Is there anything more frustrating than clicking a link on Google, Twitter or Facebook and being forced to close popup after popup just to view the small tidbit of information you were looking for? Most of the time, especially when it comes to mobile browsing, people are looking for small pieces of information (directions, hours, pricing, or an answer to a question), and they want answers quickly.

Sure, it only takes a second or two to find and click the “close” button, but in the highly competitive world of mobile Google search rankings, those few seconds could be enough to send users away from your site. Google has recognized the intrusiveness of popup ads and will be punishing mobile sites that utilize them by lowering their SERP ranking.

From Google’s Webmaster Central Blog: “Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

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Why Would Websites Ever Use Popup Ads In the First Place?

People get so frustrated and annoyed with popups that some are even willing to spend a fair amount of time and effor
t to install popup blockers, so why are websites still utilizing popup ads? Well according to Shopify.com, “They are annoying and rude and… they work. Really, really well.”

Popups are often used to notify shoppers of sales or current deals that they may not otherwise be aware of, as well as to call shoppers to action and fill out a lead submission form. There is some data that suggests that these popups can be successful in capturing email addresses, but it comes at the cost of user-friendliness, site loading speed, and soon Google search results ranking.

This isn’t to say that all popups are horrible. There are some that are informative, unobtrusive and effective at calling shoppers to action without blocking their entire screen. Google’s Webmaster blog points out that popups that cover a page’s main content will be penalized along with any interstitial that has to be closed before users are allowed to access the content they were searching for. Interestingly, Google also mentioned that they will be penalizing pages that feature an ad that takes up the “above-the-fold portion of the page” and necessitates users to scroll below the fold to view their content.

Mobile web browsing

Conversely, the types of popups that will not be penalized include age verification interstitials, account login requests, cookie permissions, and ads that only take up a small portion of the screen and do not block the user from viewing content.

All of these changes will be implemented in order to work towards Google’s main objective of making the ultimate user-friendly browsing experience. As a general rule of thumb, the speed and ease at which users are able to find the information that they are looking for when visiting your page, the better you will rank in Google’s search results.

Obviously, websites should encourage further engagement past the first click, but annoying popup ads are not the answer. And starting January 10, they could hurt the amount of traffic your website earns. Whether or not you continue to use popups on your website is entirely up to you and dependent on both the success of your popups and the level of ranking penalization that your website receives.

In their blog post Google mentioned that popup detection is only one of many factors that affect a website’s ranking, and relevant content will remain the most important factor when it comes to SERP ranking, but in our experience it is usually best to follow as many of Google’s best practices as possible if your goal is to maximize your SEO.

Sources:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/139515/article.html?page=3

https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2016/08/helping-users-easily-access-content-on.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-37178470

https://www.shopify.com/blog/16009092-why-you-should-be-using-popups-on-your-online-store