Google To Punish Mobile Websites That Annoy Visitors With Pop-up Ads

Most people would agree that pop-ups, in general, are annoying. It's one thing if a website wants you to confirm that you're okay accepting cookies, but it's quite another when a pop-up ad covers the content you're trying to read after clicking on an interesting link, especially on a mobile device. Well, Google recognizes this and is making an effort to rid webmasters of this unwanted behavior.

"Although the majority of pages now have text and content on the page that is readable without zooming, we’ve recently seen many examples where these pages show intrusive interstitials to users," Google explained in a blog post. "While the underlying content is present on the page and available to be indexed by Google, content may be visually obscured by an interstitial. This can frustrate users because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result."

Intrusive Pop-Ups
Starting on January 10, 2017, Google said that pages where content is not easily accessible to a user after clicking on a link from a mobile search may not rank as highly. Google provided a few examples where this would apply. They include:
  • 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.
This doesn't mean that webmasters can never use pop-ups without it negatively affecting their page ranking, Google just wants to make sure they're being used responsibly, as shown below:

Pop-Ups Deemed Acceptable

Pop-ups stemming from a legal obligation such as cookie usage or age verification are acceptable. The same is true for login dialogues where content is not publicly indexable, as well as banners that don't dominate the display (so long as they are easily dismissed). In short, Google is trying to make pop-ups less of an aggravation to the mobile experience.

Bear in mind that this is just one of hundreds of signals Google uses to rank webpages. Even though Google plans to crack down on intrusive pop-ups, it won't be so aggressive about it that pages with "great, relevant" content are buried as a result because of them.