Intrusive Interstitials – Guide to creating better user experience and avoid Google penalty

August 18, 2020 - 8  min reading time - by Kaushal Thakkar
Accueil > SEO Thoughts > How to avoid the impact of Intrusive Interstitials

Intrusive interstitials are basically pop-ups, banners, and overlays that come up on websites to promote their services and disrupt the user’s main motive of reading the content on the website. Google took some major decisions in battling bad user experience provided by websites. This decision was mainly targeted towards mobile user experience, and targeted websites that have “intrusive” pop-ups to disrupt the browsing experience of the users.

Google, in 2017, enforced penalties to website practising mobile app interstitials or interstitials in general. This rounded up a number of elements that digital businesses had to stay away from to avoid getting a Google penalty for SEO. Here is an intrusive interstitials guide that can help you in identifying these elements and avoid penalties from Google.

What Is an Intrusive Interstitial?

An intrusive interstitial can be any hindrance a website has on the user experience by negatively affecting the users’ browsing experience. The main culprits in the list of intrusive interstitials are pop-ups, banners, and layovers, which are non-responsive, cover most of the content of the website up and are often difficult to close. Google intrusive interstitials are identified on this basis.

Upon identifying these intrusive elements, Google no longer considers them mobile-friendly. Following which, it takes the following steps to enforce penalties on the websites:

Impact of Google Intrusive Interstitials Update

Google rolled out the following points as the impact of intrusive interstitials on websites practising them.

  • Negative impact on rankings: The use of intrusive interstitials will negatively impact the rankings of websites, if detected or reported by the search engine’s algorithms. Many websites practice some mobile SEO tactics to make it hard for the users to close pop-ups or ads, which can be detected and would demote the rankings of the website.
  • Pop-ups are now against Google guidelines: Google has also rolled out specific guidelines for Google intrusive interstitials, in which websites will be instantly penalised for the use of pop-ups. Pop-ups usually occur out of nowhere while the user is exploring the content on any website, which can be a huge distraction for them and ruin their browsing experience.
  • Fluent User Experience: With Google intrusive interstitials initiative, users will now have access to content on websites without having to worry about the aforementioned intrusive elements. This, in turn, will significantly boost the user-experience.

Which exact intrusive interstitials will be penalised by Google?

Identifying the Google intrusive interstitials that are penalised by the search engine can help digital and eCommerce businesses to design their website in the right way and provide better user experience . Let us take a look at the intrusive interstitials that are penalised by Google:

  1. Pop-ups that block the content of the page: A modal window or a pop-up are often seen as semi-transparent windows that dim or block the contents of the page. These can be considered as the most traditional form of pop-ups, that are now penalised by Google if used on the website.
  2. Full-screen interstitials: These types of interstitials usually sit on the top of a website or above the headers, and are standalone interstitials. They force the users to scroll all the way up to see the content.
  3. Content Blocking interstitials: This type of interstitials are basically a full-screen blockade. They are regular pop-ups but block any and all the content of a website.

There might be some loopholes that websites can leverage to still use interstitials, but anything that blocks the content on the website and ruins the user experience is liable to be penalised from Google.

What intrusive interstitials would not be impacting websites negatively?

Here are some of the interstitials that are not liable to any negative effects from Google:

  1. Age Verification pop-ups: These are to ensure that the content accessed by the user lies within the legal limits
  2. Cookies that use pop-ups: Websites have to practice capturing the acknowledgement from the users that they will use cookies to ensure smooth user experience. These pop-ups are exempt from any negative impacts on Google’s end.
  3. Legal pop-ups or password protected sites: These pop-ups ensure that the users are within the legal boundaries of exploring the content of the websites. Hence, they are not categorised as a negative influence.

How can you avoid penalties from Google for using Google Intrusive Interstitials?

There are many ways in which businesses can ensure that they do not have to face any penalties from Google for the use of intrusive interstitials. Let us take a look at them:

 

Audit your pop-ups

 

Conducting a cohesive audit of your mobile website is the first way to address this issue. The measure helps conclusively check whether a mobile website is compliant with Google’s guidelines. Mobile pop-ups can be analysed and implemented in a banner, slide-ins, and inline styles for avoiding the Google bots in determining your interstitials as intrusive.

