Google to Penalize Mobile Websites with Intrusive Popups

I hate popups. I’m not going to lie. When a stellar headline grabs my attention and I click through to read the article only to be interrupted by a popup requesting my email or trying to bait me to download an app, it makes my blood boil. I have zero patience for those obtrusive windows that block the content I clicked through to see. Especially when I’m viewing web pages on my mobile device and the exit “x” is tinier than a grain of sand.

My own ranting aside, apparently Google agrees with me too! Fortunately, the search engine giant is taking steps to improve the mobile experience for all of us by penalizing mobile websites that employ popups or “interstitials” that prevent users from easily accessing content.

Google disclosed on their Webmaster Central Blog that starting January 10, 2017, “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on their transition from their mobile search results may not rank as highly.” Bam! It’s a factor in their algorithm now. That means, mobile websites using intrusive popups will now rank lower in mobile search results. Thanks Google!  

So what’s an interstitial that makes content less accessible according to Google? Well, you may recognize a few of these guys:


  • “Popups that cover the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above the fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.”

Google’s cause for doing this is their commitment to helping “users quickly find the best answers to their questions, regardless of the device they’re using.” As such, they realize the intrusive nature of popups and the frustration users feel “because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result.”

However, it should be noted that there are exceptions. For example, popups that appear because of legal obligations, login dialogues where content is not publicly indexed, or banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible are all acceptable and will not be affected by the new ranking signal.


So, consider this your head’s up supposing you currently have a mobile web design that causes your users to have to go through a popup obstacle course to get to your content. If that’s the case, you have till next year to get rid of your popups.

And finally, Google gods – if you can hear me. Thank you!!!