clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Next Target of Google's 'Mobilegeddon': App-Install Ads

Google says begone to mobile takeover ads.

Twin Design / Shutterstock

Google is on a mission to clean up the mobile Web and make it comport to its vision of the world. In April, the search engine tweaked its search algorithm to favor sites it deemed “mobile-friendly” — a shift the industry dubbed “mobilegeddon.”

Now Google is adding another metric for mobile friendliness: The absence of ads that take over a screen and push an app. Starting today, those ads will be included in the mobile test Google gives publishers. Then, starting Nov. 1, sites that carry those ads will be punished in search rankings.

Daniel Bathgate, a Google search engineer, explained the rationale in a post: “Our analysis shows that it is not a good search experience and can be frustrating for users because they are expecting to see the content of the Web page.”

For Google, the changes are geared specifically at search results, part of its ongoing effort to make querying on mobile better.

The changes will only affect sites pushing app-install ads in search results, so they don’t restrict the ads within apps. Also, the tweak won’t hit full-screen blasts that promote other publisher treats, like email newsletters or the ‘Like us on Facebook’ pages that digital publications such as Vice and Fusion use. Thus far, there’s some evidence that Google’s attempt to improve the quality of mobile websites has improved its ability to make money from them.

Google signaled this shift last month. It showcased an internal study that suggested app-install ads were less effective (and more distasteful to users) than banner ads. A few other companies think otherwise. Their concern is that Google is, at best, unilaterally policing the user experience or, worse, trying to wrest users away from apps. Or, even worse: Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman has dropped the “monopoly” word about Google’s app-install positions.

He and others, including Mike Dudas, co-founder of deep-linking company Button, point out that Google’s maneuver also rings of a double standard.

A Google spokesperson pointed to recent examples of the company embracing app installs and discovery — through app indexing on Android, in April, then iOS, this summer — and sent along this statement: “We’ve been working hard over the past few years to make it easier for our users to discover and download apps.”

Also pointed out on the double standards cited above: The Google News app no longer exists; the ads for Gmail and Docs arrive once a user is signed in, so not in search, where this change comes; and the ad for Maps is a banner ad, with which Google is still cool.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.