January 23rd, 2018
At the start of 2017, Google announced that it would begin enforcing penalties on certain mobile sites that show large interstitials, which prohibit users from easily interacting with the content on mobile websites. If a given mobile site doesn’t comply with Google’s requirements around intrusive interstitials, it will rank lower in Google search results—in this mobile-first world, a very costly penalty indeed.
Originally, these penalties were focused on interstitials that prompt users to install apps. These penalties have since been broadened, however.
Google’s definition of an intrusive Interstitial alludes to “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user.” To reduce confusion, Google provided a few concrete examples, which I’ve shared below:
While the new rules seemingly cover every type of interstitial, there still are some that won’t be penalized under the new rules. Google will still permit:
There are a couple reasons why Google wants to put a limit on these interstitials. Google has stated that these user experiences “can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller.”
However, Google also wants to more easily contain users in its walled garden, and not allow them be so easily linked out of their search engine or their Chrome browser.
The good news is that you can display calls-to-action (CTAs) for your audience without incurring search ranking penalties from Google.
Google explicitly stated that these banners will not be penalized under their restrictions. The downside with this option is that the banners will stay the same for all users across all pages of your website, and there is no real ability to customize these banners.
Getting clear attribution on these banners is also difficult. Marketing teams who choose to use these banners to drive app installs will not be able to fully understand their campaigns, because they won’t be able to discern which original sources led to which app downloads.
Lastly, users cannot be deferred deep linked through the install process. Thus, users will end up on the app homepage, rather than being routed directly to the specific page or product they were originally viewing. Dropping app installers on the app homepage, unsurprisingly, is reportedly a less satisfying user onboarding experience, and leads to lessened rates of engagement and conversion down the line.
There remains the possibility to develop your own homemade banners or interstitials in compliance with Google’s regulations. The clear drawback here is that any sort of customization to creative assets can’t be easily executed by members of your Marketing team, and will require extensive work from your Engineering team.
Furthermore, this option leaves your Marketing and Engineering teams most vulnerable to any developing regulations from Google’s end. Your prized homemade banner or interstitial could be harshly penalized under Google’s next set of interstitial regulations, and then it could well be back to drawing board for you and your teams. As such, developing your own Google-compliant smart banner or interstitial could mean a substantial initial investment as well as intermittent (not to mention unpredictable) subsequent investments of marketing and engineering time, talent, and resources.
Through the use of Branch’s Journeys offering, you can convert mobile web traffic into high-value app users by easily leveraging half-page or third-page interstitials that comply with Google’s regulations. In addition to effortless interstitials, you will have access to essential mobile marketing features like:
While it may seem that Google has taken a crucial step to rid mobile sites of interstitials that many brands use to drive mobile growth, there are actually a number of strategic ways to stay compliant with Google while driving users to your app.