Interstitial ads (Interstitials)
Interstitial ads are full-screen ad placements that appear at natural breaks or transition points in a user’s app or web experience.
What are interstitial ads?
These interactive ads grab attention by filling the whole screen at set points in a user’s online experience. The user can opt to close the ad or click through to its destination.
Although most associated with mobile apps, interstitials can also be used on mobile or desktop websites. They come in various formats, including static (for images or text) and rich media (for video).
Interstitials shouldn’t be confused with pop-up ads: while it may seem that both interrupt your experience, pop-ups only cover a small area, while interstitials fill the whole screen. As a result, interstitials should only be used at natural breaks in the user’s activity. Banner ads, meanwhile, are fixed at the top or bottom of the screen, making them vulnerable to “banner blindness”.
How do interstitials work?
As mentioned, interstitials appear at natural transition points in an app or website experience, such as between game levels. Because they fill the screen and are generally immune to ad blockers, they can be seen as intrusive. That’s why Google imposes penalties for misusing interstitial ads (more on this below).
Interstitial ads are interactive because the user can choose whether or not to engage. If they click on the ad, they’ll be taken out of their app or site to the advertiser’s destination. Alternatively, they can tap the cross to shut down the ad and continue their activity. Static ads can generally be closed immediately, whereas videos may require the user to watch for a set duration (typically five seconds).
Where can I find interstitials?
Interstitial ads can be used on different devices – let’s take a closer look.
Mobile app interstitials
These types of interstitials are full-page ads served during mobile app navigation. They’re displayed at natural transition points in the app, like launch, game level load, or video pre-roll.
These ads are great for brand advertisers: they’re highly engaging and impossible to ignore. And, as we know, boosting user engagement is a bullet-proof way to guarantee more clicks and conversions.
Mobile website interstitials
Just like app interstitials, these are full-page ads. The difference is that they’re displayed between page views on a mobile website, helping publishers to monetize their web pages.
Mobile web interstitials can’t be shown as soon as a user lands on your site. They’re activated when the user navigates between certain pages, and are frequency capped to protect the user experience. This means some types of mobile site — like single page or infinite scroll — won’t be suited to interstitials.
Desktop interstitials work in a similar way to mobile ones, appearing between page views on a desktop website, and are subject to similar restrictions. These interstitials are less popular than their mobile counterparts: while they’re lucrative for publishers, they’re more intrusive for users and may not garner enough views to be profitable for advertisers.
What are the benefits of using interstitial ads?
Interstitial ads are popular with both advertisers and publishers — here’s why.
Benefits for advertisers
- Good visibility: There’s no risk of banner blindness with an interstitial — you just can’t miss it. And the full-screen approach means advertisers have plenty of space to get their message across, even on a small phone screen.
- High engagement: Timed right and targeted carefully, interstitial ads are a golden opportunity to engage your audience. That’s why these ads score highly for impressions and engagements.
- High click-through rate (CTR): Engaged audiences are more likely to click, taking you one step closer to a conversion.
- Broad reach: Because interstitials aren’t just limited to apps, you can connect with audiences across different devices.
- Creative flexibility: The range of formats allows you to tell your story in the most engaging and effective way — whether that’s through words, pictures, video, or even an interactive game.
Benefits for publishers
The above benefits are all relevant to publishers (app or website owners) too. That’s because they all contribute to higher revenue.
Advertisers are willing to pay for this level of reach and engagement, while frequency capping gives publishers a high level of control over who sees which ads and when. This means publishers can charge a premium for their inventory and achieve a healthy eCPM.
Google intrusive interstitial penalty
While interstitial ads might seem like the dream ticket for advertisers and publishers looking to boost revenue, the experience isn’t always so positive for users. There’s no doubt these ads can be intrusive, and that’s why Google introduced rules to minimize user frustration.
Brands and publishers must comply with Google’s policies aimed at protecting users from intrusive online advertising. Those that don’t will face financial penalties and risk having their website ranking lowered.
The following are not allowed under Google’s interstitial rules:
- Interstitials served on the loading or exiting page of your site
- Interstitials served at every user break
- Interstitials that cover a page’s search intent while a user is browsing
- Interstitials that unexpectedly interrupt the user in the middle of a task, potentially resulting in accidental clicks
- A standalone interstitial that requires the user to dismiss it before accessing the main content
There are a few exceptions: interstitials are allowed for legal obligations, like cookie usage or age verification, and when moving to another page that can’t be found via Google search (crossing a paywall, for instance).
Interstitials best practices
Before implementing interstitial ads on your app or site, consider the following best practices to get the most out of your campaign:
Know your place – Ad placement
The when and where of your ad placement is crucial. Use A/B testing to ensure your ads are placed at natural user breaks in your app or on your site.
For example, in a gaming app, ads should be placed at the end of a completed level. For a news mobile site, you can place interstitials in between articles.
It’s always best practice to place ads after a user has interacted with your site, rather than interrupting their flow at a crucial point (a Google no-no).
Don’t be annoying – Ad frequency
It’s not just about where you serve interstitial ads, but how often. Don’t place ads at every break — not only is that annoying for users, it would breach the Google policy outlined above. A/B testing can help you find the frequency that will still engage and delight users, boosting engagement and retention.
Don’t hold users hostage – Ad design
While it’s tempting to keep all eyes locked on your ad, remember that users haven’t chosen to view it — and it’s important to offer them a way out if they want it. To give users back some control, don’t force them to watch lengthy videos or search for a hidden X to exit.
- Interstitials are full-screen, interactive ad placements that are served at natural points along a user’s journey in an app, mobile website, or desktop site.
- Interstitial ads may be static or rich text, offering scope for creativity. Their size and full-screen placement generate high engagement and click-through rates for advertisers, which translates into increased revenue for publishers.
- It’s crucial to follow Google’s policy on interstitial ads to avoid frustrating users and incurring penalties. This includes making sure ads aren’t too frequent or intrusive.
- Placement and frequency are critical for interstitial ads, and A/B testing is the best way to ensure they’re served in the right place and at the right times. Be sure not to interrupt the user flow, and make it easy for users to exit the ad when they want to.