Google to Update Mobile Search Results in Response to ‘Intrusive Interstitials’

Google announced an upcoming change to its mobile search results, which is aimed at making it easier for users to find the content they're looking for.

Google announced an upcoming change to its mobile search results, which is aimed at making it easier for users to find the content they’re looking for.

Specifically, Google said that after Jan. 10, 2017, pages where content is “not easily accessible” to users as they arrive from Google’s mobile search results may not rank as highly in those search results.

In a blog postDoantam Phan, product manager at Google, explained the upcoming change:

Although the majority of pages now have text and content on the page that is readable without zooming, we’ve recently seen many examples where these pages show intrusive interstitials to users. While the underlying content is present on the page and available to be indexed by Google, content may be visually obscured by an interstitial. This can frustrate users because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result.

Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after Jan. 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.

Phan provided three examples of negative interstitials that make content “less accessible” to users:

  • 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.

While these negative interstitials will be affected by the upcoming change, Phan said some interstitials won’t be affected if they’re “used responsibly.” Phan provided three examples:

  • 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.

Readers: What do you think of this change?