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Google’s attack on pop-ups – interstitials – is good news

Almost three years ago we wrote a blog post arguing against pop-ups – or interstitials as they are now known – and it remains one of our most popular posts. Now, at last, Google is doing something about them.

Intrusive pop-ups that appear as on a page – usually just as you have started reading it – are still with us. And they are still dividing opinion.

In the pro camp are marketers who say they boost newsletter sign-ups, while against is just about anyone who cares about user experience on a website.

Intrusive interstitial popup

This sort of thing infuriates users and delights marketers

Our post about interstitials on this blog somehow went viral and continues to attract a lot of traffic, with a spread of opinions in the comments.

Google and interstitials

Now Google has, at last, weighed in and announced that pop-ups, light boxes, interstitials, whatever you want to call them, are officially bad for users and web pages that use them will get a penalty in search results.

This is what Google said: “To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

The announcement, which you can read in full in the Google Webmasters Blog, goes on to give examples of how interstitials can be used responsibly, but in practice these are very few.

While the change is targeting search on mobile devices, that still accounts for more than 60% of the average website’s traffic, so its impact will be significant.

What now for pop-ups?

Google’s post has predictably got ruffled the feathers of web marketing types who see their job as annoying web users by putting things in the way of what they want to do.

However, the reaction has been something close to jubilation from many people who build websites for a living.

The change takes place in January, but we doubt we’ll see the end of these horrible things quite yet.

If you want to know more about how this affects your website and search, see this article from SEO Roundtable.

And don’t forget our original post on Why Pop-up lightboxes are a bad idea.

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2 Responses to Google’s attack on pop-ups – interstitials – is good news

  1. Small Biz Geek May 25, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

    What concerns me more than the intrusion on the webpage is the nature of the copywriting that goes with it. For example: “Not an idiot? Click here.”

    • Patrick May 26, 2017 at 10:30 am #

      Yeah, even the mildest of them – things like ‘Don’t like free stuff?’ – are really patronising but it’s also the way telesales is going, judging by the calls we get at the office just about every day.

      And as for Click Here, there’s a whole post about that here: Don’t say Click Here

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