Google Cracks Pop-ups

Google takes aim at mobile sites with pop-up ads.

Who doesn’t love those pop-up ads on websites? We have all had it happen to us. You go to a site; a pop-up comes up, and you can’t unclick it on your mobile. Mobile pop-ups — or what Google is calling “interstitials” — typically, do not provide a good user experience, and in many cases block or limit the content that can be seen by users. Hence, Google’s crackdown.

Most of us who keep a pulse of Google’s changes know Google is no stranger to algorithmic change. And typically, Google makes these changes for the good of the user.

It really should be no surprise that Google announced the crackdown on mobile pop-up ads. These changes will be music to the ears of users, like me, who get annoyed by pop-ups on their phones.

For many bloggers, the announcement could carry major implications. To help you navigate this change, we put together everything you need to know below, from what the update entails to how to prepare accordingly.

What’s New in Mobile Search Results

First, let’s start with the history. In 2014 Google added a “mobile-friendly” label for search results that were optimized for such platforms — where the text is readable without zooming or horizontal scrolling, and links are spaced well enough so that there’s a reduced chance of mis-tapping.

Fast forward, two years later, and Google found that 85% of mobile search results were optimized in this way. Now, to keep search results uncluttered, Google will be removing the label, although the mobile-friendly criteria will continue to be a ranking signal.

These algorithmic changes, set to take effect on January 10, 2017, state that pages with mobile pop-up won’t be ranking as high.

Google’s official announcement states: “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.”

What Are the Rules

Google has specifics around which types of interstitials it considers to be disruptive.


Source: Google

According to the official statement, interstitials affected by Google’s crackdown include the following:

  • “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.”

Google is fine with certain kinds of interstitials, like ones that include legal obligations (like age verification) and banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.


Source: Google

To sum up the new rules — it’s the ads that cover the main content (immediately or delayed) or force you to dismiss them before continuing that Google will be punishing.

These new developments from Google should be a giant wake-up call to those who are creating a bad user experience on mobile.

What Does It Mean for Bloggers

Bloggers that rely on these interstitials for sign-ups and income will be especially impacted by this change. If you are using pop-ups as your main source of income you now face a difficult choice: Rank, or profit.

Losing SEO traffic can crush your blog. If you haven’t done so already, you need to change your revenue model for mobile. You need to figure out ways to earn revenue that will not disrupt the mobile user experience.

The positive side is that these changes will create an opportunity for bloggers to think about the user experience on mobile. Replacing your interstitials with valuable content could be an SEO reward. You are giving the user the content they are searching for and improving your ranking.

What You Can Do Now to Prepare

First, you need to remove any pop-ups you’ve been using unless the law requires them, are for cookies or are not intrusive.

Second, you need to start focusing on creating valuable content that draws users to your website. Once you have great content, you can focus on using calls to action or embedded forms. Many of the solutions to the changes Google made means bloggers now need to start thinking about how to generate income in a different way. And thinking different is not bad, it just means you have to get creative.

What do you think about Google’s latest announcement, and what are you doing to prepare for it? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook.

Google is Cracking Down on Pop-Ups: Here's What Bloggers Need to Know -