Google to Penalize Popup Ads

Most users these days are searching the web from much smaller screens of smartphones.  While many use desktops and laptops for work and school, it is not a stretch to say that a majority of users today are scrolling for information – and need that content to have an interface that fits nicely on smartphone screens.  Whether people are searching for information on movie show times, restaurant locations, directions to the doctor office and a hundred million other things people need to know, pages not optimized for the smaller screens, can be too difficult to read.

Adding salt to the wound, many companies riddle their websites with full-page pop-up ads that are at times, seemingly impossible hard to get rid of.

In a game changing move that will challenge online marketing companies and PPC management companies, Google has implemented a new penalty for screens not mobile-friendly or having ads that are difficult to close.  Two years ago, Google added a mobile friendly label, “…to help users find pages where the text and content was readable without zooming and the tap targets were appropriately space,” according to a Google blog.  This was a very popular move and many web pages updated their interfaces accordingly.

Google says that now 85% of all pages in mobile search have smartphone-friendly views.

Now Google is taking mobile optimization to the next level and says they will penalize sites that have interstitials or full-screen pop-up ads that are difficult to close.   “While the underlying content is present on the page and available to be indexed by Google, content may be visually obscured by an interstitial,” according to a Google blog.

Seeking to improve the mobile search experience, Google will penalize pages with pop-up ads that are difficult to close by “not ranking as these pages as highly” on search results.  Google writes that this policy goes into effect after January 10, 2017.

The following scenarios are examples of pop-up ads or interstitials that make it difficult for users to find  searched results – and these pages may not rank as highly in searches:

  • Displaying 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 in-lined underneath the fold.

Google says that there are ways to display ads that are beneficial to both the advertiser and the user.  For instance, “Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible,” is one way to responsibly display an ad.  Google also reported that Interstitials “…that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification” are appropriate.