When it comes to search, Google wants to be king of the hill. Especially the mobile hill.
Google has just announced it will debut two changes for mobile search that — the company promises — will “make finding content easier for users.”
The first change isn’t a big deal. Google will remove its “mobile-friendly label” designating pages where the text and content is “readable without zooming and the tap targets were appropriately spaced.”
“We recently found that 85 percent of all pages in the mobile search results now meet this criteria and show the mobile-friendly label,” noted Google in its blog post. “To keep search results uncluttered, we’ll be removing the label, although the mobile-friendly criteria will continue to be 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.”
The real problem — and the attendant change by Google — involves interstitials and other things that slow down users.
“While the underlying content is present on the page and available to be indexed by Google, content may be visually obscured by an interstitial,” reported Google. “This can frustrate users because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result.”
The result Google wants? Searches that return pages where content is immediately accessible. So Google is cracking the proverbial search whip.
“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.”
Google intends to punish any technique that renders content less accessible to users, including:
- Popups that cover the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
- Standalone interstitials that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
- Layouts where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.
Google did post examples of interstitials, banners, and other techniques that won’t elicit the ire of Google Search engine filters — for instance, if an interstitial relates to a legal obligation (such as for cookie usage or for age verification). Other exceptions are noted in the blog post.
Google knows that search users — especially on mobile — want the content they seek and they want it quickly, without a lot of folderol.
Still, those abrogations of search are just part of the many factors that affect rankings in Google Search.
Here’s how Google puts it: “Remember, this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”
So how are executives from around the mobile advertising and technology industries reacting to the news?
Jake Denny, VP of Sales USA at JUICE Mobile, shared his take exclusively with MAW.
“As a strong company in the media business, you would expect Google to support higher impact formats that offer their publisher clients a lift in revenue and brand marketers a stronger platform to support their investments in mobile,” Denny says. “The standard mobile banner is dying. This seems counterintuitive.”
Nick Edwards, co-founder and CEO at Boomtrain — an artificial intelligence powered marketing platform that drives relevant interactions between brands and their customers – also had strong feelings in response to the news.
“Publishers can’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term gains if they want to be viable. It’s the ultimate shortsighted blunder,” Edwards tells MAW in an exclusive statement. “Publishers need to create relevant and engaging experiences for visitors every single time. Those publishers that are innovating rather than annoying their customers are better able to continually reengage readers, differentiate their brand, and ultimately drive more revenue.”