What Are Interstitials? Why using them could harm your website!

What are interstitials? Why using them could harm your website!

Interstitial – From the Oxford English dictionary, means –

‘An advertisement that appears while a chosen website or page is downloading.’

If you’ve ever been on a website and just before the page loads, you see a pop up, this is an interstitial. Interstitials can be really useful, for example when you visit an online off-licence, before you are allowed to access the content, a pop up will appear to confirm your age is over 18 before allowing access.

Tarquins Cornish Gin Interstitials example.

Interstitials can also be used for advertising, offers, requesting people to sign up to newsletters, or signing up to lead generation pages before entering a site.

*I’m not affiliated with Tarquins Gin, nor working for them, I just really like their gin and they are very local to me down here in Cornwall.

Interstitials are a form of interruption marketing, before you can view the content you were heading for, you often get exposure to advertising first via these popups. This isn’t in any way dissimilar to advertising on television, whereby you have to sit through the adverts before being able to watch the intended program before it starts.

However, before you jump feet first into adding Interstitials all over your website, it is worth knowing that intrusive interstitials, especially on mobile, will continue to be a ranking factor in Googles ‘Web Experience’ when they roll out their updates in May 2021. You can read more about what ‘Web Experience’ is in my previous blog post here.

What is an intrusive interstitial?

If we roll back to 2015 Google announced that it was using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal within it’s algorithms.

‘As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, our algorithms have to adapt to these usage patterns.

Starting April 21, (2015) we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.

This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.’

https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2015/02/finding-more-mobile-friendly-search

A further 2 years later, Google announced that if content is not easily accessible to a user on a mobile device after they have clicked on a search result, it may not rank as highly.

‘Pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high.

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 January 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.

https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2016/08/helping-users-easily-access-content-on

Google prioritising how they rank mobile search results is an obvious move due to more people using mobile devices when searching.

Looking at data from Hitwise and their Mobile Search report, suggests that ‘Mobile will account for the majority of website visits overall’ with nearly 60% of all online searches carried out on a mobile device.

If more people are using mobiles to search online, and Google is prioritising sites with easy to access and read content via mobile devices. What counts as an Intrusive Interstitial and what should you avoid to eradicate any negative affect on your search rankings?

  • Using a popup that covers the majority of the content area.
  • Using a popup that the user must close before accessing the main content.

However, there are exceptions to these rules where interstitials can be used without negative affect on rankings.

  • Interstitials for legal requirements, agreeing to cookies or age consent.
  • Login details for content that’s not available publicly or behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space yet are easily dismissible.

Conclusion – As with anything in SEO, there can always be valid reasons for and against a technology or tactic to gain rankings. Without thorough understanding, something applied to a website with harmless intent could end up causing more harm than good.

If you put your users first and think about how they access your content and why they are coming to your website, this always helps to keep your site in good health and good chances of gaining good rankings.

If you would like any advice or guidance regarding your SEO I am available to help – Amanda White Digital SEO Consultant.

Published by amandawhitedigital

Amanda White is an SEO specialist with over ten years of experience working with some of the largest eCommerce websites in the UK with both an agency and in house background.

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