Shabbat Observers & The Google Interstitials Mobile Penalty

Nov 25, 2016 • 8:28 am | comments (25) by | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Shabbat

As you all know, on January 10, 2017, Google is releasing their intrusive interstitial mobile penalty - where if your site loads an interstitial that is super annoying and gets in the way of using your mobile site, then Google will slap you with a penalty.

What many of you probably don't know is that some Jewish Shabbat observers do not allow users to browse and shop from their web sites on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. That means, ever Friday night (sundown) through Saturday night (stars up), they intentionally place an interstitial that prevents use of their web site on the Shabbat. Even worse, on Jewish holidays, the interstitial can last for 48 to 72 hours or so, depending on when the holiday falls out.

The most popular site that does this is B&H, which is owned and operated by mostly Hasidic Jews. Here is what you'd see if you go to the site tonight, after sundown:

B&H on Shabbat

Fay, an SEO for another Jewish observant web site owner who requires his site to not be consumed on Shabbat, asked John Mueller about what they can do with regards to this penalty. She posted the question on Twitter:

John responded to do the 503 error code, so Google knows to check back in 24 hours or so:

But if your site is showing a 503 every week for a 24 hour period, that can't be great. Plus, what about those 48-72 hour time slots that happen several times a year?

Here is what the site looks like on mobile, generated via the mobile-friendly test, when the shabbat notification is up:

Site Offline Shabbat Google Mobile

There is really no great solution but to pray and use the 503 command. When this interstitial penalty comes, I wonder how Google will deal with these sites that show these interstitials one day out of every week?

John Mueller didn't really have a solid answer on this because it really probably only impacts less than 0.00005% of the web.

I should add, we discussed this topic, minus the interstitial penalty, a few times before:

Forum discussion at Twitter.

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