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Google Raises Expectations for Mobile-Friendly Sites with App Install Interstitial Ad Penalty

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Google Raises Expectations for Mobile-Friendly Sites with App Install Interstitial Ad Penalty

Jaimy Szymanski September 3, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015, otherwise known as “Mobilegeddon,” was a day of importance to website operators worldwide, as it was Google’s deadline for getting all sites up-to-speed with mobile optimization requirements. For those sites that didn’t make the deadline, they were faced with demerits from Google’s search algorithm which now docks mobile-unfriendly sites in search result placement. Large text, easy to click links, user-friendly navigation, and responsive design elements became paramount in mobile site development for businesses of all sizes.

Now, Google is set to strike again. As of November 1, 2015, the search giant will double-down on its push for better mobile customer experiences, this time with a focus on interstitial ads promoting app installation that stand as a barrier between mobile search results and the desired web content.

In an official statement this week, Google announced this impending update to its Mobile-Friendly Test:

“After November 1, mobile web pages that show an app install interstitial that hides a significant amount of content on the transition from the search result page will no longer be considered mobile-friendly.

Rather than push users to an app install via interstitial ad, Google recommends using a less intrusive banner ad (see Fig. 1 below). This serves the purpose of driving app installs while still maintaining a desired customer experience for mobile users in search of information, not an interrupted journey. And, as reported by Business Insider, this shouldn’t affect the $4.6 billion mobile app interstitial advertising revenue market either, as the majority of these interstitials come directly from publishers promoting their own apps, not an outside ad spend budget.

Figure 1. Mobile interstitial app install ads vs. Banner app install ads

google interstitial mobile ad ban

Left pair showcases an interstitial ad, prompting app download. The right pair showcases a smaller banner ad inciting app download, contributing to a better mobile user experience. [Image Credit: Google]

With 60% of its search traffic driven from mobile devices, it serves Google well to focus on maintaining and creating optimal search experiences on smartphones and tablets. By continually upping its standards of what defines a mobile-friendly experience, Google is also raising the bar for foundational CX requirements across all industries. Digital, mobile, marketing, and customer experience strategists should already be delivering responsive, intuitive, and native mobile experiences, but a little push from Google doesn’t hurt in providing incentive in boosted SEO.

The purview of these additional requirements added to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test are not aimed to burden developers, but rather decrease user frustration in achieving the desired result from their actions. Plain and simple: Don’t be the interruption between steps of mobile conversion. Deliver what’s expected, or design your journey to achieve different results. There’s a reason why users are turning to a mobile web search vs. your app in the first place.

Jaimy Szymanski

Jaimy Szymanski is a mobile and customer experience analyst, focusing on how organizations adapt core digital strategies to serve the new “connected customer.” She has developed multiple research artifacts on the topics of digital transformation, consumer mobile, customer experience design, and social business strategy. Jaimy also has nearly 10 years experience advising companies of all sizes, in varied industries, that are affected by emerging technologies.

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