“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…pages where content is not easily accessible…may not rank as highly.”
–Helping Users Easily Access Content on Mobile, Google Webmasters
We’ve all been there: you’re searching Google on your phone for a quick answer to a question. You click on a search result, the web page starts to load, and then, suddenly, a POP-UP! “Would you like to give us your email address, so we can spam you for forever?” It’s a terrible user experience and Google has finally started to punish it.
What is an Intrusive Interstitial?
Intrusive interstitials are anything that blocks the main content on the page from being shown. They range from annoying email newsletter sign-ups and pop-up ads, to essential log-in screens to access email or news articles. They can be lightboxes, which are small pop-up boxes but dim the screen around it, or they can be full-screen pages that completely block the content.
What is the Algorithm Update?
With the percentage of mobile traffic growing even higher and higher, Google has released an algorithm update specifically to lower the rankings of websites that have pop-ups appear when a user first lands on the web page from a search result.
Why Do Marketers Still Use Pop-Ups?
As annoying as pop-ups are to users, they are actually very effective at converting website visitors. In a study done of 1,754,957,675 pop-ups, the average conversion rate was a strong 3.09%, with the high-performing pop-ups receiving an astonishing 9.28% average conversion rate. And each email collected is a lead – a potential future customer who’s already shown interest in your product or services. With such impressive results from pop-ups, it’s not hard to see why marketers continue to pester their website visitors with intrusive interstitials.
Are All Pop-Ups Punished?
Google understands that sometimes intrusive interstitials are necessary, or even enhances a user’s website experience. If used responsibly, your website’s SEO won’t be reduced by the new signal in Google’s algorithm. Some examples are:
- Legal disclaimers, such as for age verification or cookie usage
- Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily closed (ex. the app install banners by Safari and Chrome)
- Log-in screens to access email or other encrypted content
Are Pop-ups Really Dead?
It’s very important for marketers to note that Google is only punishing pop-ups that appear when a user first lands on a page from a search result. If you have a pop-up activated when a user signals that they are leaving the web page or set up a timed interstitial that appears after one minute, Google’s algorithm won’t pick it up.
Google is trying to better the searcher experience and has set conditions for when marketers are allowed to use pop-ups and for what purposes. With the global shift to mobile, it will continue to make changes to their algorithm that reward websites that offer their visitors unique, compelling content and great user experience for users on their small-screened phones.