Google Mobile Pop Up Crackdown – All Hype and No Bite?

Blueclaw Blog Google Mobile Update

Last August, the masters of search at Google announced they would start to roll out an algorithm update in the early 2017 that would penalise pages that offer up mobile content that was covered by pop-ups. This roll-out started in early January 2017.

Google interstitial popups update Blueclaw

This is an example from Google about the sort of pop-ups they would penalise against.

This is all part of Google’s ongoing crusade to improve UX (user experience) for mobile users –  a clear nod (along with the change to mobile-first indexing) about the importance of mobile as a search (and advertising) platform.

Google is in the business of making sure that customers keep using Google, and keep seeing Google ads – giving search engine users the most relevant/useful results on mobile is therefore critical to maintaining the company’s position as the number 1 search engine.

The main points from update:

  • It only effects mobile traffic.
  • Pages that have pop-ups over content when going from a search engine results page (SERP) to a landing page, or while they are looking are penalised.
  • Legally required pop-ups will not be penalised. (age verification etc)
  • Private content or content behind a paywall will not be negatively effected.

What impact has there been?

Just over a month into the update the main question much of the search community is asking is “where is the impact?”; aside from the odd comment from a disgruntled webmaster on a blog post about their drop in traffic, many industry leaders and most leading publications have seen little to no negative effects on pages that are using still using interstitial popups.

The biggest impact so far is the action it has scared many into taking.

Prior to the rolling-out of the update on January 10th many webmasters (and clients) have been warned by their SEO’s or news and have been scared into vastly changing how their pop-ups are delivered, something which Google has offered advice to, or have removed them altogether.

If you are a business or website that relies on for example, ‘sign-up/register’ pop-ups for leads then obviously this update was going to have a negative effect on you just through the effect of you having to change your pop-up system, rather than getting penalised in the SERPs.

The lack of impact might change the way SEO’s and webmasters see Google updates. As they have seen little penalisation of pages that have kept their interstitial popups then they may be encouraged further to flout other this and other upcoming algorithm changes, which could lead to some nasty surprises further down the line if Google chooses to turn the dial up to 11  and strengthen the effects of the anti-pop up campaign as mentioned in a Search Engine Land post on the update.

about the author: "George H M Webb is a SEO Account Executive at Blueclaw. He works as part of the strategy team and takes a keen interest in Local Search."
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