What are interstitial ads?
- Interstitial ads are overlays that block a user from seeing or interacting with content
- They typically promote app installs, email lists or are advertisements
- They require action (an unnecessary step) for users to continue to content
Interstitials are pretty much universally hated by users. They are disruptive and aggravating. There is not a great deal of logic to them from a users perspective, commonly leading a user to just leave the site or to ask themselves...
- Why would I join a mailing list if I haven't even seen the content?
- Why would I install an app when I can't even see what it is?
Pages showing interstitials that block content are no longer considered mobile friendly by Google
Google announced that...
"After November 1, mobile web pages that show an app install interstitial that hides a significant amount of content on the transition from the search result page will no longer be considered mobile-friendly."
Interstitials have now officially become mobile unfriendly (a negative mobile ranking factor)
Google knows that interstitials provide a poor user experience and advise webmasters not to use them 1. You should listen when Google states to "avoid" something, because the things they say to avoid often become negative ranking factors. This means that those intertitials are not just making your users mad, it will now make your page rank lower in the mobile results.
In general, if something is bad for a user, it is bad for your ranking.
What should be used instead of interstitials?
Google recommends three things 1
- Using a small banner using HTML
- Using app install banners / smart banners
- Using app indexing for Android apps
1. Using a small banner
Use a simple banner to promote your app inline with the page’s content using html or Apple's smart app banner.
Yes, Apple feels that interstitials are such a bad user experience that they actually wrote an alternative to them into their operating system (smart app banners) and Google is specifically recommending them.
2. Using web app install banners / smart banners
Different mobile browsers have their own solution for this...
Smart app banners - Safari
From Apple 2
"Smart App Banners vastly improve users’ browsing experience compared to other promotional methods. As banners are implemented in iOS, they will provide a consistent look and feel across the web that users will come to recognize. Users will trust that tapping the banner will take them to the App Store and not a third-party advertisement. They will appreciate that banners are presented unobtrusively at the top of a webpage, instead of as a full-screen ad interrupting the web content. And with a large and prominent close button, a banner is easy for users to dismiss. When the user returns to the webpage, the banner won’t reappear." (to learn more visit the Apple smart app banner page).
Web App install banners - Chrome
Chrome has introduced Web app install banners.
Banners are better for users
If we want to have popular websites we need to make our users happy. The use of a banner of any type rather than an interstitial makes our users more happy because...
- Banners are less intrusive
- They do not require aditional steps to see content
- They can be ignored or used without interuption
- Banners don't make people mad (interstitials do)
3. App indexing for Android apps
Google recommends app indexing as well.
"App Indexing helps you get your app found in Google Search. Once your app is indexed, mobile users who search for content related to your app can see an install button to your Android app in Search results. This helps you increase your install base. (to learn more visit the Google app indexing help page)."
Some general advice about interstitials
Interstitials are one of those things where webmasters say something along the lines of "I know it is a bad user experience, but it provides me with value so I will just use it anyway".
I would advise that you are are not likely getting the value you think you are, and that the negatives of using them are likely harming you more than you think.
So many people just put in fake emails or throwaway emails into those "mailing list interstitials" we all see everyday. These are not really providing value to you.
If you look through your email list, you are likely to see emails like "firstname.lastname@example.org" or "email@example.com" or "firstname.lastname@example.org". Even the real looking emails are often throwaway emails used only for the purpose of filling forms, not for any actual interaction.
What you can not measure is the negative association people have with your brand because of your interstitials.
I do not use or trust several sites simply because they use them.
What interstitials are really telling your users
No matter the words or images found on your interstitials, what users are actually seeing is this...
Earn trust and interaction from your users by being a great resource. Great brands and sites do not need to use such in your face tactics.