Pop-Up Mobile Ad Penalty

Earlier this month, Google’s latest algorithm update went into effect, penalising mobile sites with intrusive pop-up ads and interstitials (the full screen ads or notices that load on top of the page you were going to).

Intended to improve the user experience for people trying to access content on mobile devices, this change has followed on from the “mobile friendly” label they began showing in mobile search results as long as two years ago, in an effort to simplify mobile search results.

Intrusive Advertising To Affect Rankings

Under this change sites which cover content with intrusive, hard to dismiss pop-ups or interstitials may see their rankings drop, potentially significantly in some cases.

According to Google, they’re targeting what they call “problematic transitions.” These include pages that show a pop-up immediately on arrival (or on scrolling) which hides the page content, pages that show pop-up ads which must be closed before the user can access content, and pages which show interstitial ads above the fold, and keep content below it.

This applies only to the first click from Google though, so secondary pages won’t be affected.

Acceptable Use

There are also a few instances where interstitials will not be affected by the new change, as long as they’re “used responsibly.” These include pop-ups which the site uses because of a legal obligation, such as age verification, log-in pop-ups on sites with private content, and “banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible.”

(As usual, Google is a little vague about what “reasonable” is, but offers the example of app install banners in Chrome and Safari.)

User Experience

Effectively, it all boils down to what has become perhaps the most important factor as far as Google is concerned…the user experience. If your site makes it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for, and achieve their objectives in visiting, Google will approve.

Anything that interferes with, or needlessly complicates that user experience is likely to earn their disapproval.