Google popup crackdown on mobile webpages

Do you use popups on your mobile webpages? Life in search is about to get tougher as a Google popup crackdown has been announced.
Quoting the update on their blog:

“…pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

There are many forms of popups (Google’s general name is intestitials) including overlays and slide-in popups these days on the web. One thing they have in common is interrupting someones browsing exprience. Google is about to penalize mobile webpages that have such popups in place.

What is the Google popup crackdown exactly about?

Here’s the when, what and examples of the crackdown:
When: from january 10th, 2017.
What: lowering rankings of mobile webpages with so-called ‘intrusive interstitials’ – like popups
Examples of intrusive interstitials:

  • 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.

Example in the image below (click for larger):
So if you are using any type of popups, standalone interstituals, and such in mobile webpages, prepare for a penalty.
I for one can’t stand all these forms of interruption of my browsing experience, especially on mobile. I’m glad Google is taking action on this.
Of course, there are -good- types of interstitials, like the following:

  • Cookie notice
  • Age verification
  • Banner using reasonable amount of screen space

In image examples:
In case you’re using interestitials like the above three examples, you should be fine in the Google search rankings. Don’t forget, space on mobile devices is precious, especially when browsing: don’t abuse the space with wrong types of popups or other interstitials.

Google popup crackdown: what about newsletter signups?

Yes, one of the most used forms of popups on websites is the newsletter popup. It’s a tried and tested way of gathering opt-ins and getting your audience to return to a website.
The good news is: if your newsletter (and/or other) popup is part of the second examples above, you’ll be fine. You don’t have to change anything ahead of the crackdown in early 2017. A newsletter popup would fit the banner popup in that case.
The bad news: if your popup breaks a user’s experience like in the first examples posted above, you have some work to do. Update your popups, slide-ins and whatnot to make sure your webpages provide a good experience on mobile too. After all, a website should be fun and useful to navigate, not frustrating and tough. This counts extra on mobile devices, where people often have less time on their hands while browsing.
A history of Google search algorithm changes can be found here.
Read the full update on this on the official Google Webmaster blog here.

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