SEO & Intrusive Interstitials

The Expert Guide to Google’s Intrusive Interstitials

Do you use interstitials to display content or ads on your website?

Interstitials are interactive overlays that appear over a page’s main content. Shortly after loading a page, visitors may see a pop-up consisting of an interstitial.

You can use them to display signup forms, ads, call-to-action (CTA) buttons, promo codes, messages, and other elements. Visitors will see these elements hovering over the page’s main content. Whilst interstitials are highly effective at grabbing visitors’ attention, some of them may negatively affect search engine optimisation (SEO). If you’re going to use them on your website, you should avoid using intrusive interstitials.

Overview of Intrusive Interstitials

Intrusive interstitials are large, visitor-unfriendly overlays that appear over most or all of a page’s main content. All interstitials, of course, cover the content of pages. Intrusive interstitials are simply large overlays that disrupt visitors’ ability to view and engage with the page’s main content.

A visitor may be reading an article or news post on a page, only for an intrusive interstitial to appear over most of the content. The visitor will then be forced to stop reading the article or news post to close the large overlay.

Most intrusive interstitials require clicking or tapping to close. Depending on their device type, visitors will have to click or tap a button to close them. Only after closing an intrusive interstitial will visitors be able to continue viewing the page’s main content.

intrusive interstitials graphic

How Intrusive Interstitials Affect SEO

Allowing intrusive interstitials to go unnoticed may harm your website’s organic search rankings. They promote a poor visitor experience. When visitors load a page, they expect to see the page’s main content. Intrusive interstitials receive their namesake from their intrusive nature. They intrude upon visitors’ activities by concealing most or all of the page’s main content.

With their intrusive nature, search engines may lower the rankings of websites that feature intrusive interstitials. They are part of Google’s Page Experience update. In 2021, Google rolled out a set of new ranking signals that focus on visitor experience. Known as the Page Experience update, it included intrusive interstitials.

The new ranking signals introduced in Google’s Page Experience update include:

  • Core Web Vitals
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS)
  • Mobile-friendly design
  • No Intrusive interstitials

Whilst the Page Experience update initially only affected desktop searches, it now affects both desktop and mobile searches. For high Google rankings, you should avoid using intrusive interstitials. Google will look for these large and disruptive overlays when it spiders your website. If it discovers any intrusive interstitials, it may rank your website lower for desktop and mobile searches.

As part of the Page Experience update, intrusive interstitials directly affect Google rankings, but they can indirectly affect how and where your website ranks on Google as well. Intrusive interstitials will discourage visitors from staying. Rather than closing the large overlays, visitors may leave your website in search of a more user-friendly site.

Shorter visit durations will lead to less engagement and potentially fewer backlinks. Some visitors may manage their own websites. If they leave your website immediately after loading it, chances are they won’t link to it. By creating a positive experience without intrusive interstitials, visitors will stay longer. Your website may then attract backlinks from visitors who manage their own sites.

Tips on Avoiding Intrusive Interstitials

If you’re going to use interstitials on your website, make sure they don’t block the main content of the pages on which they appear. Google won’t demote your website simply for having interstitials; it’s the large and disruptive interstitials you should be aware of. Intrusive interstitials such as these may, directly and indirectly, harm your website’s rankings.

You can avoid intrusive interstitials by using a smaller size. Interstitials can be classified as intrusive or nonintrusive depending on their size. Nonintrusive interstitials are small, so they cover less of the page’s main content. Intrusive interstitials are large and cover more content. There are even full-page intrusive interstitials that cover the entire page.

There are other ways to display additional content or ads on pages besides using intrusive interstitials. Google recommends the use of banners as an alternative. You can display content or ads in the form of a small banner. The banner should load simultaneously with the page’s main content, and it should only consume a small portion of the page’s viewport space.

Google generally discourages webmasters from using intrusive interstitials, but it cites a specific example in which they are acceptable: legal requirements. Some websites are legally required to display messages or consent prompts before visitors can see their content.

Gambling websites, for instance, may be legally required to ask visitors to verify their age. Only after entering a legal age will visitors be able to see the content on a gambling website. Other websites may be legally required to display a privacy policy to visitors beforehand. According to Google, intrusive interstitials for legal requirements are perfectly acceptable.


What About Redirects?

Instead of using interstitials, some websites redirect visitors to separate pages. Visitors who attempt to access one of their main pages will be redirected to a separate page containing the website’s message, prompt, or ad. Using redirects, though, isn’t recommended. In terms of SEO, redirects are worse than intrusive interstitials.

If you redirect visitors to a separate page, the original page may not rank at all. There are different types of redirects, such as 301 and 302. They all work the same by automatically loading a different URL than that of the original page with which they are used. Visitors won’t be able to see the content on the original page, so the original page may not rank. Google may rank the page to which visitors are redirected, but it typically won’t rank the original page.

Don’t let intrusive interstitials harm your website’s rankings. You can still use interstitials — or an alternative solution like a banner — to display ads or content, but you should preserve the page’s main content. The only time when it’s okay to cover most or all of the page’s content with an intrusive interstitial is for legal requirements.

Contact Trafiki Ecommerce: Experienced SEO & UX Agency

If you’re looking to optimise your website for user experience and search engine rankings, contact Trafiki today. Our SEO and UX experts will work together to ensure your website both generates and converts high-quality traffic, which is key to the growth of your business.

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