Google is taking the first step to reduce the number of app interstitials presented to mobile users when visiting a website. Starting August 14th, Google will begin treating webpages that serve users with a full page app interstitial as a mobile usability error in Google Search Console.
Having a full-page interstitial popup on a web page began to be logged as a mobile usability error. Websites with these popups may see their mobile usability error rate jump starting that date.
On this date, websites using app interstitials will see them as errors when viewing Mobile Usability in Google Search Console. It will only affect app interstitials at this time, for users on mobile devices.
This change comes on the heals of a recent study published on the Google Webmaster Blog that showed an alarming 69% of users completely abandoned a website when presented with an app interstitial, meaning after they saw the interstitial, they clicked back rather than closing it to continue onto the content or clicking through to download the app.
Since this would also impact traffic to Google’s own Google Play, this change could actually lead to an increase in the number of app installs as people switch from intertitials to either banners or nothing, if the results of this Google study can be seen across other markets as well.
Many app install interstitials are designed so that they cannot be closed, any attempt to close it will send the user off to the app store instead, requiring them to close the app store and reopen the browser app in order to see the content on the site they came to see. And while it is a website usability error, it does impact someone’s user experience with the search results themselves, since Google is serving them sites with those intertitials.
With this change, initially it will only show up as an error, but it sounds as though demoting content behind interstitials is a move they are still considering, but with no set date for that yet, according to Zineb Ait Bahajji, a Google Trends Analyst.
@jenstar for now it is something we strongly recommend to avoid. We're seriously considering adding it to the MFT, but no precise date yet
— Zineb Ait (@Missiz_Z) July 30, 2015
It wouldn’t be surprising to see webmasters receive alerts when their sites have app interstitials, similar to how Google has sent messages for other mobile usability issues.
For those who still want to present users with an app download options, Google suggests using an app download banner at the top of the page rather than a full page interstitial that hides the rest of the content.
It is a bit unfortunate that it is mobile only and for app interstitials only. There are many users who are eagerly awaiting a day when sites like Forbes will see their content demoted for using interstitials. However, it is great to see Google tackling the interstitial issue at all.
For those who currently use app intertitials, it is only an error at this time, and there will be no impact on rankings… yet. But it would be a good idea for many sites using them to start planning a move over to app install banners, so the change is made prior to Google making a change that would see content demoted behind an app interstitial.
Google will begin showing app interstitials as a mobile usability error starting August 14th.
Added 6:50am PST : Here is the screenshot from Google showing the change:
From the Data Anomalies in Search Console page.
The section has now been removed, but here is a screenshot showing the URL as well.
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