Arcalea - Sites penalized for mobile pop-up adsStop us if you’ve heard this before- you look for something on your phone, bring up a page, and you’re immediately hit by a pop-up ad. You try searching for the x button in the corner, sometimes it’s there, other times it doesn’t even register your tap. The frustration is too much, and you forget (or care less) about what you wanted to read in the first place, and end up leaving the website altogether.

Google wants to make your browsing experience smoother. In a few months, mobile websites with pop-ups might rank lower than usual.

Improving the Internet

So why is Google doing this? It’s all part of their initiative to simplify search results for users.

In 2014, Google introduced the Mobile-friendly label, which highlighted webpages that were optimized for mobile, and didn’t require users to run Flash or zoom in to read content. Since then, 85% of the mobile search results are now optimized, so Google is uncluttering the results page by removing the label. Although the label is going away, mobile-friendliness will become a standard ranking signal.

In the same year, Google also announced that encrypted sites would also be getting a boost in ranking. Sites using the HTTPS encryption will rank higher, all else equal.

Now, Google is experimenting with how pop-up ads affect user experience.

How it will work

Starting January 10, 2017, Google may decrease the rank of websites with interstitials (pages loaded between the mobile search results page and the expected content page).

“Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible.” Google stated in their official blog post, “this can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller.”

Examples of interstitials may include:

Intrusive Interstitials

  • Pop-up ads that cover the main content, either when you load the page or when you scroll down.
  • A page that you have to tap to close before accessing the content.
  • An ad or page that forces you to scroll down to the main content page.

Exceptions to new signal

Of course, there are instances where interstitials might actually provide value or security. In these cases, webpages with the following interstitials won’t be affected by the new signal:

Examples of acceptable interstitials

Allowable Interstitials

  • An interstitial used for legal purposes, such as request to use cookies, or to verify your age.
  • Interstitials asking for a login, such as websites with paywalls or private content
  • Banners that don’t take up too much space and can be easily closed, such as app install banners in Chrome or Safari.

How this affects you

If you’re a marketer and your website draws its revenues on pop-up ad model, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

Almost everyone is now using a mobile-device to access the Internet. You simply can’t ignore your mobile audience anymore, which means you have to obey Google’s rules if you want to play the game. This should come as no surprise- Google is always prioritizing the user experience over the profit of a couple companies.

But it doesn’t have to be a loss. Focus on writing great content or having a call to action that users can benefit from, such as a free download or trial. By focusing on the user, on providing a delightful experience and useful, relevant content, websites can rise in ranking while users aren’t bothered by distracting ads.

Of course, it’s important to remember that this is just one in the hundreds of signals that affect how a website might rank. Even though mobile-optimization is important, it’s just as important to create useful and relevant content, and not to forget about local SEO.

For more news on the various signals that Google uses, visit Arcalea’s blog today.