It’s been a while since Google announced their next mobile friendly mission, but the day the search giant enforces its changes is almost upon us.

In the New Year, the 10th January 2017 to be exact, Google will penalise ‘intrusive’ use of overlays on mobile sites. This means that sites on which “content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results” could face a negative SEO impact and relevant pages ‘may not rank as highly’.

For those using overlay technology and unsure whether their site could be in the Google firing line, the rest of this article explains exactly what’s happening in case you need to make any changes to avoid traffic loss.

So, why the update?
This is the latest in a number of changes Google has made to improve the mobile search experience and make finding content easier for its users. Google’s goal - to help users quickly find the best answers to their questions, regardless of the device they’re using - is designed to put the user first and create a positive experience.

As mentioned in an article by Google, their first move towards a mobile-friendly user experience involved a label that flagged whether a page contained readable text and content. Since then, they say that 85% of all pages in the mobile search results meet their on-page criteria.

For 2017, the number of mobile phone users is forecast to reach 4.77 billion and eMarketer project that the share of US mcommerce sales that come from smartphones will grow to 65%—up from 58% this year. So a threat to mobile traffic can have significant impact and Google are committed to making sure this ever-increasing audience get a great experience when it comes to accessing the content they’re after.

What not to do?
The change applies to overlays that appear as a user arrives on a site from a Google search result. To improve the mobile search experience, Google will be penalising pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on transition from the mobile search. Here are some scenarios from Google to illustrate what will no longer be acceptable:

•  A popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
•  Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
•  Using a layout 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 Interstitials.png

What is acceptable?
If you’ve been using them in a smart way, you’ll agree that visitor overlays add value to the on-site experience and are extremely effective in capturing data and encouraging customer engagement early on in the sales process.

Google is not suggesting you stop using overlays and you will not get penalised for using such technology if the examples of what is acceptable are followed:

•  Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
•  Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
•  Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.

Google Interstitials 2.png

Smart overlay technology will be driven by responsive platforms that can easily and quickly adapt as required. So whatever you are using, any optimisation necessary will be easy to put in place. At cloud.IQ, we will of course also be monitoring performance once the update is live to ensure our responsive and automated conversion platform continues to meet Google’s best practice recommendations.

This latest update follows a number of changes Google has made to improve the mobile search experience and make finding content easier for users. The full information on this and previous mobile updates can be found in this Google blog article.

Google’s goal - to help users quickly find the best answers to their questions, regardless of the device they’re using - is designed to put the user first and create a positive experience. This approach is synonymous with a core aim of the cloud.IQ platform - to deliver campaigns that work to enhance the customer experience and support the core business aims of our clients across any device.

If you’d like any advice on your current overlays to check they comply with the Google changes due in January, please feel free to contact us.