December 13, 2016

Google Is About to Crack Down on Mobile Pop-Up Ads

Imagine your dog eats something horrible. In a panic, you pick up your phone to check with Google whether the material is toxic, but you can’t access the content you need because it’s hidden behind a massive pop-up advertisement.

Now, you have to scroll endlessly to find the tiny “x” in the corner of the screen, while Fido’s life slowly ticks away. You may even click on the advertisement by accident, and wind up on a different page altogether. Locating the exit button isn’t always easy on a mobile pop-up advertisement. Oftentimes, it’s purposely hidden.


While mobile pop-up advertisements are aggravating for customers, they are also an issue for Google. Google, after all, must ensure that the pages it suggests at the top of its search rankings are relevant and accessible for users. This is what keeps customers from going to competing search engines like Yahoo and Bing. The last thing Google wants is to suggest websites that users can’t easily access.

For this reason, Google is taking action to reduce this practice. On Jan. 10, 2017, Google will begin enforcing new rules that govern the way businesses can use pop-up advertisements on their mobile websites. According to the Google Webmaster Central Blog, pages that contain content not easily accessible to a user when transitioning from mobile search results may not rank as highly in its search results.

The company is going after a type called “interstitial” advertisements, which cover the whole interface of an application or mobile Web page. Stand-alone and deceptive interstitials will also be targeted by Google.

“Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible,” Google stated on the Webmaster Central Blog. “This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller.”

If you are concerned about how this new rule will impact your advertising partnerships, you can rest easy. Google is not banning pop-ups altogether. The company will continue to allow them, as long as they are displayed responsibly.

For example, banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space will still be allowed. Plus, pop-ups that are necessary for legal purposes (like announcing cookie usage and asking for age verification) will not be targeted. What’s more, Google will still allow login dialogues on websites where content is not publicly indexable—like with private content, or content that exists behind a paywall.

Keep in mind that nothing is set in stone with this announcement. The terms are liable to change as Google gets closer to the Jan. 10 deadline, so it’s important to check the Google Webmaster blog periodically to make sure your mobile practices are in line with Google’s strict SEO requirements.

Here is our take on the matter:

We’re not telling you to avoid traditional Web advertisements. They can be very useful for certain purposes. For example, you may want to highlight a new product or push users to sign up for certain packages. Pop-up ads can be an easy way to get customers to take quick action.

We can advise you, though, to be smart about your use of pop-up advertisements, and to consider taking more of an educational approach to advertising.

In other words, supplement your traditional advertisements with informative and persuasive multimedia. A reader may not click on an advertisement. But he or she may read a blog post or watch a video on the product, and then click on an advertisement for more information. 

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