonably easy to avoid.

Now go and check your websites ASAP!

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