Google to Penalize Interstitial Ads on Mobile

Smartphone User

Google algorithm changes typically align with the user’s desired experience.

In November 2015, we published an article on the significance of interstitial advertising in the digital arena. Apparently, Google took notice and decided things went a bit too far, particularly on mobile platforms. The company just announced it is going to penalize websites that hit referred traffic with immediate pop-up ads on mobile versions.

Introduction to Interstitial Ads

Interstitial advertising includes pop-up or full-page splash screen ads that appear when you transition between website or application pages. These ad are often seen as intrusive by mobile users, which is why Google is making this move, but advertisers and publishers like that they capture audience attention.

Google’s Motive for Penalizing Mobile Interstitials

In 2014, mobile Internet and search activity surpassed desktop, and it it has extended its edge since then. This tech evolution has contributed to several major search algorithm updates by Google, including its 2015 “Mobilegeddon” update. Google’s plan is to penalize websites that integrate interstitial ads on their mobile sites after search users are referred. However, as the majority of companies have responsive sites, this penalty will affect page rankings on all platforms.

When to Expect a Penalty

Google did offer some specifics on when your website would likely incur a penalty for interstitial ads. In general, if you deliver pop-ups to mobile users that overtake your first page of content at any point after the referral, you can expect to take a hit.

The other big factor is the timing of delivery. Technically, the broad category of interstitial advertising is more accurately divided into prestitial and interstitial. Prestitial ads present immediately upon entry, before a visitor engages with your home page or initial search landing page. Interstitial ads appear during transitions between app screens or site pages. It is the prestitial variety that Google is cracking down on.

Exceptions to the New Rules

In some cases, websites present pop-ups to users upon entry to meet legal or regulatory requirements; Google won’t penalize for this situation. Log-in screens for sites that require registration to access content and small-scale banners that don’t overtake content are additional exceptions.


Keeping up with Google updates and announcements is vital for any company or individual working in digital marketing. As search drives the majority of visits to mobile websites, and a lot of traffic comes your way on Smartphones and tablets, publishers must consider their partnerships with advertisers delivering prestitial ads.

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Neil Kokemuller

Neil Kokemuller has been a Professor of Marketing at Des Moines Area Community College since 2004. Prior to teaching, he worked as a marketing specialist and retail manager. He holds an MBA from Iowa State University

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