How You Need to Prepare for Google’s New Pop-Up Rules

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Google’s goal has always been to ensure that searchers are able to get the best results that are most relevant and effective for them. To offer this high-quality consistency, Google is constantly adjusting its algorithm to account for a multitude of factors that help determine where a site will rank in specific search terms.

The most recent in Google’s efforts to enhance user experience is a crackdown on pop-up ads. Beginning on January 10, 2017, mobile sites that use intrusive pop-ups will receive lower search engine rankings than those that don’t. Here’s what you need to know to adjust and prepare.

Why go to war on pop-ups?

Excessive pop-ups — or for that matter, pop ups at all — are one of the most frustrating experiences for website users. They can be disruptive to the experience, particularly if searchers are looking for a quick answer to a question or just need a fast look at specific information. They also slow down a website’s loading time, stretching out the amount of time required for users to get the information they want. Pop-ups are even more frustrating for mobile users who may worry about data concerns, struggle with load times and have more trouble getting rid of an annoying pop-up that isn’t optimized for mobile use. Very few internet users like pop-ups — in fact ad-blocking is a fast-growing market that increasing numbers of internet users turn to in order to remove pop-ups from their browsing experience, especially on mobile.

As a result of user preference, Google has decided to penalize mobile websites that use intrusive pop-ups in spite of the vast amount of research that shows how frustrating users find them. Fewer pop-ups equals a better user experience. If the data shows that users are consistently leaving your site because of pop-ups, Google will act on this data and your ranking may take a hit.

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Defining pop-up ads

Google is targeting all ads that behave like pop-up ads. The goal is to reduce the number of ads that prevent users from reading the actual content on the page. It doesn’t matter when the ad shows up — whether it hits as soon as the page loads or while the user is reading, the site is still penalized. For the most part, if it walks and talks like a pop-up ad, Google will recognize it and lower your site’s search engine ranking.

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Source: Google

In Google’s eyes, there are only three types of pop-ups that should remain on your site — those used for legal purposes (verifying a user’s age or disclosing cookie usage), login pop-ups that are necessary to access private information and the loosely defined “banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.” If your pop-up doesn’t fit into one of these categories, it’s time to get rid of it if you want to keep your search engine ranking.

What do you do next?

Create less-intrusive ways to generate the same effect. In some cases, intrusive interstitials may provide valuable revenue for a business. Thankfully, there are other ways to create the same effect without penalizing your search engine ranking or interfering with the user experience. These might include creating high-quality gated content with CTAs like ebooks or infographics, or finding ways to place ads on your site that aren’t intrusive to the user experience. Most likely, you’ll need to use a bit of trial and error to find out which methods work best for you.

BONUS: A FEW EXAMPLES FROM NEIL PATEL ON HOW TO RE-THINK YOUR POP-UP ADS WITH CTAS

And, as always, make sure your site is optimized for mobile browsers. This new algorithm change was born of the fact that mobile browsing is quickly becoming the standard and a good mobile experience is essential if you want to keep your visitors coming back. Mobile optimization is also reviewed by Google’s search metrics, so your website won’t just be convenient for potential customers, it will also be more likely to be seen.

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And as a silver lining, the lack of pop-up ads could ultimately turn out to be a good thing for your business. As you devise new ways to fill the hole that your dearly departed pop-ups have left, you’ll discover that you’re able to create a more valuable experience for customers who come to your site — and that means you’ll be able to nurture leads, encourage sales and build your business by simply keeping your customers happy.

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Originally published on THINK blog

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