Pop-ups: Why you should stop using them!

Written by Jen on January 12, 2017

For the past few years, Google has been putting more focus on the user and making sure it is easier for them to obtain the information they are looking for. There have been many updates to Google’s algorithms, resulting in new factors to consider when building a website or strategizing a marketing plan, for example mobile-friendliness is one factor that helps increase Google search ranks.

With this in mind, it is no surprise that Google has rolled out a new update tackles a common pet-peeve – “intrusive interstitials”, also known as the pop-up. Released earlier this week, the new update will see websites penalised for using excessive pop-ups by lowering their ranking in the mobile search results.

Firstly, what is an “intrusive interstitial”?

In basic terms, an interstitial is a pop-up, an item that pops up on the page you are viewing and blocks the content, for example most websites have a “sign-up to newsletter” pop-up that comes almost immediately when entering a website – which for most people can be frustrating (this is why we have pop-up blockers!).

So, why is Google penalising websites with pop-ups?

Bad user experience! Google want to make sure all the users who search something on their website are taken to websites that give them a great user experience, and with over half the searches coming from mobile devices, it is no surprise Google are trying to sort this.

A good user experience means the user can find what they want with ease, going from point A to point B should flow, which is why a pop-up can be seen as bad as it interrupts the flow.

In addition, pop-ups can slow web pages down, which is another factor in user experience and Google ranking.

But what type of pop-ups are bad?

While some pop-ups can be okay, there are a few that will get penalised by Google. In the blog on the official Google Webmaster blog, Doantam Phan, Product Manager for Google, provides a few examples:

  • “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.”

…And what exactly are good pop-ups?

Well, according to Google, the below (if used “responsibly”) are okay to use:

  • “Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.

  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.”

  • Other pop-ups that will be fine also include ones that are required by law such as age verification pop-ups, or asking for permission, such as the cookie pop-ups.

What next?

Now that you have a basic understanding of the new Google update and what constitutes a good and bad pop-up, it is good to review your own website and remove any intrusive pop-up that the user may find annoying.

If you definitely need pop-ups for your website, try not to over-use them or time them so they don’t pop-up immediately and make them relevant to the page the visitor is on.

An alternative is to try and think of other ways you can attract visitors to subscriber or complete a sale. Think about your content, if it is good, informative and relevant then this may lead to a subscription to your newsletter, or maybe use CTAs to grab a user’s attention.