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Does Google Penalize Pop-Ups on Websites?

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Are pop-ups bad for SEO? Does Google downgrade your site for using pop-ups? The answer is a bit complex.


Why Use Pop-Ups on Your Website?

It’s known that certain pop-ups can increase user engagement and even provide a better experience for the visitors of your website. That’s why so many websites use them. However, a lot of pop-ups are also interruptive and annoying. That’s why sometimes, they aren’t great for user experience. And if Google works it’s supposed to, that’s why they aren’t always great for SEO.


The Facts

Google released an update in 2017 stating that intrusive interstitials on mobile sites are penalized.

What is an intrusive interstitial? It’s one that:

  • Covers most of the content on the screen
  • Is difficult to close
  • Appears with no prompting from the user

Keep in mind: This is one of hundreds of ranking factors in the Google algorithm. Sites using intrusive interstitials may still rank well in Google search results.

Keep in mind, part 2: There are some acceptable reasons for an interstitial, such as alerting the user to the a privacy policy or verifying the user’s age before revealing adult content.


3 Things NOT to Do With Pop-ups

❌ Pop-Ups With a Timer

Some websites use pop-up ads that have a timer, allowing you to only close it after a set time. Google penalizes timed pop-ups. 

The rationale is that users shouldn’t be forced to wait to access a website. It’s bad user experience.

❌ Pop-Ups That Appear Before the Content

We get it. You want to capture the attention of the reader as soon as possible. But this practice is also penalized by Google.

Let the reader see the content of your website before showing the pop-up. Some websites decide to show the pop-up after the visitor has finished reading an article and has scrolled to the bottom. Other websites show pop-ups after 5 or 10 seconds. These approaches are fine; you just have to find the one that works best for you.

❌ Hiding the “X” Button

In an attempt to “force” the user to provide his or her email address, sites might intentionally discolor the “X” button of a pop-up ad or somehow make it hard to spot.

Google counts this as an intrusive tactic, and even worse, most visitors will leave the site when presented with a stubborn pop-up that doesn’t go away. 


3 Things You Can Do!

👍 Overlay Pop-Ups

An overlay pop-up appears to be accepted by Google and will not downgrade your site’s SEO score.

What is an overlay pop-up? It appears on a portion of the screen, in the same browser window. The basic idea is that it doesn’t completely interrupt the user experience. It’s usually made to get the visitor’s email address, offer a discount coupon, or display other important messages.

To ensure that your overlay pop-up offers a good user experience, test it on multiple devices and screen sizes: laptops, tablets, and different sizes of mobile phones.

👍 Make Pop-Ups Customized to User Groups

Customized pop-ups, depending on traffic sources, can enhance user experience. Visitors may respond well to unique pop-ups designed for their specific geographical location. An example might be a restaurant website that detects where you are located, and shows a pop-up to let you know where the nearest location is.

Many websites show users a pop-up upon their first visit, but then disable pop-ups if the user clicks into other pages or if the user returns some time later.

👍 Give Something in Return

If you’re asking visitors for an email address, give a free eBook in return. Offer your customers a discount code, access to unique content, or another type of freebie.

This is a good way to create meaningful relationships with your audience and, in most cases, won’t be considered intrusive by Google. Industry experts go beyond simple eBooks and offer a full course or tutorial on the site’s topic areas. For example, a fitness coach website may offer information about workout programs or healthy eating.


Bottom Line

Google and other search engines do penalize pop-ups on websites, but only if they’re excessively intrusive.

As long as you design a high-quality pop-up ad and strive to provide a solution to your audience, you shouldn’t be worried about being downgraded.

Do you still have questions about your website design? Contact us today! We have years of experience in digital marketing, and we can help your website get more traffic and more conversions!