Google Is Cracking Down on Intrusive Pop-Ups

Google recently announced a change in their ranking rules for sites using pop-up ads on mobile devices. As of January 10, 2017 sites that use “intrusive” pop ups on mobile devices will not rank as high as similar sites or pages not using them.

While pop-ups have annoyed people surfing the web for some time now, they have also proved effective to advertisers and businesses wanting to increase their mailing lists. So, what do these new ranking rules mean?

What makes a pop-up intrusive?

Basically, if the pop-up blocks the page’s content or the user’s ability to easily read that content without a good reason. Here’s an example of bad pop-ups sited on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog outlines in their recent blog post (Helping users easily access content on mobile):

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.
Examples of interstitials that make content less accessible
Screenshot from Google’s Webmaster Central Blog

Note that pop-ups that take over the screen are counted against you regardless of whether they display immediately, after some time, or after scrolling down the page.

Does this mean that all pop-ups are bad?

No, there are still instances where they are legit. If you a valid reason to gather information or require a login, then you can still use pop-up that takes over the viewable mobile landscape without getting dinged. Google also stated that banners that do not take over too much space on the screen are OK. Here are examples of allowable pop-up usages from Google’s Webmaster blog post:

  • Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.
Examples of interstitials that would not be affected by the new signal, if used responsibly
Screenshot from Google’s Webmaster Central Blog

What to do about those pop-ups moving forward?

Keep in mind that this is a) one factor among many and b) needs to be weighed against the value of your pop-up’s conversions. Google literally uses 100s of signals in determining where your site ranks, and this is now one of the many. So you need to decide if they are worth it to you. If you have a pop-up that rakes in quality emails to your mailing list or provides quality engagement with exit coupons that are high converters, then it may be worth the hit.

Also keep in mind that these rules only apply to pop-ups on mobile devices that get in they way of readers seeing your content. It does not apply to desktop views, and banners are still OK on mobile devices. For those sites that flood the mobile views with multiple pop-ups or ones where you can’t seem to get to the close X, we’re in for some much needed relief. There’s the silver lining.

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