Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Google Will Penalize Interstitials

by: Gigi Frost

Oftentimes, we are left with a blurry understanding of what is going on in the mind of a Google algorithm. There appears to be countless theories as to whether or not Google goes out of its way to penalize sites that may not conform to certain index changes. Our recent studies show that Google will, in fact, penalize sites that use intrusive interstitials. Interstitials are web pages that are displayed before or after an expected content page. Many invasive and annoying advertisements are interstitials that are delivered by an ad server. Pop-up advertisements are interstitials. The Internet Advertising Bureau has clearly defined interstitials as “between page” advertisements that are either displayed on a different page or manifests as an overlay of the main site’s page. Even more frustrating for the user is that many mobile apps have in-app interstitials completely integrated.

Earlier this year, Google expanded certain algorithms to cover the ever increasing world of mobile sites. The algorithm itself would not be in full effect until September. An algorithm is merely a dedicated process that vets and analysis a problem and steers it toward the correct solution. As such, Google will penalize any site that utilizes a large interstitial, meaning they will be considered not as user friendly and incur penalties as a result.

What could happen?

All of the research Google poured into this algorithm will cause massive changes to sites heavily embedded with forced interstitials and advertisements. Basically, if a website depends on visitor traffic and sales, this may pose a serious threat to its livelihood. Google will automatically begin to drop ranking stats in their search engine, which would immensely inhibit the site’s visibility to the internet stratosphere. Google states that there are “hundreds of signals” that will be used in the algorithm to process to weed out the offenders. Though most sites will not take heed immediately, it is widely assumed that once the decline in traffic becomes hard to ignore, they will take notice. In order to circumvent this turn of events that could potentially cause a massive upheaval in traffic to a site, there are some proactive tactics that site owners can take.

  • Test your rankings on Google and see if your site has suffered a drop.
  • Take a look at your site and modify any intrusive advertising tactics that you may have allowed in the past.
  • Figure out what and where to place allowable, non-intrusive ads.
  • Continue to keep a close eye on where your site continues to rank.

On the flip side of this will be sites that originally had lower rankings, depending solely on the traffic that frequented for the user’s original browsing intent, will see a tremendous surge in traffic based on the higher rankings applied by Google. The fight to stay relevant is most certainly the foremost thought for many major vendors and outlets. As such, users will begin noticing a shift in the depth and technical aspect of website content.

Are there exceptions to the rule?

Yes, there are exceptions to the rule. After all, the delightful engineers at Google do not expect to implement a feast or famine type of mentality… Right? Follow below to see what kind of advertisements should be avoided or will be allowed in the future.

  • Pop-ups that will be the main focus. The focus of the algorithm is going to be sniffing out sites that have horribly annoying pop-ups that prevent the user from being in a position to continue browsing the site for their original intent. These are pop-ups that generally shadow everything else out, until the user is forced to find a way to close it, or the user is redirected to another page suggesting a “purchase now” method.
  • Certain pop-ups are okay. Pop-ups that meet Google’s requirements will not be penalized. Certain pop-ups that pertain to legalities for the site, will be allowed. To give an example, a pop-up requiring a certain age confirmation due to local or Federal laws will not be penalized.
  • Redirection is bad. If Google discovers duplicate pages basically redirected to each other, they will analyze the content, but most likely penalize if they determine that the content did not originate with a particular host.
  • Banner advertising. Certain banner ads are allowed. They are not as intrusive as pop-ups and allow the user to continue scrolling. This gives plenty of opportunity for advertising as well as user preferences in whether or not to purchase the product on the ad. The banner ad will have to be “a reasonable amount of screen space”, to fit the required size guidelines that Google has implemented.
  • Implementing a faux interstitial. You can make a mobile webpage that only looks like an interstitial. Meaning, the page itself will be excluded from Google’s all-seeing algorithm. Some examples are the Yelp page that looks so similar to an interstitial but is a web page, or the LinkedIn page where they found a work-around by keeping new mobile page from Google’s might indexing program. Websites are encouraged to use programs like Chrome’s “Native App Install Banners” or Safari’s “Smart Banners”.

Why are they doing this?

Google prides itself in being a user-centric brand. With so much search engine competition out there, the folks over at Google work hard in trying to find out new and more innovative ideas to lure users back to their brand. Everything is geared toward user approval. For the user, this is extremely convenient because Google will now list more relevant results that can be easily utilized and accessed.

Ultimately, websites will be forced to have better, original content and be more user friendly. The depth and scope of the offerings and information on a site will become more complex with this algorithm, and perhaps more appreciated by most users who have become disenfranchised with the entire advertising process. This certainly gives credence to the fact the Google is the world’s #1 search engine. It is an industry changing move on Google’s part, and it speaks volumes to how far they are willing to listen to the everyday user. Being a leader in this cutting edge industry is a struggle, but Google seems up to the challenge.

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