Google announces implementation of penalties for intrusive mobile pop-ups

Google has begun to implement penalties for intrusive mobile pop-ups. Google first announced the proposed penalties last August and the company will now apply the penalties to those e-commerce firms that have not adjusted their practices to conform to them.

Google’s rationale for these penalties is to improve user experience (UX) for consumers accessing e-commerce websites on mobile devices. When someone conducts a search and clicks on a link in the results, the expectation is that they will go immediately to the page they wish to access. Pop-ups on pages can be intrusive and provide a poorer UX than those pages where a visitor can immediately access the content, especially on mobile devices with small screens. The majority of searches now take place on mobile devices, and Google is reacting to that new reality.

Google’s Webmaster Central Blog said: “Here are some examples of techniques that make content less accessible to a user:

  • Showing 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 inlined underneath the fold.’

Not all pop-ups will be affected by the penalty, as some are legal requirements. The Central Blog also stated: “By contrast, here are some examples of techniques that, used responsibly, would not be affected by the new signal:

  • Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.”

Currently, Google only will impose the penalty for pop-ups on mobile access to e-commerce sites. The penalty does not apply to desktop access, at least for now.

Also, the penalty only applies to pop-ups that are on the entry page. The first page that a visitor lands on after clicking on a link in a search result is the entry page. However, remember that an organic search can lead a potential visitor to click on a link other than your home page and that page would count as an entry page. Therefore, if you want to include pop-ups later on a visitor’s click path, when you program your site, tie the appearance of a pop-up to the number of clicks a visitor makes when accessing your site rather than to a specific page, such as your home page.

It’s not clear how severe the pop-up penalty will be, but if you want to avoid the possibility of losing traffic due to lower search rankings, it’s best to be sure your site complies with Google’s new guidelines.

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