If proven that some sites have been using ranking boost and fake app interstitials, Google could take manual action. While browsing through Apps like Yelp, one will realise there are popup windows that block progress until you click a certain link, which is essentially used to boost the ranking of some Apps.
It has recently emerged that Yelp is using fake app interstitials, which are made to look like a real app interstitial. Once you scroll down past it, you will see the content on the page. Keeping these fake interstitials has helped to earn traffic for some apps, thereby boosting their ranking.
Google has highlighted this as dishonesty and makes access to information difficult for some users who may not realise the website is using a fake interstitial. When you try opening content on Yelp, a fake interstitial will show up making you believe it offers the content you are looking for, but after scrolling down and looking keenly you will see the content right under the interstitial.
Yelp is reportedly the first website to do this and many other sites came to learn about the fake technique. Some other sites have also borrowed the technique and are now using fake app interstitials to rank well. This amounts to dishonesty and prevents many other sites from taking good positions in the competition.
With many more other sites using fake app interstitials, Google has learnt about the violation and are now ready to pursue those going against their terms and conditions.
After an article was posted addressing the topic, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman came out to defend the company. His argument in defence stated that since Google was also applying interstitials (in this case Google is using true interstitials), they saw it was also useful to use the same on Yelp to improve user experience.
Apparently, Google is planning to take action against sites that are violating the app interstitial rules. According to a Google representative, many sites are picking interstitials and tweak them to something else similar to a real interstitials, but from the user’s point of view it appears more like an app interstitial.
In a statement, Google has confirmed this is a violation of their terms and will be handled manually if need be. They are in the process of designing a system that will track down those who are using fake app interstitials.
Manual action can be in various forms, with the most apparent punishment being the loss of mobile friendly tag and the removal of ranking boost for the website. In severe cases, manual action could lead to permanent deletion of the website from search results if it is confirmed they are using fake app interstitials. The issue has been highlighted as severe enough to grant the partial of permanent removal of an entire site.
Google’s John Mueller in a webmaster hangout conducted on 8th March, 2016 confirmed that they are aware about the fake app interstitials and are working to end the scam. Google has also drafted blog posts addressing the same issue.