Google warned advertisers that a new ranking signal will begin downgrading mobile Web pages next year when "intrusive interstitials" are used. The signal takes specific criteria into consideration when serving content and results.
The deadline of Jan. 10, 2017, came Tuesday in a blog posted by Doantam Phan, Google product manager. He wrote that "pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly."
The interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible, which present a problem on smaller screens, Phan explained.
Showing a popup that covers the main content -- either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page -- is one example that makes content less accessible. Others include displaying a stand-alone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content; and using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a stand-alone interstitial, but the original content has been in line under the fold.
Google said the new ranking signal would not affect pages with interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie use or for age verification. The ranking signal also would not affect login dialog boxes on sites where content is not publicly indexed or behind a paywall. It also would not affect easily dismissible banners that use a "reasonable amount of screen space," providing app install banners from Safari and Chrome as examples.
The signal is just one among hundreds that the company uses to determine rankings and the type of content that will serve up to users in response to a search or a click.
Phan also said that Google would remove the "mobile-friendly" label on Web pages that it added two years ago. About 85% of Web pages now meet Google's criteria for "mobile-friendly.
Mobile will continue as a ranking signal, but removing the label will keep the page clutter-free. Google also will continue to provide the mobile usability report in the Search Console and mobile-friendly test to help webmasters evaluate the effectiveness of the site.