These ads will hurt your mobile website rankings

Many people get frustrated with large interstitial ads that pop up over website pages and make the page unreadable by obscuring the page content.  Often this is done by mobile website publishers wanting to promote their mobile apps. The restaurant guide website Zomato.com is an example. Below is what gets shown when you click through to the Zomato result in a Google search for Auckland restaurants.

Very irritating! The ad blocks the page entirely. As you can see you are encouraged to download the app but the option exists to click a link & continue browsing the mobile site content.  Which is what you wanted when you clicked on the Google search result!

Google has announced that from 1 November mobile websites showing app interstitial ads that cover a “significant amount of content” of their pages will be considered NOT mobile-friendly and won’t rank as well as mobile-friendly web pages. Below shows what Google does & doesn’t consider acceptable .


As you can see app installation banners that don’t obscure the page content are acceptable to Google and mean pages are still deemed to be mobile friendly.

Of note is the fact that Google state this does not affect other types of interstitials – they are only penalising large interstitials that promote apps. This begs the question why not all large intestinal ads? After all, they’re equally annoying to users.

The CEO of Yelp, Jeremy Stoppelman, has made the case this inconsistency is because Google has a conflict of interest.

According to Stoppelman, apps threaten Google’s search business. In this article he makes the point a user who downloads an app is a user who’s less likely to perform a Google search in the future. For example, if you do a local search on Google and then download the Yelp app, you’re less likely to do another search for a local business on Google.  When it comes to apps, Google’s Web search team has a conflict of interest. The more a user downloads apps, the less likely that user is to search the Web with Google — and that jeopardizes their extremely profitable search monopoly.

Why should you care?

Maybe Yelp are right – it does seem strange Google aren’t penalising all large interstitial ads. But be that as it may, from your point of view if your mobile website features such ads then this is going to hurt your website rankings from Nov 1 and could result in less traffic.

Make sure to test your pages that have app interstitials to see if they pass Google’s mobile-friendly  & mobile-usability tests. These will show you now if you have problems with ranking and app interstitials.



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About the Author Mark Sceats

Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).

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