Google recently announced an upcoming change to their organic algorithm that will “help users find content more easily” on mobile websites (Note: this is a mobile change only – at the moment). Essentially they are trying to penalise websites for intrusive interstitials.

The key change is stated as:

“Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

There are some clear examples where it is understandable as to why Google would do this:

1. Intrusive, poorly executed pop up advertising

2. Splash pages that require several clicks to access the chosen content beneath

3. Pop ups that appear to have no relevance to users’ original search intent

But what about other uses for interstitials that appear to benefit users:

1. Email newsletter sign up messages

2. Discount and sale promotions

3. Behaviourally triggered sign posting to other parts of the website

With this in mind, our current interpretation of this is that, as with many other Google signals, there should be no problem using this approach in moderation.

The reason we think this? We have to assume that Google is trying to send visitors to websites which give the best possible user experience. Therefore, Google uses these signals to filter out those websites that give an obviously bad user experience. Provided we ensure our Clients’ websites can’t be accused of this, then using this sort of tool/approach to offer something useful or in a sensible way, shouldn’t result in a penalty.

As Google themselves say, “this is one of hundreds of signals used in ranking” so on its own won’t be the thing that makes or breaks the organic position of a page.

The steps that we are taking to judge the potential impact for our clients is as follows:

1. Segment by mobile – Consider all of the below for mobile traffic only

2. Value of the pop up – Does it deliver valuable conversions?

3. Organic pages – Is it shown on pages important for organic traffic generation?

4. Paid digital landing pages – Can we make up the gap on pages where SEO is not a concern?

5. Intrusiveness – Does the pop up intrude on the user experience on those pages?

6. Alternative – Is there an alternative way to convert traffic from those pages on mobile?

By going through the above we can evaluate the value of the pop up in comparison to the potential penalisation of those organic traffic driving pages. If needed, we can dial down the level of intrusiveness on organic pages, dial it up on paid landing pages and also seek alternative methods of converting visitors through the funnel.

Further to this, we’re pleased to see that ‘pop up’ tools like GetSiteControl currently appear confident that this won’t affect them too much. The most recent dialogue we’ve had included the following:

“….we are taking the matter very seriously. We will do our best to prevent our clients' websites from being penalized for using GetSiteControl widgets. We are planning to send an announcement to our clients later when there is more information.”

If the tools can adapt to offer a more user friendly and Google friendly solution, then this will give us an additional option too.

To discuss how you’re using pop ups on your website, or to discuss Conversion Rate Optimisation more broadly, please get in touch: