Google made what amounts to a major announcement this week and everyone from search marketers to UX designers have been left wondering about the long-term potential impact.
Google indicated that in early January (January 10th to be exact), they will release a new search algorithm penalty that will demote mobile pages that have "intrusive" interstitials, those often bothersome windows that tend to get in the users' way and negatively impact the experience (at least as Google sees it).
The new algorithm penalty, which is replacing the app interstitials ad penalty that they already launched back in September 2015, will try to make these mobile pages "not rank as highly" as they once did.
There are obviously a number questions that remain as it's impossible to know if mobile web pages are causing lower rankings. Google only suggested that if the interstitial makes content less accessible to a user, there could be a negative impact. That's obviously pretty vague and may lead to problems in the future when you consider all the other ongoing activity and its well known, and long running, disdain for interstitials.
Last year they published research that examined its own use of interstitials on the Google+ mobile Web and found that just 9 percent of the visits to Google's interstitial (promoting its own app) resulted in the desired action (pressing the "Get App" call-to-action), while 69 percent of the visits abandoned the page altogether. By removing the "friction" between what users want and publishers want to provide, Google suggested, the Web would be more useful and usable. That makes a great deal of sense, of course, but let's not forget that Google is still a business first and foremost.
Google followed up its research on interstitials last year with a makoever of their full-screen, in-app ad format for the AdMob network and the DoubleClick Ad Exchange. And then, out of pretty much nowhere, Google announced that it would not consider pages "mobile-friendly" if the content on those pages was hidden with an app-interstitial (they even revaled they were removing the "mobile-friendly" tag altogether).
What the looming January 10th, 2016 penalty ultimately provides for Web professionals is that they will need to concentrate their efforts on discovering opportunities to engage and interact with users that doesn't include interstitials.