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New Google Penalty For Pop-Ups (Interstitials) From January 2017

Top Left Designs Web Development Gold Coast


New Google Penalty For Pop-Ups (Interstitials) From January 2017

Since Google's announcement on August 23, there has been much debate about what the soon to be released Pop Up Penalty exactly means. I had my own thoughts when I first saw this however before sharing those I wanted instead, to let the dust settle after the usual hysteria that arises so that I may refer to more balanced opinions of those far better qualified that myself.

What I have observed some four weeks later is that firstly, my own thoughts have been somewhat substantiated by what I've now read. Secondly, there remains the usual amount of disinformation published by all sorts of people.

Before I get into what we have found and what we believe to be a rational approach to this matter, let us explain the situation.

Interstitial pop-ups are those boxes of content that show up, usually popping in to view on your web page, when you enter a page, after some time period, after scrolling down so far in a page or when you go to exit from page.

The new Google penalty will come into play in all but the last of those pop-up situations. Showing a pop up on exit, from all accounts we have researched, will not penalise your page ranking.

An important, if not critical point to note, is that the penalty applies ONLY to the page in question i.e. the actual page that contains the pop up.

Now Google says that is all about improving experienced users viewing content on their mobile device, arguing that pop-ups visually obscure the underlying content, which has been indexed by Google. This essentially boils down to saying that in the instance of where Web pop-up elements cover the main content on the screen, it is considered as being detrimental to the user experience by Google.

An interesting aspect of Google's blog post is that everything discussed is about mobile devices (in fact the title of the article confirms it is so). Google is not directly penalising the page but instead is removing the "mobile friendly" label, which is a significant contributor to MOBILE rankings.

Whilst some shout down the merits of pop-ups, they have been shown to be very effective (read our post “Building a Better Online Business Building a Reputation Through Online Reviews”). As a call to action, if properly implemented, they can improve your conversion rate on lead capture.

So what did I learn.

  • It is all about mobile: much of the opinion we viewed failed to point out that this is all about mobile devices and mobile ranking and did not draw a line of distinction between mobile and desktops.
  • It is a page penalty: your overall site is safe as it is only the page in question that will be effected. Of course, if you use these pop-ups on every page in your site then you have a problem requiring immediate attention.
  • Not all pop-ups incur a penalty: there are certain pop-ups that Google recognises is essential aspect of your website such as legal notices, login details and banners which will not result in your page being penalise.
  • Use of pop-ups are just one SEO signal: as Google themselves say "Remember, this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking. 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."

What should you do

Don't, and I will repeat myself, don't panic and throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is no reason to abandon the use of interstitial pop-ups because of this announcement. What you do need to do is firstly strategise how, when and what type of pop-ups you will use.

You should then perform an audit of all pop-ups in use within your site. Managing which pages they appear on the type of pop-up and what percentage of all site visits start from this page.

Armed with the above, firstly consider what alternatives you will use on mobile devices in those pages containing a pop-up that needs to be replaced.

Secondly, you may have noticed that in your orders. I suggested you identify the percentage of total site visitors (preferably over a long time period) that landed on the page as their first page. Limit this to those who got their viral organic search results. Why this is important is simply this. The number of visitor landing on this page organic search is low and this is probably due to already poor ranking. Keeping the pop-up will probably have little if not any impact on the number of visitors directed to this page from organic searches. Thus, there is no reason to remove the pop-up.

What you need to do is to think smarter about the use of pop-ups. You probably need to pay closer attention to the pop-up tool that you are using, and the features offered. Be particularly will need to look at how you can disable pop-ups on mobile devices only.


Search engine optimisation techniques and tips for anyone who is serious about their website. SEO is not for the feint hearted and it requires consistent application of a wide range of techniques and initiatives to be applied on a regular basis. There are a number of things that you can do to improve your website through a better understanding of what SEO is about and what is required. Through a growth in your own understanding you will be able to deliver a better web solution and improve your chances of attracting greater and better qualified leads to your website.

This post is original content presented by Top Left Designs, a web design and digital marketing agency based in Southport on the Gold Coast and servicing clients in the Gold Coast and Brisbane regional area. Top Left Designs sets out to remove the frustration and confusion faced by business owners seeking to maximise the return on the website investment by providing a comprehensive web solution to their business needs.