What Is the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty Algorithm Update?

The Intrusive Interstitial Penalty Algorithm Update is a change to Google’s algorithms designed to penalize websites that use intrusive interstitials on mobile. The update was officially announced by Google on January 10, 2017:

The update wasn’t a surprise. The search engine had been warning webmasters for months that the penalty was coming. Still, some sites were unprepared and suffered a rankings blow.

What Is an Intrusive Interstitial Anyway?

Even if you’ve never heard of an intrusive interstitial, you’ve no doubt seen them thousands of times. An intrusive interstitial may sound like a meddling UFO from a neighboring planet, but it’s actually just a pop-up ad.

An intrusive interstitial can be an advertisement or form that blocks the user from the content they’re trying to access on your site. These things are super annoying, but they also work, so there’s a ton of them on the web. This Google algorithm update seeks to change that, at least on the mobile web.

Is Google Penalizing All Interstitials With This Update?

With this most recent Google update for ads, the search giant isn’t banning all interstitials even if they are in fact “intrusive.” It seems the search engine recognizes there is a need for them in a limited number of cases. One such case is when an age verification is necessary in order to allow access to content on the site, for example.

Other examples where Google says intrusive interstitials are okay include cases where permission is needed to use cookies. Or when an ad doesn’t take up an unreasonable amount of screen space. Google has provided us with a visual of these types of allowed interstitials:

Why Does the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty Update Affect Mobile?

The Intrusive Interstitial Penalty algorithm update is one of many recent search updates that specifically targets mobile. Since most searches now occur on mobile devices, Google has developed quite the obsession for making sure the websites they rank are mobile-friendly. Talk about super annoying.

In a Google Webmaster Central Hangout, trends analyst John Mueller discusses why intrusive interstitials are being punished on mobile search. And fair warning, he’s unusually chipper about it.

Intrusive Interstitials Are More Intrusive on Mobile

It’s mobile madness for sure. Still, you have to admit Google has a point with this particular change to their algorithms. Pop-up ads, forms, and banners aremuch more intrusive on mobile devices. When you’re working with a smaller screen, there’s just no space for these types of annoyances.  Thus, the decision to penalize websites that insist on using these tactics on mobile is a reasonable one.

Google is Obsessed with Mobile (And You Should Be Too!)

Since Google is clearly so fixated with mobile search, you need to become equally infatuated with it if you want to stay in its good graces. In other words, if you want to earn higher rankings—and who doesn’t?

Thankfully, Google has developed some tools for webmasters to use to make their sites more usable for mobile visitors.  One such tool is the mobile-friendly test. We recommend you take full advantage of this resource.  Simply enter your website’s URL and click on “Test URL.”



Don’t be nervous. If you’ve been working hard to make your site easy to use for your mobile visitors, then you’ll get the all-clear from Google that your site is mobile-friendly.



If not, the mobile-friendly test results will show you where you need to improve. How incredibly helpful is that?

How You Can Avoid Being Hurt by the Intrusive Interstitial Algorithm Update

The Intrusive Interstitial Penalty update is good for mobile searchers because it protects them from unnecessary annoyance. At the same time, it helps them find what they’re looking for on their mobile devices faster and easier. Sweet.

Tactics to Avoid to Stay Safe

It’s not all roses and lollipops, though. This new update for Google can have unfortunate consequences for you (the website owner) if you’re not careful. To stay on guard, it’s important to know exactly what Google is considering intrusive. Here’s what you need to avoid:

  • Pop-up ads or forms that cover the main content of the page when users click on the link to that page.
  • A stand-alone ad that has to be dismissed by the user before they are allowed to access the main content.
  • A sneaky layout that looks like an intrusive interstitial above the fold but shows the main content below the fold.

Just Don’t Be Annoying

It’s really not that hard to avoid this penalty. To put it simply, don’t be annoying on mobile, and Google won’t punish you. That’s the key takeaway here.

Will There Be More Updates Like the Intrusive Interstitial Penalty?

You can bet there will be more Google algorithm updates and penalties for webmasters who insist on making their mobile searchers’ lives more difficult. To avoid these potential hazards, you need to remain hyper-focused on mobile and user experience. Marry these two things, and you can sit back and watch your website soar to the top of SERPs. Don’t get over confident, though. Check for Google updates here to be sure you don’t miss a thing related to algorithm changes.