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Google to Penalize the Use of Intrusive Ads

by Mira Brody - February 2, 2017
Google has sometimes joked that their mission statement could be summarized by the phrase, “don’t be evil.” Internet ‘evil’ can manifest in a variety of ways, but studies show that popup online advertisements are a users’ most hated form of advertisement, second only to telemarketers.

For those who agree, Google’s latest aim at intrusive interstitials will offer some relief. Starting on January 10th, Google began penalizing websites that use advertising tactics that obscure page content on mobile devices. Google’s thinking is that the challenges faced when viewing content on a smaller screen is exacerbated by advertising that blocks a part of their screen. Some examples of advertisements that will be hit by this penalty are:
  • Any intrusive popup ad that covers part of, or the whole screen.
  • An interstitial a user has to close before they can access the content behind.
  • When the page appears similar to a standalone ad, but the original content has been hidden under the fold.

Exceptions include:
  • Warnings about cookies, or other legal disclaimers.
  • Dialogs informing users of a paywall.
  • Banners that take up minimal room and are easily dismissible.

While this may favor users and overall content accessibility, it frustrates the publishers who gain revenue from these advertising strategies. Google Product Manager Doantam Phan, explained on a webmaster’s blog that while this change is new, it is one of many signals Google uses to rank websites and that a site with compelling, relevant content may still rank well, even with some intrusive interstitials, and it will take up to a year for publishers to start seeing any changes. If anything, the hope is to challenge these publishers to find ways to make revenue without resorting to obnoxious, intrusive advertising and encourage a better experience for the user.

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