Google Penalizing Pop-Ups | "intrusive interstitials"
Google restated in an article that was recently updated (Google Webmaster Central Blog January 10, 2017) that their goal was to drive their search customer to pages that provide the best answers the quickest, regardless of device. Google ranks sites that best match the intent of the search query with relevant content that is easily accessible on transition from search to page. Furthermore, with this revised article, Google is adding another opinion into their ranking process and that is that popups block content and inhibit viewers access.
That means Google is entering another factor, one of hundreds, into the ranking equation by penalizing sites that block content with popups.
Several years ago Google added a mobile friendly label to assist their search audience with finding pages that did not have to have the user zoom in and out to read the text. Part of the motive behind recent changes is to remove that label and have mobile responsive site, AMP pages and mobile friendly pages as a standard – not the exception as it may have been only two years ago. That is because Google has found that 85% of all pages now conform to the mobile search criteria. You webmasters out there have been busy!
Google has now found that these same pages show “intrusive interstitials” which they believe downgrades the user experience. Therefore Google states, “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.”
Important To Understand
This ranking rule modification only affects those pages that utilize and immediate popup (intrusive interstitials) and not on pages that do not feature an immediate popup or those that delay the popup or await a user response such as a page exit.
Are there exceptions to the rule?
Yes, there are and this will most likely cause developers and webmasters to formulate alternatives since the need to maximize the ROI of a site will always outweigh such rulings.
Here are examples of techniques Google feels are responsible use of intrusive interstitials:
- 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.
As we all no doubt know, the massive shift to website viewers on a mobile device could not be ignored, either by major search engines or the website owner. Search engines have no choice but to accommodate that viewer with pages that maximize the mobile user experience. Google is making a non-stop push to improve the mobile experience and they suggest that popups provide a poor experience by covering content the user searched for. This opinion is held by many users.
What do you do about it?
Many ecommerce platforms utilize the popup for lead generation as they have proven to be highly effective albeit annoying. So are roadside billboards! Website business owners, chief marketing officers and ecommerce websites will need to either eliminate popups, conform their pop-ups so they do not cover substantial content on mobile or revise the popup offer so that it delivers value relevant to the search, with the latter being the majority of immediate changes. Modifying the popup offer with increased value could mean the website owner delivers immediate discounts, digital coupons, more personalized service and so forth rather than e-books and the like. Lastly, and this is worth repeating, this ranking rule modification only affects those pages that utilize and immediate popup (intrusive interstitials) and not on pages that do not feature an immediate popup or those that delay the popup or await a user response such as a page exit.
It will be interesting to see how this shift impacts websites that need to convert visitors to customers through education, nurturing and follow-up. There is no doubt that Google is driving the evolution of the website user experience by throwing their influence into the mix. How website business owners balance this policy shift with the largest organic traffic source versus their need to follow standard conversion rate optimization best practices will be interesting to say the least.
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