Online User Experience: Why Google is Cracking Down on Pop-Up Ads

Google has long been known for making changes to their algorithms. These are most commonly made to increase the usability of their products for the benefit of their customers. This is the case again with Google’s recent announcement to crack down on mobile pop-up ads that may affect your online marketing strategy.

This announcement could have a large impact on many businesses. For example, those who rely on advertising revenue will likely be hit the hardest. That’s why we have amalgamated a list of details that will be contained in this article.

New Features for Mobile Search Results

Google added a mobile-friendly label for search results in 2014. The new feature was optimized for platforms where links are spaced well enough so that there’s a reduced chance of mis-tapping, and text is legible without zooming or horizontal scrolling. However, just a couple of years later, Google has now realized that the vast majority of search results are optimized that way. So, Google is now getting rid the label, and bringing in new mobile-specific ranking criteria. As a result of this monumental change, pages with mobile pop-ups will no longer be ranking as highly in results. The new algorithmic changes will take effect on January 10, 2016.

“Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible,” Google’s official announcement states. “This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller.”

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Some pop-up ads are worse than others, so there are some specifics around which types Google considers to be disruptive to the user experience. For example, certain sites require a pop-up to verify age; therefore the new algorithm will not impact them. An official statement by Google made some distinction about which sites will be most impacted by the crackdown:

  • 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.

What Does It Mean For Marketers?

As we mentioned before, the companies that rely on these pop-ups for income will be particularly impacted by this change. Now, these businesses face a difficult choice: Rank, or profit.

If they haven't done so already, marketers should solve for mobile SEO first. The pain that comes with changing a revenue model is inevitable, but shorter-term, and businesses that rely on advertiser dollar should figure out ways to make money that don’t totally disrupt the mobile user experience.

Google is very focused on the user. Marketers are always looking for hacky ways to increase traffic and conversion rates, and every once in a while; Google needs to make a correction to improve the user experience.

That actually creates a great opportunity for marketers to think more about the user both the experience, and what that person is offered. It makes marketers seriously consider the increasing overtaking of mobile technology, and what the implications will be on their overall business operations.

Basically, these developments from Google are a giant wake-up call to those who create a bad online user experience – especially those who might not even realize it. Now, they absolute must think through alternative revenue methods.

What You Can Do Now to Prepare

There are likely many business owners that are quite upset about these new changes. But there is really no reason to panic. Here's what you can do to prepare yourself for the crackdown:

  • Ditch your pop-ups unless law requires them. Those include age verification displays, as noted above, and pop-ups that let your user know you use cookies.
  • If you relied on pop-ups for ad revenue, figure out where that money is going to come from now.
  • Find ways to generate revenue without obstructing the user experience, and in a way that optimizes your page for mobile. Both of those factors will likely remain crucial to search engine rank.
  • Know that those solutions often exist in the content you create. Make something valuable for the user. By gating it behind a landing page, you're generating leads – and eventually sales – in a much less intrusive way that brings visitors to you.