On January 10th, Google began rolling out its mobile interstitial and pop-up change. Originally announced in August 2016, the change will devalue rankings for mobile sites with intrusive interstitials and pop-ups.
What is an intrusive interstitial? “Intrusive” interstitials or pop-ups block the main content of a site from view. They can appear immediately or over time as the user looks around on the site.
The change is not for all pop-ups and interstitials, just intrusive ones.
Google’s list of conditions shows when the change may not affect sites that use interstitials:
The change does not impact desktop searches, only mobile.
Pages can still rank if they have “great, relevant content.”
“Okay” interstitials include cookie usage agreements and age verification pop-ups.
“Reasonably sized banners” that are “easily dismissible” are also okay.
Can desktop-only sites get devalued rankings? Or mobile-friendly sites?
Desktop-only sites may still receive devalued rankings because they don’t have a mobile version. Mobile results will use the desktop version.
Additionally, John Mueller says sites can still be mobile-friendly and get devalued rankings due to bad pop-ups. The mobile-friendly test and the interstitial change are “separate.”
Many outlets are calling the change a Google penalty, but it isn’t one; it’s one of hundreds of ranking signals.