In January 2017, Google announced its intent to penalize pages where content is not readily available to the users. That’s on mobile search wherein pages with pop-ups will not be shown on mobile results pages. By virtue of this announcement alone, it is safe to say that having pop-ups and other forms of interstitial ads or those ads that ruin the overall user experience (UX) negatively impacts search engine optimization (SEO).
Interstitial ad defined
Commonly known as a pop-up ad, an interstitial advertisement appears as a page overlay covering the actual content of the page. A user will have to perform an action like clicking the x icon or filling out a form to close or remove the ad. Showing the ad is timed, for instance, after spending up to 30 seconds on the website.
Google also outlines some exceptions. For example, if it’s a legal-related ad that may affect the use of the site or if it’s about informing the users of using a cookie, then you may continue doing so. The same goes with if the site is not kid-friendly and age verification is required, a pop-up is acceptable since this doesn’t affect the UX.
Basis for being penalized
With Google’s announcement, it is high time to rethink this strategy because it ruins the UX and at the same time, places the users in a compromising situation albeit being a quick one. In case you are wondering whether you will be penalized or not, consider the following.
- A pop-up that covers the main content of the page
- A pop-up that appears above the fold where a user needs to scroll down pass the ad and onto the main content of the page
- A pop-up that covers the entire page that a user needs to act to access its main content
If you are implementing interstitial ads that reflect any of the above categories, you need to remove them now. Or you may resize the ad and change its placement. For as long as it is not intrusive and will not ruin UX, it will be okay with Google.
Rules to follow to avoid being penalized
Now if you are already or on the verge of facing a penalty, there are specific ways to recover.
- Resize the pop-up
- Place the pop-up below the fold
- Don’t cover the main content
- Change the timing of the pop-up
- Reduce the frequency of the pop-up
- Use banners instead
When it comes to banners, again, as long as it is not intrusive and do not make the main content inaccessible or unviewable to the users, using them is okay.
Always think of UX when making changes to your website because these changes could also have an impact on your SEO campaign. Good if the changes affect your site ranking and traffic-wise positively, and it will not be good if the impact is negative since it means a penalty like lower rankings or worse, de-indexation. You don’t want that to happen to your site, right?