Mobile Pop-Up & Interstitial Penalty On Google Is Here; AND IT'S LIVE!

Make sure you don't fall foul of the new pop-ups & interstitials penalty which has gone live this week.

Written by Paul Mortimer
SEO |   1 minute read

If you use pop-ups and interstitial pages on your mobile sites, your SERP ranking will take a hit from Google. The change has gone live this week and site owners need to check they are compliant with the rule change.


Reminder: What Are Pop-Ups & Interstitial Pages?

This was covered back in August 2016, when Google announced pop-ups and interstitial pages presented on mobile searches would be penalised.

Pop-ups are boxes showing adverts, notices, promotions or other pieces of content which appear on screen and hide elements of the actual page. The user likely has to close the pop-up in order to see 100% of the page.

Interstitial pages follow the same principle but cover the desired page and must be closed in order to navigate the page (to scroll or click any further links, and so on). The original page will often be greyed out.

Examples of pop ups and interstitial pages on mobile

There's another underhand technique which has been captured in this penalty too. Some site owners will put the core content of a page below the fold and force users to scroll down past the irrelevant information or CTA.

Google is picking up sites which do this too.

Is This A Penalty & Why Are Google Penalising Them?

Both of these techniques significantly disrupt the user's experience. The problem is heightened on a mobile device because connection speeds can be slower and finding the close button can sometimes be a little fiddly.

It isn't officially a penalty as such but flouting the ruling will result in your site being devalued and taking a hit in rankings.

Also, mobile users are typically after an instant results experience. Installing obstacles to a user accessing your mobile page is a smack in the face of the wider Google aim of speeding up the entire search experience on mobile (led by AMP pages, answer boxes, rich snippets and so on).

Are There Any Exemptions To The Pop-Up & Interstitial Penalty?

Examples of exempt pop ups and interstitials

  • Sites which legally have to verify a user's age.
  • Interstitials on exit.
  • Pop-ups under a certain size.

PLEASE NOTE: Google's mobile friendly test does NOT cover this. Site owners will have to check for it themselves, so you might have to get ready to email your web developer.

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