Google to Reduce Rankings of Mobile Sites with Pop-Ups

25 August 2016

Google to Reduce Rankings of Mobile Sites with Pop-Ups

More webmasters now understand the importance of making their websites accessible to mobile users, so much so that Google is removing the ‘mobile-friendly’ tag from their search results as it is no longer necessary. However, Google has identified another area of website building that is getting in the way of people enjoying their mobile browsing experience: intrusive interstitial ads.

Interstitial ads are ads that show up while waiting for a webpage to load. These pop-ups get in the way of users accessing content on a website and provide a poor experience compared to websites that don’t interrupt browsing with pop-up ads. On mobile devices, this is even more problematic than it is on desktop computers because, as screens are smaller, these ads are more intrusive and can be difficult to close.

So, from January next year, websites that limit access to their content by inserting interstitial ads may find themselves penalised in search results.

Google has provided examples of websites that could lose rankings in these circumstances, such as:

1. A website that displays a pop-up ad that covers the main content of the page, either as soon as the user clicks through to the page or during their browsing experience

2. A website that displays a standalone interstitial ad that has to be dismissed by the user before they are able to access the webpage’s content

3. A website with a layout that shows an interstitial standalone ad above the fold, while inlining the original content below the fold.

However, not every interstitial ad is considered to be intrusive and due to be penalised in the search results. Google identified several types of ad and pop-up that will continue to be considered acceptable:

1. Websites with interstitials that fulfil some kind of legal obligation, such as those in respect of the EU Cookie Law

2. Websites with private content that can only be accessed by logged-in users will not be penalised for displaying login dialogues before content

3. Websites with banner ads that can be easily dismissed, such as banners encouraging users to install a brand’s app, directing them to the App Store or Google Play Store.

Doantam Phan, Product Manager at Google, reminded readers that this would be one of many, many signals that Google makes use of when ranking websites in search results. Phan explained, “The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content”.