Google Will Soon Start Punishing Mobile Sites That Use Annoying App Install Ads

There’s nothing wrong with app install ads, but too often now, you click on a mobile search result, and when the site loads, a giant app install interstitial pops up that prompts you to install that site’s app. Those ads typically block all the content on the site until you find that little small ‘x’ to click away the ad (and chances are you will mistakenly click next to it and basically click on the ad, which then takes you to Google Play). Thankfully, Google today announced that it will soon start downranking sites that do this.

According to an update to webmasters the company posted today, Google’s mobile-friendly test will now indicate when a site should avoid these kinds of app install interstitials. Starting November 1, sites that show app install ads that hide “a significant amount of content on the transition from the search result page” will be penalized by losing their “mobile-friendly” status. This means they will likely rank lower on Google’s mobile search results pages.

It’s worth noting that Google won’t punish sites that use the standard (and much smaller) app install banners in Chrome and Safari.

Giant app install interstitials have indeed become really annoying. When I click on a search result, chances are I want to see the content on the site — not install its mobile app.

You could argue that Google is obviously better at monetizing on the web than in mobile apps, so it wants people to stay in the browser, but these interstitials are simply an annoyance and I for one appreciate that Google is trying to do something about this.

Update: fun fact: Google also does this:

Update 2: and Google tells me that the News example below isn’t active anymore, the Gmail and Docs examples occur after sign in and aren’t covered by this update, and the last one is a banner — which is what the company recommends.