Few days ago I briefly described turmoil around interstitial ads widely used to promote mobile apps. Since November 2, displaying this kind of interstitials can lead to losing a mobile-friendly tag and worsening ranking in Google search engine.

For a very long time marketers have considered interstitial ads as a very effective channel of mobile app acquisition. Therefore it’s not surprise that after Google’s update major web products relying on organic search had to start testing various new ways of converting users from this channel.

In this post you will find case studies of major web products dealing with this new chapter of mobile app acquisition.

Methodology

Every website included in the case study meets the following criteria:

  • large monthly desktop reach (above few million visits monthly)
  • significant share of organic search (at least 30%)
  • mobile app

The final list includes:

  • Yelp with around 80-100M desktop visits monthly and over 70% search share
  • Foursquare with 20M desktop visits monthly and 80% organic
  • Trip Advisor with 60M desktop visits monthly and 68% organic
  • Pinterest with 440M desktop visits monthly and 35% organic

Desktop reach and organic share comes from Similarweb (why desktop and not total reach?).

Yelp

Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp’s CEO loudly criticised new Google’s approach to interstitials.

Hence Yelp’s product response to the change was kind of… impudent yet probably pretty effective. The company introduced multi-format web => app conversion channel including 4 forms. See them below:

Yelp's Multiformat App Promo

Interstitial-like top banner

Yelp 1Even the link below the CTA saying “Continue to mobile site” strongly reminds the classic form. In fact – to satisfy new Google’s requirements – it is a top banner that can be scrolled down. Worth noting that it provides some basic yet contextual information based on user’s search including: name of place, rating, number of reviews and type of place.Maybe the goal here is to deliver some basic information relevant to the user’s query and avoid the accusation of hiding the content that user is searching for under heavy advertisement (Google pays attention to that).Below they mention few main features of the app. The message is clear: here you get a basic information, for more install the app.

“See more reviews” banner

Yelp 2
On mobile web you can see first few mobile reviews, more of them are covered by a screen size banner encouraging to install the app. This form can be also closed with using a text link.

Small button above the footer

Yelp 3

Additional form reminding about the app to those users who got to the bottom of the page.

Action toplayer

Yelp 4

After clicking add review button user gets a toplayer to install the app in order to finish the action. Worth noting that redirect to the app store is not immediate after clicking Add review (and  probably surprising or even confusing) but involves one more confirmation from the user.

User Journey

See entire mobile web user journey for Yelp:

yelp user journey

PageSpeed Insights

Yelp PageSpeed Insights

Quick check on Google’s PageSpeed Insights proves that Yelp is mobile friendly according to Google.

Foursquare

Just as Yelp, Foursquare answered Google’s update with a multi-format conversion channel.

Foursquare's Multiformat App Promo

This time it includes 5 forms:

Toplayer on the place page

Foursquare 1

This is actually pretty surprising to see nearly full screen ad covering big part of the content on Foursquare’s most popular type of page . It can be one of the reasons for not passing user friendliness tests by the website.

Just as in case of Yelp’s “interstitial”, toplayer includes: overview of app’s main features, basic information about the place that user is about to see, CTA and text link to close the ad.

Landing Page after clicking logo

Foursquare 2

This form was also a bit of surprise to me. After clicking logo you normally expect to get to the main page. On mobile web you actually land on a landing page listing of all the mobile apps available.

Top banner on user profile

Foursquare 3

Each user profile has a banner at the top.

See more reviews in the app

Foursquare 4

Below the first few reviews you can see a tiny button “View all tips in the app”. It has similar function to the one on Yelp, however it is much smaller. On the other hand it looks like a part of an interface, rather than an ad and it also includes one less conversion step, because there is no confirmation toplayer involved.

Action toplayer

Foursquare 5

Clicking on follow button triggers an app promoting toplayer. Also in this case action button doesn’t send user directly to the app store without prior notice.

User Journey

Let’s see how they all create a mobile web experience:

foursquare user journey

 

PageSpeed Insights

Foursquare PageSpeed Insights

 

According to Google PageSpeed Insights, Foursquare doesn’t pass Mobile Friendly Test what can negatively affect its rankings.

TripAdvisor

Let’s take a look at TripAdvisor. Once again we see several forms on the mobile web attempting to convert user to mobile app.

TripAdvisor's Multiformat App Promo

Bottom floating banner

TripAdvisor 1

On the first page and also between pages TripAdvisor displays floating bottom banner. It promotes the app, however it also includes text links to Sign Up or Login. Quite a few call-to-actions for a single form. It can be closed with an eXit button.

Top smart banner

TripAdvisor 2

From time to time, on the same pages, user got small top banner with app name, average rating and number of reviews. For sure it is compliant with Google’s policy, however I doubt its effectiveness.

Action toplayers (write review / take a photo)

TripAdvisor

Key actions including writing review or taking a photo is followed by a mobile app install toplayer. However sometimes the flow is inconsistent and encourages you to both: sign up / login to mobile web and install the app.

Action toplayers (read review)

TripAdvisor 4

All actions connected with reviews: both displaying entire review or seeing more ends up on a full screen interstitial promoting the app.

User Journey

And quick overview of the user journey:

tripadvisor user journey

PageSpeed Insights

TripAdvisor PageSpeed Insights

 

More in the second part of the post.