We’re all familiar with interstitial broadcast advertising, where a commercial break comes between programmes. We sometimes may enjoy one or two of the ads or we might just leave the TV during the break to make a cup of tea. What doesn’t happen (thank heavens) is for an ad to suddenly appear on screen in a juicy romantic moment or at the climax of a nail-biting car chase!

Interstitial ads on the web, which include the well-known popup ad, are rather different and many web users find them hugely frustrating. For a start, if you go away to make tea, they may still be there when you come back!
 

Helping mobile users

Google to penalise objectionable interruption ads

As well as popups there are other forms of interruption advertising, including the full-page ad that obscures the content that the user is trying to access. Google is now stepping in with mobile users particularly in mind, because interstitials can be at their most intrusive on small screens.

Barry Schwartz posted in Search Engine Round Table that Google is planning to bring out a new algorithm on 10th January 2017 to deal with this problem by demoting web pages that include certain types of interstitial advertising.

The Google Webmaster Central Blog post “Helping users easily access content on mobile” observes: “Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible.”


What interstitials will be affected?

Google gives examples of the types of interruption ads that create a barrier between the web user and the content they are trying to access and will therefore lead to web page rank demotion:

  • Showing a popup 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
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

By contrast, Google describes the kind of interstitial that it regards as legitimate:

  • Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
  • 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. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.
     

Google is defending quality UX

The introduction of the new algorithm is an excellent development from Google, which continues to promote content quality and ease of access for the web user to information they require. Their search technology is continually increasing in sophistication aimed at enhancing UX and this latest move should be seen in that light.

It is also worth pointing out to those promoting their products and services on the web that the kind of interruption advertising likely to frustrate and antagonise web users cannot be good for business. The hard sell can frequently lead to a bloody nose!