Mobile Interstitials: How Do You Comply with Google’s Latest Guidance?

Google has sought for years to impact the quality of the mobile user search and browse experience.

Google’s open-source Android mobile operating system now commands a greater than 80% share of the global market.

Two years ago, the company began favoring responsive websites, those that scale appropriately for mobile and tablet screens, in its search results. Today, Google reports that more than 85% of websites meet its mobile-friendly criteria. Google even offers a free tool you can use to test the mobile friendliness of your site.

This year, Google is promoting Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), another open source project that uses techniques like simplified coding and caching to produce pages that load faster on mobile devices. The screenshot at right shows two examples of AMP listings Google featured prominently among the results from a recent search for “Chicago Blackhawks Winter Classic” on a smartphone.

So what mobile-friendly trick does Google have up its sleeve next?

Well, the company has those annoying content-interrupting screens known as “interstitials” squarely in its sights.

In an August blog post, Google said,

Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.

So, while interstitials are also disruptive to the user experience on desktop devices, Google is limiting its focus to interstitials on mobile sites for now.

Google has identified three types of interstitials that will begin incurring mobile ranking penalties in January. In short, in interstitial is a page or screen that prevents or delays the user from accessing the expected content. It is a replacement for the popups that most browsers now block. At right is an example.

Digital marketers who need to promote offers, convert app downloads and generate leads through signup forms will miss these tools.

Nonetheless, Google is right. Getting rid of these intrusions will improve the user experience. And Google has indicated that certain interstitials will not be affected by its new ranking signal:

  1. Those presented to fulfill a legal obligation, like disclosing cookie usage or verifying the user’s age.
  2. Login dialogs for content that isn’t publicly indexed.
  3. Smaller banners that are easily dismissed.

So how are companies responding to the need for an improved mobile user experience? The good news is, if you survey a large sampling of mobile sites, you’ll find that a small number actually continue to use offending interstitials. As you might expect, it isn’t easy to determine whether this is due to a simple interest in providing a pleasant user experience or a desire to get ahead of Google’s algorithm change.

Meanwhile, many companies are finding creative ways to take advantage of guideline No. 3 above. Let’s look at the approaches some Chicago-area companies have taken to communicating important messages without risking an SEO downgrade.

Cars.com

The app install prompt pushes the rest of the page down minimally and offers an easy way to dismiss it. Well done.

Dialog Tech

The bottom-edge ROI calculator offer is attention-grabbing while being reasonably sized and easily closed. Perfect.

Signal

An eBook offer has historically been a common interstitial. In this case, it works fine as a small, closeable popup at the top of the screen.

Community Tax

The chat offer at the bottom of the screen is an interesting tactic. The headshot and combination of shapes makes it stand out without being oversized. Google would probably like to see a dismiss button added.

Basecamp

Another small bottom-of-screen offer, this time for a free trial. This one doesn’t appear until you reach the fold. Again, Google has expressed a preference for sites that provide a way to dismiss the offer.

You can see that some Chicago-area companies are no longer using intrusive interstitials while still managing to highlight important offers.

Once Google has perfected this algorithm change, what happens next?

Acknowledging that mobile now represents the majority of user searches, Google has announced it is working on mobile-first indexing. This algorithm change requires extensive testing, so the company hasn’t indicated when it might take effect. Suffice it to say, it will be another important step in Google’s quest to perfect the mobile user experience.

Bill Winn manages web content for San Diego AMA and works as a digital marketer with Inseev Interactive, a San Diego performance agency.

 

Pivot Points from Scott Brinker, Looking Past the Hype and Theory of Marketing Technology

Back in 1988 Howard Haas joined the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business as an adjunct professor. He struggled in his new role to find a curriculum that supported what he learned and experienced during his tenure as CEO at Sealy. Shortly after joining the university he developed a new curriculum that essentially changed leadership courses at Booth School of Business as well as impacting university curriculum around the country.

Haas’s revolution began when he introduced a new leadership course in 1989. The course shifted students training and understanding regarding leadership from theory to practice.  The course was aptly named “Leadership in Practice” filled a big gap know known as the “Knowing to Doing Gap.”

Similar to what Howard Haas did for MBA Leadership courses during the early 90s, Scott Brinker is striving to take hype and theory out of Marketing Technology. Scott leads ION Interactive, MarTech Events and a think tank that looks at the MarTech sector. His book “Hacking Marketing”, MarTech seminars and events are designed to help you and I grasp the importance of martech. His straightforward practical approach looks past the hype and theory to uncover the most effective use of technology offerings in our industry, organizations, and systems.

