Why Your Website Popup Ads are Killing Your SEO (or soon will be!)


Written by Sarah York

One of the things that makes Google the most popular online search engine is its endless mission to put users first. Their goal is to give you, the user, the most reliable, accurate and up-to-date information available anywhere on the World Wide Web.  Google’s steadfast commitment to the user-experience has sparked another update to its Search Engine Results Page (SERP) ranking factors. 

Google recently announced that starting in January 2017, websites with interstitials will rank lower in search engine results than websites without. 

What’s an interstitial?

Interstitial is the official name for a full-page (or mostly full-page), intrusive popup that prevents a website visitor from accessing the webpage content underneath. Many of them come in the form of advertisements or email newsletter signup prompts. Other types include interstitials that are required by law for age verification, “You must be 18 to enter this website” or to inform visitors that a website uses cookies. Interstitials for legal purposes will not affect search ranking results. 

Google firmly believes these annoying popups hinder users’ access to information. This is especially true for mobile devices where screens are generally smaller. This new update should urge websites to eliminate popup ads to keep their ranking high in search engine results. 

According to Google, “Here are some examples of techniques that make content less accessible to a user:

  • 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.

By contrast, here are some examples of techniques that, used responsibly, would not be affected by the new signal:

  • 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”.

If your website uses a popup to gather email newsletter signups or likes on social media or something else, this new ranking signal is directed at you. Though it won’t come into full effect until January 2017, now is the best time to get rid of those popups to give your customers the best possible user experience.

You can read the full update on the Google Webmaster Forum here.

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