Not long after declaring that it would devalue, for search ranking purposes, website content that appears behind interstitial ads, Google is taking aim at app-install interstitial ads that pop up on mobile device browsers. A bid by Google to diminish the use of apps, among other possible motives, or a genuine concern for the user experience? In this Q&A, Winston Burton, Acronym’s VP of SEO, weighs in on the latest move by the technology giant.
Q: So this is ostensibly about constantly improving the user experience?
A: Google has been always focused on a good user experience. However, app-install ads can be quite annoying, especially if they take up the entire page and the go-to-mobile site button is hard to find. It’s sort of like the bad old days when you would go to a site and be served with a pop up ad.
Q: So Google is doing the right thing by clamping down on websites that use “Please Install Our App” Ads?
A: I agree that Google should do something about this. However, some of the app-install interstitials are very small and do not consume a lot of real estate. In this case, Google should distinguish between sites whose messages inhabit the whole screen to serve their app-install interstitials and those sites that take a less evasive approach by taking up a small portion of the screen.
Q: How could this be done?
A: Websites could use a link (i.e., Download Our App) but all the content on the page still would show. Another option would be to use an overlay that comes down only over a small portion of the mobile site. Perhaps Google would find this less annoying.
Q: So marketers need to be more creative in promoting their apps to be more user friendly?
A: I definitely think brands need to give users more options for opting in to download apps, with the goal of being less invasive.
Q: Do you see any less-than-obvious motivation on the part of Google?
A: Possibly. It could be another way for Google to push Google Play. If Google penalizes sites for showing interstitials, users would have to find another avenue to download the APPs, which means Google Play or any other competitor. In this manner, Google could drive additional traffic and increase its revenue instead of being the intermediary and loosing revenue.
Q: It would seem that user experience should be up to the user, because many people use lots of apps that make their lives extremely convenient. So why discourage app installs?
A: That’s a very good point. If I visit a website that I frequently use on my mobile device and see an interstitial that has nothing whatsoever to do with that web site, that’s a bad experience—whether it’s an app-install or basic ad unit. However, if I’m going to a website that I frequently use on my mobile device and I get a prompt to install a native app for that very same website service, why would that be a bad thing? For better or worse, Google has the final say on this. At least for now.