Google Tightens the Rules on Interstitial Ads—Now What?

Google has concluded that interstitial advertising interferes with a positive mobile user experience, and starting next year will change its search rankings to dock points from mobile sites using obtrusive interstitial ads. Announced last week, this major shift is bound to change the way many mobile marketers go about displaying website advertisements. If you use interstitial ads, let’s look at some things you can do to make sure your publication won’t be affected.

First, the specifics of Google’s rule change: By its new standards, any ad that covers the main content is considered an interstitial ad. These can appear in various formats—the point is that if users have to click around an ad to reach your website content, it’s unacceptable. There are a few exceptions to the rule, however. Pop-ups that fulfill a legal purpose, like age restrictions or login forms, won’t hurt your rankings. Google also notes that interstitial ads can be used without penalty if they take “a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible,” and don’t stop users from reading the content they came for.

If your site uses one of the now-discouraged formats, you have until January 10, 2017 to change things up. One of the simplest and safest alternatives is the banner ad, still the standard for mobile advertising. Banners take up little space at either the top or bottom of the page, but while they’re the most popular format of Internet advertising, they do come with some drawbacks. Mainly, mobile users have become used to skipping over them. The content in banners must be designed to truly catch the eye, or they risk getting hopelessly lost in the noise.

Native advertising is another effective option, especially for publishers who use content marketing as part of their advertising campaigns. Meant to look like the content you’d typically see on a given website, the branded content in native ads fits seamlessly within the site’s layout and scheme, and provides useful information for the reader. It’s proven itself in studies, too. Consumers look at native ads 52 percent more than banners, and they generate 85 to 93 percent more clicks than banners. While creating native ads may be more time-consuming and complicated than creating banner ads, they provide a great experience for users, and a great return on investment for your website.

Alternatively, you can skip the traditional display ad and go straight to video. According to a study done by Business Insider, video ads provide “a level of visual and narrative richness that nearly equals television, while offering all the advantages of digital,” including advanced targeting and tracking. It may require more time and effort, but video provides great returns for your business—the BI study found that at 1.84 percent, video advertisements have the highest click-through rate of all digital ad formats. If you have the resources to create engaging video content, that’s a great reason to get started with this valuable format.

So while Google’s new ranking system may affect your website, it could very well end up being a positive development in the long run. Other options, like banners, native ads, and video, provide better experiences for users—and as mobile advertising continues to evolve, the user experience takes center stage. When an ad format falls short, delivering “a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible,” it’s no wonder that Google is dealing it a strong blow.

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