Over the years, we have seen some dramatic changes to Google and how it ranks sites for search results. At the same time, websites are doing their best to draw people in, create a site that will work on mobile devices, and advertise their product or service at the same time. However, it seems as though Google isn’t happy with everything that has happened this year – especially intrusive mobile popups.
From January 10, 2017, Google will be actively punishing those who have intrusive mobile popups on their site. In 2015 alone, nearly 1.5 billion smartphones were sold which has led to over two-thirds of all internet use coming from these devices. As a result, Google wants the mobile surfing experience to be just as easy on mobile as any other device hence this new punishment.
After the Google Index Divide as well as the Mobilegeddon update, Google is now continuing its commitment to the mobile user by suggesting that all pages with popups may be ranked lower as a penalty.
Intrusive Interstitial – With this in mind, we need to know exactly what constitutes an intrusive interstitial. In truth, it is actually very simple and can be defined by three different types;
- Firstly, any interstitial that needs to be closed before proceeding onto the site.
- Secondly, any popups that appear when scrolling or as soon as you land after clicking through.
- Finally, any page that requires the user to scroll past a ‘welcome mat’ to find the main content.
Despite these very clear guidelines, there has been some exceptions noted from Google itself and this includes any popups that explain the role of cookies. Furthermore, any legal statements will be allowed to remain. If the site requires a login to reach private information, this will also be acceptable because Google cannot index any content that goes beyond these dialog boxes.
If you have a site that currently uses interstitial pages that do not fall into these exemption categories, Google has urged you not to panic just yet. If your content is high-quality and relevant to searches, a page can still rank highly. Therefore, we could be about to see a growing importance in the quality of articles and blog posts.
Why? – You might be wondering why Google has chosen to take this move but it all comes down to the site’s mission. Essentially, Google attempts to provide the best results for all users so they need the user to have a good experience on all sites that appear at the top of the rankings.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Google has placed an emphasis on the user after the ‘mobile-friendly’ tags in 2014 to optimise display. Considering around 50% of people revealing that they were left frustrated when sites were not mobile-friendly, this was a move that needed to come. Nowadays, a whopping 85% of websites are indeed mobile-friendly so Google needs to find ways to optimise the user’s experience.
For mobiles, Google has already predicted a big future. With a significant portion of their investment now going towards the mobile sector, they have even suggested that their mobile index will surpass their desktop index in terms of being up-to-date.
Why Popups? – Ok, so you understand Google’s stance but what do they have against popups? With popups, Google has no problem getting past this and indexing the content within but the visitor cannot simply click on a link and then read because they have to spend time removing an interstitial first.
With most of these popups, there will be an ‘x’ or ‘no thanks’ button but they still provide a barrier between the user and the content. On desktop, they are frustrating but the option to close is easy to see. On mobile, sometimes it doesn’t load properly and other times you cannot find the option to close and read the content which leads to users going back and choosing a different site. Since the touchscreen can be sensitive, many people go to close the popup only to click on the ad itself which opens new tabs and even the app store.
With all of this in mind, Google has decided that the best way to enhance their user experience will be to cut this process altogether. If the content cannot be accessed easily, the page will fall in the rankings.
Email Lists – In recent years, these types of popups have become invaluable for those that are building subscribers or email lists. In a recent study, popups proved to be nearly 1,400% more effective than an option to sign up in the sidebar. Therefore, another option needs to be found and the first of the solutions could be the ‘two-step’ popup.
As long as you make sure that there is a call-to-action (CTA) in your content, the popup will then show for anyone who clicks on this. Although it isn’t quite as effective, it has been proven to increase opt-ins by around 60%. If you use popups for desktop and mobile, it isn’t necessary to remove them both. In the backstage area of your website, you should see an option to remove popups on mobile and this will keep it going for desktop.
Depending on which popup service you wish to use, you may even find an option to show a box once they have reached a certain point on the page. When this shows, they will have made up their mind about whether they want to sign-up or not. Furthermore, these won’t block the whole page as soon as it loads which is what Google is looking to target.
Summary – If you want to prevent a loss in rankings, we suggest that you fix your popups as soon as possible and make sure that your site is optimized before January 10th. Also, spend some time learning other effective methods for getting people to sign up as the majority can still be used. Although we can’t be sure of how big an impact this will have on Google search results, the company doesn’t often make changes and then fail to go through with them so we can guess that sites really will be punished next year if they disobey this warning!