Over a year since its crusade into mobile-friendliness, Google is cracking down on “intrusive” interstitial display ads that interfere with users’ mobile search results.

As of January 10, 2017, pages where pop-up banner ads obscure the main content when clicking through from mobile search results could face a demotion in rankings, according to a post on Google’s Webmaster blog.

That includes those that appear immediately after landing on the page or some time after, and standalone interstitials that require dismissal in order to gain access to the content.

Acceptable formats

The search giant is leaving little room to work around; above-the-fold sections of a page which appear similar to an interstitial but have the content placed inline below, will face the same penalty.

There is some leeway, however, as the update will accept banners it identifies as using a “reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissable”. The blog cites Safari and Chrome’s app install banners as examples.

Further formats given the green light include those in response to a legal obligation, such as age or cookie usage, and login dialogs for private or paywalled content.

Broadened focus

Prior to the announced update, Google had “explored” a signal to check for interstitials that asked users to install a mobile app. Ongoing efforts then led it to widening its net to banners on a more general level.

As a result, ads displaying app install requests will therefore be packaged into the new update.

Google claims that since the introduction of its mobile-friendly label in April 2015, which put the onus on developers to produce pages where text and content was legible without the need to zoom, 85% of all pages in mobile search results now adhere to its guidelines.

As a result, Google has said it will be removing mobile-friendly labels while continuing to use the criteria as a ranking signal. Its testing tool for mobile site optimisation will also continue to be available.

Google reassures webmasters that this is “just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking”, wary of the hair-trigger effect its updates wield on the world wide web. Its core focus remains serving its users with the most relevant and high quality results.

“The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”