Using popups on your website? Find out how you will be impacted by Google’s new update.

Article , SEO

If you hate those pop-up ads or newsletter signups you see on most websites now you are in luck, because Google will be showing you less of them.

While news that mobile users continue to climb shouldn’t have surprised anyone, generating more revenue for advertisers, it is coming at the cost of the user. For a while now, some of these advertisements have been compromising user experience by in a number of ways such as hiding real content behind ads or creating ads that take up a large screen space. The worst of these however have been pop-up interstitial ads, which consume the entire display area of the device.

First announced by Google in August of 2016, the new ranking algorithm has been in place since the 10th of January 2017 and aims to combat sites using obtrusive advertising by reducing their sites rankings effectively penalising them.

According to Google, the algorithm is designed to penalize mobile sites for having “Problematic Transitions”. “Problematic Transitions” refer to roadblocks, like advertisements, which a user faces when they move (or transition) from one page to another. This algorithm will affect three types of websites with “problematic transitions”.

  1. Mobile sites that show a popup right after a user visits their link or scrolls on their page, hiding actual content (can be interpreted to be newsletter signups).
  2. Websites which display interstitial ads that need to be closed in order to access the content of the site.
  3. Lastly, there are websites which keep their actual content under the fold at the bottom of a page while displaying large ads at the top part of the page.

To alleviate people’s fears, Google has stated that websites that display “small” pop-ups will not be affected by the new algorithms. This is interesting as they have not defined an actual range of dimensions for the criteria of “small”.

At the moment, this algorithm only works on the first page of the website visited via Google search, with the website suffering no penalties if ads are shown when another link is clicked on the site. Also worth noting is that these restrictions do not apply to websites which use legally required interstitials like age verification or security clearance.

In typical Google fashion, they have been incredibly vague about the changes other than what is mentioned above, but websites all over are reporting that simple things like having a pop-up newsletter on page load are now triggering this penalisation, with websites reporting drops in ranks as drastic as 1st position to 12th while others reporting nothing at all.

It is starting to spark conversation around whether Google should be interfering at all. Google has historically been a search engine, but it’s starting to through its weight around as a website authority as well. Being the main search engine, if websites don’t obey then it can cost them vast amounts of traffic from Google.

So to summarise, if a website tries to block information behind advertisements and pop-ups, Google will likely de-rank the website. For now however, these changes are only applicable for the mobile versions of any website, with no change for desktop versions yet.

While there is no denying that content creators need ad revenue in order to operate, there should be a balance between content and ads. It is very unusual to see Google taking a stand on this matter, and might be start of several other interferences.

Do you think Google is overstepping the bounds of being a search engine? Or do you think Google is just trying to use its powers to create a better user experience? Let us know!