Removing that Pesky Mobile Interstitial
January 10, 2017, marks the date that mobile marketers will have to find another way to advertise to their consumers. Mobile Interstitial ads that cover the full screen of a smartphone or tablet will cause that site to rank less favorably in Google, which is never a good thing.
What is a mobile interstitial ad?
A mobile interstitial is a type of ad that pops up without any prompt from the user. Although all ads are required to have an escape button (the X in the corner of the ad page), full page mobile interstitial ads found a clever way around this. In some cases, full page interstitial ads were actually programmed to be bigger than the screen. This meant that the “X” in the corner was technically there, but there was no way to get to it. Users would be forced to click on the ad and view its contents unless they knew sophisticated techniques to make it go away. Many ads of this type are strategically placed so that many users will accidentally click on them. Ad publishers have generally been very crafty in their techniques, especially since Google started to make it known that their time was short.
|Example of an Interstitial ad – Source – https://firebase.google.com/docs/admob/android/interstitial|
What does a mobile interstitial ad do?
On the mobile platform, most of these ads ask a user to install an app. These app installs may have nothing to do with the content of the page, and they are considered incredibly annoying by the average mobile web browser. Google began the process of penalizing sites that employed these types of tactics in April of 2016.
What are the exact changes that Google is employing?
The changes that Google will make to its search algorithm are detailed on its Webmaster Central blog. Doantam Phan, Google’s Product Manager, authored the official blog announcing the changes. Here are the general techniques that ad publishers will need to avoid:
- Pop up ads that cover the main content of a mobile page, especially those that cover the entire screen and appear with no prompt from the user. Ads that appear immediately upon the bounce from the search engine to the landing page or ads that appear while a user is looking through the page will be penalized most severely.
- If a standalone mobile interstitial ad must be closed before a user can get to the main content of a mobile page, that ad will likely cause the page to be penalized.
- If an ad appears above the fold with content that should be the main focus of the page under the fold, there will likely be a penalty applied to the page.
Basically, any ad that makes content immediately less accessible to the user will cause a page to be penalized.
Google and the User Experience
Google maintains that there are many metrics that it uses to determine its page ranking, and mobile interstitial ads are only a piece of the puzzle. However, many ad publishers are rather angry at the changes. They say that Google is limiting the potential income streams that advertisers can now generate from their own pages. Google maintains that having a positive user experience on a page will derive more revenue from a site. Regardless, publishers will have to wait until 2017 to see exactly what the changes in the Google algorithm will bring. Google has even gone so far as to suggest the penalty will not be very significant for certain publishers, but time will tell. However, if Google’s blog is to be considered, publishers should generally look out for any ad that tries to bully its way into the user experience.
Creating a Positive User Experience
Indirect advertising is generally better for business in the modern world of oversaturated screen space. If a consumer learns to first trust a page for its content and perspective, publishers can easily place ads in unobtrusive locations that the user will click. Gaining return visits to a page also creates additional impressions for an ad, making it more likely to appeal to a potential customer. All of this can be done without intruding on the user experience. As a matter of fact, the right kind of ad can actually add to the experience if it solves a problem that a customer is having without forcing the solution.
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