This guest blog is by Scott Curtis, European Mobile Strategy & Development Director, Starcom
Google's quest to continue its dominance of our digital spend continues with its latest efforts to protect the web. Its most recent announcement is to penalise pages that contain annoying 'intrusive' interstitials with site-ranking algorithms.
In many ways, Google owns the web. It owns search and is the dominant player in ad tech that powers the media industry, whilst also owning the analytics that goes with it. However, in recent times, people's reliance on traditional web browsing has decreased. Apps now dominate our time spent with mobile, and Facebook (instant articles) and Apple (news) have both launched their own initiatives to migrate traditional 'web content' into their own environments. And this coupled with the rise in ad-blocking means that Google's bottom line could be at risk.
The past few years, however, have seen Google make big strides to help publishers optimise the mobile web experience. In 2014, it launched the 'mobile friendly' initiative which is now being removed from search results as 85% of pages are now compliant. Then in late 2015, it launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to help publishers optimise their page loading times.
As of 10th January 2017, Google will penalise mobile pages with interstitials. It cited that “to improve the mobile search experience, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.” This announcement is good for web users, and for Google, but what about the publishers that obtain revenue from these interstitials and pop-ups?
As an example, imagine a bricks and mortar store that shoved promotions in your face as soon as you entered the door, meaning you're unable to see the items inside without pushing aside an eager sales rep. Now imagine that every store in the shopping mall did this. Soon enough it would be a ghost town.
Unfortunately for the web, those 'sales reps' i.e. interstitials, still earn the site revenues from CPMs or accidental clicks, meaning the interstitial tactic still generates revenue for them. Therefore, why change? Ultimately, Google is forcing them to adapt, much like the planner for the mall – filling its spaces with desired shops – Google needs to keep the web desirable by penalising those who damage the overall reputation and experience of the web.
Sadly, many publishers and some advertisers are too focussed on the short term to see the long term effects of maintaining the status quo – an annoying experience for the consumer – because it generates money. However, that will slowly decline as consumers move their time (and money) to less cluttered and less intrusive environments.
This latest change from Google is required in order to bring the web back to its original purpose: the democratisation of information. Yes, ads are required to power this, but not to the detriment of the experience. As a result, Google has found that stakeholders (some publishers and audiences) are starting to migrate by moving their content or spending their time in other non-web environments.
Ultimately, to maintain its profitability, Google needs to ensure it is operating an efficient and enticing offering. By doing so, marketers will keep spending, and consumers will keep searching.