Websites that prompt users to download their app now devalued by Google

A recent announcement from the Google Webmaster team has revealed that websites with obtrusive app interstitials will no longer be considered mobile-friendly. This means any pages that prompt users to download their app will not be prominently displayed in Google’s mobile search results.

While this is a common tactic used by countless websites, Google has conducted research into app interstitials and believe they do more harm than good. Even so, Google has also provided suggestions on how to properly go about encouraging users to download your app if you believe it provides a better browsing experience.

Timeline of app download warnings from Google

Even though the practice of being invited to download a website’s mobile app is not uncommon, Google has been asking people to reconsider this move as far back as July. The search engine giant believes that they create unnecessary friction for mobile users rather than providing an alternative browsing option.

Then in September, Google said that it would soon penalise sites with intrusive app download interstitials:

“After November 1st, mobile web pages that show an app install interstitial that hides a significant amount of content on the transition from the search result page will no longer be considered mobile-friendly.”

To reflect this announcement, Google updated its mobile-friendly testing tool as well as the Mobile Usability Report in Search Console, which will give you a warning if large app download interstitials are detected.

Now that the new algorithm has been implemented, webmasters will seriously need to re-consider whether any app download interstitial on their site is worth it. Instead of driving traffic towards your app, they could now result in a significant loss of mobile traffic.

Reasons to get rid of interstitial pages

Although receiving a ranking penalty is reason enough to get rid of interstitial pages, a study by Google has revealed that this practice doesn’t always have the desired effect.

Internal user experience studies on the Google+ interstitial page found that only 9 per cent of people who landed on it actually converted. On top of that, 69 per cent of visitors then decided to abandon the interstitial page altogether.

Then, when Google decided to remove the interstitial page with a less intrusive Smart App Banner, visits to the mobile site went up by 17 per cent on the first day. This led Google to permanently retire the interstitial:

“We believe that the increase in users on our product makes this a net positive change, and we are sharing this with the hope that you will reconsider the use of promotional interstitials. Let’s remove friction and make the mobile web more useful and usable!”

Google says that webmasters worried about getting rid of their app download interstitial pages should adopt a similar approach:

“Instead of full page interstitials, we recommend that webmasters use more user-friendly formats such as app install banners. We hope that this change will make it easier for searchers to see the content of the pages they are looking for.”

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