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It’s Official: Popups Will Damage Your Mobile SEO

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26th August 2016

If you’re working to improve your rankings on Google, it’s essential that you offer a good user experience.

This week Google announced that sites need to make content easily accessible to mobile users if they want to rank. This means that sites using popups that cover the main content, interstitial ads, and above-the-fold advertising will not rank as highly.

There are exceptions to this rule – for example, if the popup is a cookie notification, that will not be affected by the change. However, your site still needs to be mobile-friendly and the button needs to make it easy to dismiss the popup.

What are Interstitials?

Popups are quite straight-forward, but most people aren’t sure what interstitials are. It basically means ‘between states’ so it refers to sites that show a full-page ad/holding page while the main site launches. Quite a few online publishers use this to promote their highest-paying advertisers since these pages will get the most views.

Very few business sites use interstitial pages, but those that do will need to rethink their approach or their rankings will suffer.

User Experience is Increasingly Important for SEO

Google is committed to providing users with quality information and a positive experience – that’s why SEO needs to encompass more than just keywords and links. User experience, whether on mobile or desktop, is a key consideration for both rankings and conversions.

Sites such as Pinterest and Yell both use interstitials to force sign ups or conversions – it will be interesting to see how they try to bypass the new change or if they choose to ignore it. Since user-intent is a strong ranking signal, established brands can often afford to ignore official advice since they rank based on their reputation and user base rather than good SEO.

Improve Your Site Before Jan 2017

Sites with poorly-designed popups have been an issue for years, especially when the popups are slow to load or have been so badly designed that it’s impossible to find the X to actually get to the page beneath. This announcement and the subsequent changes will be a relief for many mobile users who expect a far better on-site experience.

Sites will be affected from 10th January 2017 onward, giving webmasters plenty of time to update their websites before they see a dip in their rankings.

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