After fishing through the search results page for an article you thought would provide answers, you click a promising-looking link and are ready to delve into the content, but then a large box or tab pops up immediately in front of that sentence you were reading. It can act as a minor annoyance in some instances- you pause your reading and find the ‘X’ to press. In other instances, these pop-ups are truly spammy, either difficult to close or in a new tab entirely. On a mobile device, navigating away from these pop-ups can be a time-consuming task.

Google is all for making the search experience better for the user, and is less concerned about the SEO-adjustments marketers will be forced to make. As a result, effective January 10, 2017, Google is lowering the rank of those sites that have intrusive pop-ups. The overall goal is to make websites more easily accessible for those on mobile.

Some examples of ads that Google is considering intrusive:

  • Pop-up ads covering the main content. This includes pop-ups that come up immediately and ones that come up while scrolling the page.
  • Standalone interstitials, forcing users to dismiss before accessing main content.
  • Above-the-fold ads that are similar to standalone interstitials, with main content below the fold.

There are some exceptions to this roll-out. Pop-ups deemed reasonable and permitted include:

  • Pop-ups required because of legal obligation; for instance, age verification.
  • Login dialogs for content that is not publicly accessible.
  • Banners taking up a reasonable amount of screen space.

Note that newsletter sign-ups, a common standalone interstitial, are not exempt from this policy change, so marketers will need to find creative new ways to boost newsletter sign-ups. Or they can take the hit. It’s worth note that there are hundreds of signals that rank content, so those sites that perform well with other signals or are highly relevant may not be affected.

Another important change in the update will be the removal of the ‘mobile-friendly’ label. This label has existed since 2014 to make search results easier to navigate on mobile. Since then, 85% of sites have been mobile-optimized, so to eliminate clutter, the label is being removed. Mobile optimization will still, however, be a ranking factor.

Adapting to Google’s Changes

Because this update doesn’t roll out until January, marketers will still have roughly 4 months to respond and come up with creative solutions in response to the loss of the pop-ups and interstitials. Digital marketers should be excited by this new challenge, rather than frightened by it. Google has always focused on making the service better for the user, and each update only makes search more efficient for everyone. The evolving SEO and general marketing landscape will always force marketers to evolve.