In their most recent Webmaster blog post, Google announced two changes that will not only affect mobile search results, but will make finding content easier.

When the mobile-friendly labels were first introduced two years, it made a huge impact on how users found relevant and readable content on their devices. These labels allowed users to know that the content was appropriately sized for mobile viewing, and that they wouldn’t have to zoom in and out to review it.

“Since then, we’ve seen the ecosystem evolve and we recently found that 85% of all pages in the mobile search results now meet this criteria and show the mobile-friendly label,” according to a Google Webmaster blog post.

In order to keep the layout of search results streamlined, Google has decided to remove the label. However, that doesn’t mean that the criteria for mobile-friendly content will no longer be considered a ranking signal.

“We’ll continue providing the mobile usability report in Search Console and the mobile-friendly test to help webmasters evaluate the effect of the mobile-friendly signal on their pages,” according to the blog post.

With so many websites adopting the criteria for mobile-friendly viewing, there are websites out there that are showing intrusive interstitials to their users. Even though the content the user is looking for is present and indexed by Google, the information is blocked by an interstitial. These pop-ups can make viewing content difficult, if not impossible at times, which ultimately leads to a poor user experience.

According to Google, websites that use these pop-up tactics may see their ranking take a hit after the first of the year.

“This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly,” according to the blog post.

What exactly is an interstitial? There are a few different types of interstitial techniques, and chances are you have experienced them all.

Poor interstitials techniques include:

  • Pop-ups that cover the sought-after content immediately or while a user is searching through the page.
  • Website layouts that put content above-the-fold of the page and the content has been inlined under the fold.
  • A single interstitial that the viewer has to exit in order to see the main content.

Mitch Laursen, a SEO specialist at Intertwine Interactive, reached out to John Mueller with Google to see if the incoming penalties for intrusive interstitials would also include newsletters. Mueller confirmed that newsletters will also be included.

Despite those types of interstitials being a frustrating reality of searching the web, there are in fact techniques out there, if used in a responsible manner, that will not be affected by the upcoming change.

Responsible interstitials include:

  • Prompts regarding cookie usage
  • Age verification alerts
  • Reasonably sized banners

Do you want to learn more about this upcoming change? Be sure to check the Webmaster Central Help Forum for more information.