Over the years Google employees have hinted around that interstitials could become a negative SEO factor. Finally, as of January 2017, they will be, at least for mobile device users. Thank God.
What the heck is an interstitial?
When you do a search and then you click on a search result and visit a website, and instead of seeing the content you were expecting, there is an annoying box or other frustrating page in front of you, blocking you from seeing the content you arrived for? That is an interstitial.
Why would Google penalize this? It’s my site!
Yeah but it is Google’s search engine. Google wants users to have a good user experience. When people see a huge pop up, it is frustrating and provides a poor user experience. As long as people have a good experience, they’ll keep using Google, and Google will keep printing cash.
Is my popup an interstitial?
Google says “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user … may not rank as highly.”
In their own words from their announcement, pages which will be affected are:
- 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.
Are live chats considered interstitials?
The live chat pop ups could be penalized. I personally recommend a banner for mobile users. These chat and email popups suck on desktop, too, and in my opinion should only be used when people are preparing to leave a site as a last ditch effort to get them back again.
Are there other exceptions?
I’m not sure how they will differentiate them, but supposedly when the new penalty kicks in for some sites on January 10, 2017, some interstitials will get a pass such as those which do not completely block the content, ask for cookie usage, or exist for those completely useless age verification screens.