Intrusive popup ads – lately named as ‘intrusive interstitials’ – are to be penalised by search giants Google. In January 2017, Google will be lowering the search result rankings for sites that include invasive advertising that, in their own words, “can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller.”

The ‘mobile friendly’ system has grown to the point where, according to Google, 85% of content on the web is now mobile friendly. The mobile friendly algorithm label will now be removed from Google, even though mobile friendliness will continue to be a major part of Google’s ranking process.

So what are Intrusive Interstitials?

Intrusive Interstitials are page-covering popup adverts, usually a signup form, advert or video. These are problematic as they restrict mobile users where screens are smaller.  These can include:

  1. A popup that hides the page’s main content, either as they click-through to the landing page from search results, or while they are navigating that page.
  2. A popup-like barrier that a user has to get rid of before they can access the page’s content.
  3. Web design that includes a “welcome mat” which means the user has to scroll down before they can read the material or see what the page is about.

In short, sites that have elements that lead to a poor experience for the user, especially on mobile devices.  We’ve all been subjected to some page-covering advert or signup form which can deter users from viewing the original content. It is irritating for users and so not surprising Google is tackling it in this way.

Are there any exceptions or ways around it?

Yes and no. Google won’t expect webmasters to get rid of interstitials completely. There are a number of exceptions, but these aren’t workarounds from the ‘old methods’. Google’s exception list is as follows:

  1. Popups that are there for legal reasons, such as for cookie usage or age verification.
  2. Login popups on sites that offer private content that requires membership to view it.
  3. Banners that use a realistic amount of space on a small screen and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners used by some web browsers.

So while there are exceptions, it’s vital to remember that basic SEO rules still apply to high rankings and being on Google’s good side. Strong on-page-SEO and having content easily findable, searchable and most importantly, valuable and worth reading are all feathers in your Google rankings cap.

I was getting on just fine with popups. What’s the issue?

The problem is that Google ranks and indexes content of pages, yet the end user can’t read it as soon as they land on the page. Google is cracking down on this for mobile users as it is likely they’ll accidentally play a video or click on an ad while attempting to click a popup away. Google is simplifying mobile search results to make sure the best, most-readable content is ranked top.

What does this mean?

In the race to gather as much analytical information as possible, web developers will now have to start thinking outside of the box to enhance the user experience – and where they’re going to start storing all those signup forms.

This doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to signup forms as part of this change. Keep signup forms on your site in the footer will be the best way to ensure you get signup details for email marketing from mobile users, and prevent rankings loss.