Have you ever been scrolling through an article on your mobile phone when, suddenly, some kind of pop-up appears that takes up the majority of your screen? That’s called an interstitial advertisement (or just “interstitial,” for short). Interstitials are ads that appear in between two content pages and, until recently, were a much-maligned (but highly effective!) form of interruptive advertising.
When you (the oh-so-savvy webmaster or marketer) use interstitials properly, you can powerfully guide visitors through your website and take them to the next step on their buyer’s journey; just be careful to adhere to search engines’ guidelines to avoid being penalized!
Google steps in
As of January 10th, 2017, Google has made big some changes to how they treat interstitial ads in that their web-crawlers encounter. Below are some examples of interstitial ads that Google has begun penalizing (read: if you use these ads, you’ll end up with lower search engine results page rankings for your business):
What’s the takeaway from these examples? Intrusive, interruptive, and unnecessary ads get punished.
It’s important to note that these new guidelines for interstitial ads are focused on the mobile user experience, and there’s a reason for that! Interstitial ads are particularly disruptive in the mobile format. Sometimes they can be difficult or even impossible to close, and advertisers rarely optimize their interruptive content for all devices. Google wants content to be accessible for everyone!
So what should you do?
The good news is that Google has also outlined what you should do when creating interstitial ads (or, more accurately, they've specified what kinds of interstitial ads are allowed):
Notice a trend with the permissible interstitials? Your interstitial ads need to be highly functional and/or non-intrusive. Even when functionality is impetus for the pop-up, note that the allowed interstitials do not take up the entire screen. They're small, straight-forward, and only minimally interrupt the user's experience.
If you're going to use interstitial ads to link content on your website, consider making them as unintrusive as possible. While it's okay right now to have semi-interruptive interstitials on your desktop website, that could change sometime down the line (possibly sooner than you think!). Try to find a balance of effective interstitials and adhering to Google's guidelines to avoid any trouble with the search engine giant.