At this year’s MarketingTech Smart Conference, Scott presented on “Hacking Marketing: The Amazing Convergence of Marketing & Software.” During Scott’s presentation, he challenged us to look at our martech stack of tools and platforms. We were asked to consider what’s in and how we use our martech stack. Then, he shared some astounding statistics that indicate that we are not leveraging our martech stacks effectively and in most cases improperly.  A few reasons range from rapid change with a focus on “the latest and greatest” to being overwhelmed and slow to change. Whatever the reason, we need to rethink how to leverage technology for marketing our businesses more effectively.

Scott recommended that we rework our marketing strategy. He challenged us to consider a new way of designing our strategy. Large enterprise IT organizations have found that bimodal strategies are more conducive to the management of technology.  Gartner Explains Bimodal

Scott also shared that our current strategies are likely responsive, agile and tactical so we can fail fast, learn quickly and course correct.  On the other hand, our strategy can be focused on scalability, standardization, and fail-not approach to marketing. Either way, money is left on the table. Marketing costs are high and companies lose out on opportunities and revenue.

Pivot Point #1 – Bimodal Marketing Strategy
Scott recommends that we restructure our marketing strategies into a bimodal fashion.

Fail-Fast: 30 % of our efforts, budgets and plan should be structured on experimental and up and coming marketing opportunities and technologies.

Fail-Not: 70 % of our efforts, budgets and plan should be focused on areas where we can optimize, standardize and automate to reduce costs and errors while increasing effectiveness and scalability.

 

Scott emphasized that software magnifies marketing effectiveness but only if talent adopts the martech stack and leverages it to seize the opportunity for the company. Scott recommends that marketers (like you and I) learn about the pace-layered approach to cataloging, selecting and leveraging technology within an organization.

Pivot Point #2 – Incorporate Pace-Layered Approach
Scott recommends that we incorporate pace-layered approach to managing our MarTech stack.

By incorporating a pace-layered approach into our marketing strategies, we can increase adoption of our martech stack. Increased adoption will essentially decrease our costs and increase our marketing effectiveness.

As a result of attending the MarketingTech Smart 2016 event, I learned from Scott, that for in order to succeed in future marketing efforts, I need to take a page out of IT’s playbook regarding my implementation of marketing technology.  This is exactly why Scott Brinker wrote “Hacking Marketing” and hosts events like MarTech 2017 to prepare marketers.  This also why he feels AMA events like MarketingTech Smart  2016 and MarTech 2017 are important to marketers. Scott Brinker said,

“It is important for marketers to come together and learn from each other on how technology is impacting their world.”

Can you imagine how effective tools like automation, digital wallets, and user behavior mapping can increase customer satisfaction, organizational goals, and ultimately your career? At events like MarketingTech Smart 2016 and MarTech 2017, the convergence of knowledge, best practices, experience and strategy prepares marketers to do just that; happier customers and healthier ROIs naturally push your career in an upward trajectory.

 

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About the Author: Nick Rich is an Enterprise Architect and Thought Leader on web, social, and mobile based technologies. Nick currently consults and advises clients on content, collaboration, communication technology, and how to foster corporate adoption.

 

Pivot Points: Matt Bailey, Leveraging a Sales Mindset

Did you hear the joke about the toothbrush salesman? I recently came across this joke and it speaks volumes about the importance of a sales mindset.  The joke goes something like this:

 

A boss asked it’s company’s top toothbrush salesman how he managed to sell so many brushes. The toothbrush salesman replied, “It’s easy” and pulled out a card table, setting his display of brushes on top.

He told his boss “I lay the brushes out like this, and then I put out some potato chips and dip to draw in the customers.”

After the chips and dip were laid out the boss said, “That’s a very innovative approach” and took one of the chips, dipped it, and stuck it in his mouth.

“Yuck, this tastes terrible!” his boss yelled.

The toothbrush salesman replied, “It is? Want to buy a toothbrush?”

 

If we all took a moment and considered the primary responsibility of marketing, we should all arrive at the same conclusion – sales. This joke illustrates the four points of sales: plan, setup, execution, and results.

 

At the recent 2016 Chicago AMA MarketingTech Smart event, Matt Bailey presented as one of the expert speakers with his session: “Six Steps to Marketing Automation.” In his session, Bailey alluded that marketers tend to structure their strategies and plans around the tactical use of technology for the purpose of generating likes, follows, friends and building lists. This might not be the right approach. Consider Matt’s critical points on marketing automation: human factor, redefine success metrics, get sales training, define and refine process, and develop customers for life.