Ads should not be displayed over the top of the content

One element that is crystal clear about Google intrusive interstitials initiative is that the user experience should not, at any point, be disrupted by any ads or pop-ups. Hence, make sure that your pop-ups and ads are positioned on webpages where they make sense rather than over the content of the webpage. Any ad covering the content of the page will be detected and penalised by Google.

A/B testing with different versions of your pop-ups

It is always a smart choice to test out different variants of pop-ups before finalizing them. A/B testing can help in determining which pop-ups are providing optimum conversions and are not considered Google intrusive interstitials. This can, in turn, also help to determine which kind of pop-ups are less likely to be considered less “user-friendly” as well.

Take advice from Google

The main purpose of the user searching for any content on Google is to easily access it. Hence, it is imperative that the content is immediately available to the users once they click on your webpage’s link from Google search results. One point to keep in mind is Google only penalises webpages using intrusive interstitials if they come under their search results. If the user is clicking on internal links to open up different pages from the website itself, Google cannot penalise those pages for using intrusive interstitials.

Avoid hiding content

If your ads or pop-ups are hiding any content on the webpage, Google’s bots will immediately identify that as a penalty liable intrusive interstitial. Hence, avoid using any banners or pop-ups that cover up any part of the content on your webpage.

Developing a proper content marketing strategy for generating revenue

More often than not, businesses indulge in creating vanilla content marketing strategies which often goes overlooked by Google’s algorithms. Hence, creating a proper content marketing strategy is the best approach to sell your services/products by making content accessible to the users rather than using pop-ups, which can frustrate the webpage visitors.

Exit pop-ups should be allowed

If you are displaying ads on your webpage, it is imperative to ensure that the users are given the ability to exit the pop-up ads conveniently. Providing small close buttons which redirect the users to different webpages is a practice that can lead to penalisation by Google.

Page to page intrusive interstitials

As mentioned previously, if a user is navigating from one page to another from the website itself, Google intrusive interstitials guidelines are not applicable on those pages. Hence, it is fine to display ads and pop-ups on pages which are not displayed in Google search results.

WordPress Plugins

If you are using any WordPress plugins on your webpages, navigating through Google intrusive interstitials’ size guidelines will do the job for you. You just have to adjust sizes of the interstitials used on the webpages using plugin settings, so they are non-obstructive to the user-experience.

Check analytics for capturing traffic

Analytics can help businesses in capturing high bounce rates or drops in traffic. This can help you in determining the impact of using interstitials on your website. High drop rates can also be a concern, as Google bots can assess your website for any intrusive interstitials that might have caused the drop in traffic, and penalise you. Hence, taking constant updates from analytics about the same can help you in avoiding penalties as well.

Insights from Infidigit

Let us take a deep dive into a use case that will set straight the what and how of the use of Google intrusive interstitials:

  1. Case: An eCommerce client had interstitials of all types implemented on its website.
  2. Approach: Infidigit conducted a thorough SEO audit on this eCommerce client’s website and found out the extent of the use of interstitials.
  3. Recommendation: Infidigit recommended the eCommerce client some modifications to implement which abide by the new guidelines provided by Google. This would reduce the chances of these interstitials being detected by Google algorithms and penalised.
  4. Implementation: The eCommerce client implemented the modifications suggested by Infidigit, and applied them in all of their webpages.
  5. Results: After the implementation of the modifications, the eCommerce client recorded a 10% improvement in the Google rankings of its pages.
  6. SEO Strategy Implementation results: Infidigit also suggested and implemented other SEO strategies like on-page SEO, off-page SEO, internal and external linking, competitor analysis, keyword research, and much more. This helped the eCommerce client achieve a 116% growth in non-brand visitors on their website over the course of 12 months.

Infidigit also provides Google Penalty Recovery Services to the eCommerce client to help them in resolving their pre-existing issues with Google for using intrusive interstitials.

Conclusion

Now that Google intrusive interstitials are a known concern, the user-experience has seen a significant boost on mobile websites due to preventive steps taken by Google. By making clear the impact of using intrusive interstitials, many websites have rolled back these elements to ensure that they do not get penalties from Google, and have their rankings on the search engine be negatively affected.

Google wants to provide convenient and interruption-free access to the content to its users. The roll-out of Google intrusive interstitials has certainly helped a lot in that regard.

Kaushal Thakkar is the founder of Infidigit, he has developed award-winning search strategies for various organisations, ranging from large e-commerce websites to small and medium-sized businesses.
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