March 28, 2017

Will your popup land you with a penalisation from Google?

Most of us aren’t fans of popups ads, especially those which show up around 2-3 seconds after you have entered a website, but did you know that Google doesn’t like them either (certain ones anyway)? Website users often grumble at the sight of those irritating popups, unless they are providing you with ‘30% off site wide!’ But most users are unaware of the statistics behind them.

How can popups affect your site?

With more and more users investing in popup blockers, it’s clear that users actively avoid popups. Despite this aversion to them, you’ll still generally see around a 2% higher CTR than other forms of on-page advertising. This is especially true if your popup is offering, for example; a reward for your newsletter sign up rather than purely asking for details.

So where does Google draw the line between irritating and helpful?

The need-to-knows about the Google Mobile Interstitials update

In recent years, Google has placed a higher emphasis on a website’s ‘user experience’. How your customers feel as they navigate throughout your site will help Google determine which pages to index first. How does Google know? Factors such as; bounce rate and average session duration make up a factor known as “Dwell Time” which is known to be a ranking factor.

Don’t get us wrong, having an annoying mobile interstitial is not going to be the only ranking factor Google looks at. However, if you’re in tight competition for top positions, then your popup might be the one factor that pushes you under your competitor. The bottom-line is, if your customers are bouncing from your site due to an intrusive popup, Google will notice.

So, what does Google consider a good popup, versus a bad popup?


As of January 10, 2017, Google has started penalising websites whose mobile interstitials are; difficult to close, take up the entire mobile screen, or use up all of your above-the-fold space (like the image above). To put it in layman’s terms, if your users find it difficult to exit or move away from your popup to the rest of your website, Google will penalise you.

‘Google approved’ mobile interstitials

You probably feel like you have no options left, with the majority of popular popup forms being shamed by Google. So, we have created a list of popups which Google will favour instead;


  • Desktop popups are not being targeted yet, so feel free to keep these, removing only your mobile interstitials
  • Exit-triggered mobile interstitials are currently still allowed
  • Cookie usage popups
  • Age verification
  • Un-intrusive Banner interstitials

The Next Steps

Considering how much your popup ad really means to you is going to be your first step. If the answer is “not a lot”, and it’s causing your readers to click away, then you should remove it all together on mobile devises (you might find that your stubborn bounce rate finally decreases).

If your popup is detrimental to your site’s revenue, then opt for a less intrusive version such as the ‘banner popup’ featured above. This is a great way to still include your message while avoiding Google’s watchful eye.

Finally, if you just can’t bear to see your popup removed, then by all means, keep it there. Google looks at a lot of other factors when it comes to your rankings, the inclusion of a popup won’t instantly condemn you to page 10. Just remember that it’s the sum of a million SEO factors which are considered by Google, and this is one of them.

Interested in more recent digital marketing updates? Check out our previous article about Dr Google here.

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