Getting to the Root of the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty

by | Published on Feb 28, 2017 | Google Algorithm Updates, Medical SEO

Medical SEO needs to keep itself abreast of Google’s algorithmic changes. One of the most recent changes deals with mobile websites and Google’s penalty on mobile web pages incorporating interstitials.

Interstitials on mobile web pages will now be penalized by Google. Earlier this year, Google confirmed that it had rolled out the algorithmic update that penalizes mobile web pages featuring interstitials that intrude into the user experience. The announcement of such an update was made 6 months back in 2016.

Improving User Experience on Mobile Web Pages

The idea of the update is to improve the user experience for mobile users. We all know how disruptive interstitials such as pop-ups and banner ads can be when we check out a website. That disruption is magnified when we browse on the mobile phone. Mobile devices have a much smaller screen size, and websites must exploit every aspect of it to provide the best visual and interactive experience for the user. Pop-ups and interstitials significantly hamper that experience, which is why Google decided to penalize websites employing these interstitials. It will be lowering rankings of web pages where users are not able to access the content easily when they move from the search results to the web page.

Intrusive Interstitials Targeted by Google

Intrusive Interstitials Targeted by Google

Image Source: Google


According to Google, the following kinds of interstitials could end up penalizing the web page:

  • Popup covering the main content immediately after the user transitions from the search results to the page, or as the user keeps browsing the page
  • Standalone interstitial that must be dismissed by the user before the main content is accessed
  • Using the page’s above-the-fold section for a standalone interstitial with the original content hidden beneath the fold

Interstitials that Are Allowed

Interstitials that Are Allowed

Image Source: Google


However, Google mentioned that responsible use of certain kinds of interstitials would not result in the web pages being penalized. These are interstitials that appear as part of any legal obligation such as those for age verification of the user, and those that inform the user of cookie usage. Banners that only occupy reasonable screen space and can be easily dismissed are allowed. Login dialogs for paid or private content that isn’t indexable publicly are also allowed. Google’s new ranking signal would not affect these kinds of interstitials.

Importance of Search Query Intent

This new mobile ranking signal from Google has significant implications for medical website design. As Google’s webmaster blog states, the intent with which the user makes the search query is still an important signal and the content in the website must therefore be easily accessible to the user as he/she moves from the search results page to the link he/she has clicked. Interstitials hamper that experience.

But Google has also said that since search query intent is an important signal, and because the interstitial penalization signal is just one of the hundreds of ranking factors, a website with relevant and information-rich content may rank highly still even if the transition from the search results page to the web page isn’t quite as smooth. That’s not to say the interstitial issue isn’t significant. But not many webmasters have reported quite radical ranking drops since this ranking signal was launched. It shows quality content is still king.

An experienced healthcare digital marketing agency will ensure that your medical website is free from interstitials but still brings the point across and facilitates conversions through quality content.

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