 

#1 – The Human Factor

Matt recommended that we consider “The Human Factor” when we build strategies. The convergence of a mature martech, we now have access to 10,000+ sites, platforms and tools to possibly leverage. To compound the situation, Matt suspects that the current success metrics may be focused on the wrong data points.

 

#2 – Redefine Success Metrics

Redefining your metrics requires research and the first action item is to listen to your customers. Matt suggests that you start with your internal sales team as they deal with customers on daily basis and have a healthy perspective on the sales funnel and the customer’s journey from lead to advocate.

With your newly gained customer-focused insight, you will likely have an opportunity to redefine your success metrics. With marketing automation tools, you can take the newly defined metrics and start crafting workflows, triggers and responders which can gauge and assist in customer engagement.

#3 – Get Sales Training

To marketers like you and I, sales training may seem unnecessary. However, to truly understand what customers are looking for and how to encourage them to purchase your products, services or information, you will need sales training. Sales training from your sales team will provide you with crucial insights that have the potential to redefine your marketing strategy, plans and tactics. By learning from your sales team, you will have new data points to test out.

#4 – Define and Refine Process (Marketing Automation)
Four steps to identify, define and refine your marketing process:

  • Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up
    Engage customers and subscribers via Automated Drip Campaigns (ADC). ADCs can be designed to trigger automated emails, texts and direct mail pieces customized to the recipient.

Example: If a customer has not visited the site in 30 days, the system can send a reminder of what they previously browsed and ask if they are still interested in completing a purchase.

Key Fact: 80% of sales happen after the 5th contact with the customer. *

  • Ask the Right Questions
    Each time your reach out to customers and subscribers, ask questions to learn more about them. Segment your audience and measure their responses.

Key Fact: Marketing to a segmented audience increases open rates by up to 57% and click-through rates by 25%.*

  • Build the Relationship
    Identify key relational objectives for your customers to meet. Help guide the potential customers from initial engagement to becoming advocates.

Key Fact: The process of building a relationship with your audience can drastically increase the health of your marketing effectiveness. However, the objective must clearly be communicated to your audience.*

Examples of call to action messages: Follow us on Twitter, Sign-up for the Webinar, Share the Blog Post, etc.

  • Ask for the Sale
    Marketing automation and drip campaigns make a difference.

Example: A known user abandons a shopping cart and an automated email to that user is sent asking for the sale. Or, a customer bought coffee 30 days ago; an email reminder is sent to them asking for the sale: “Your supply of coffee may be running low, click here to replenish.”

Key Fact: Asking for the sale is the #1 way to get individuals to buy online and in-store.*

#5 – Develop Customers for Life
Develop customers for life by leveraging lead scoring. As we become more efficient at closing sales, building healthy trusting relationships and having frequent and relevant conversations with our customers, we can develop lifelong customers. Start by collecting customers’ implicit and explicit data.

  • Implicit Data (dynamic action): An individual’s interests, status, interaction and responses
  • Explicit Data (static information): Name, Location, conversation details and basic facts
  • Define how individuals interact with your company and why.
  • Compare your collected data and defined interactions with engagement and sales figures. How do they match up? Are you able to segment and identify your company’s most profitable relationships?
  • In the process of developing your lead scoring, learn what makes relationships successful for your organization. Next, outline this information in a scoring matrix to compare to your prospects and customers.
  • Finally, design marketing messages and campaigns that enhance relationships to the level of lifetime advocates (your most profitable relationship).

The key to marketing success is not the number of likes, follows, friends and lists but rather, the key to marketing success is, and should always be linked to sales figures. Sales are the lifeblood of any organization. Without sales, organizations would cease to operate. We need to make marketing relevant, engaging and sales-focused.

 

 

*Key Facts: Presented at 2016 MarketingTech Smart Conference

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Matt Bailey has taught Google employees how to use Google Analytics. He has shown Experian how to present data. And he has led workshops in digital marketing at Disney/ABC/ESPN, HP, P&G and IBM, to name a few.

 

A recognized digital marketing expert, Matt is an instructor for the Direct Marketing Assn., Market Motive, and the Online Marketing Certified Professional program. He is also founder and president of SiteCore, a marketing consultancy, and he has published three books.

 

The Direct Marketing Association said of him, “No one else has approached the plain-English demystification of building an effective online presence as cost-effectively and time-effectively as has Matt.”

 

Twitter: @sitelogic

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About the Author: Nick Rich is an Enterprise Architect and Thought Leader on web, social, and mobile based technologies. Nick currently consults and advises clients on content, collaboration, communication technology, and how to foster corporate adoption.