Google Wants Pop-Ups Gone by Jan. 10
Starting on Jan. 10, Google says it will slam sites that block content on mobile devices with popup ads and interstitials. On that exact date, most noncompliant websites will drop in search results.
That’s what Google Product Manager Doantam Phan posted on Tuesday in Google’s Webmaster Central Blog. What’s more is sites will stop being marked as mobile-friendly — Google will simply expect that to be the case.
It may be interesting to see if Google’s move revitalizes the display ad business. Google will allow those ads and, coincidentally, offers them, as well. (Ahem, Google Display Network.)
Mark Bauman, CEO of ad block prevention tool provider ReviveAds, says he thinks only Google will benefit from this algorithm update.
"Only time will tell," he says, "[it] could mean higher rates for display advertising or more aggressive forms of advertising out of display."
But there may be a quick fix.
“Convert the pop-up ad into a banner ad,” suggests Michael Bertini, in search marketing at iQuanti, a data-driven digital marketing company that works with Fortune 500 firms. “This should help control the loss of clicks from the pop-up ad."
Meanwhile Publishers may be hit the hardest by this potential ranking drop for mobile sites with “intrusive interstitials.” On Wednesday afternoon, for instance, a Honda video popped up before I could read an article on LittleThings.com.
Publishers could see traffic and revenue plummet as a result, says Jacob Kastrenakes of The Verge on Tuesday in “Google Will Punish Sites That Use Annoying Pop-up Ads.”
Desktop interstitial ads aren't listed as being punished by this algorithm update. Here's an example of a desktop interstitial ad from Target Marketing on Wednesday.
‘Don't Be Annoying’ Is the Long-Term Impact
Who hasn’t clicked on a search result, only to see an ad? If it’s big enough, it makes you think you clicked on the wrong result — because you can’t see the content at all. Or it just won’t move or go away, and you can’t find the way to “X” out of it. The type behind it is gray, so you can’t even read what’s underneath it.
Google says those kinds of popup ads aren’t OK.
“Although the majority of pages now have text and content on the page that is readable without zooming, we’ve recently seen many examples where these pages show intrusive interstitials to users,” writes Phan in “Helping Users Easily Access Content on Mobile.”
“While the underlying content is present on the page and available to be indexed by Google, content may be visually obscured by an interstitial,” he continues. “This can frustrate users, because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result.”
Phan says as of Jan. 10, mobile marketers have these explicit no-nos:
- Showing a popup that covers 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.
Exceptions to Google’s New Rule
If mobile users are determined to click on LittleThings.com and navigate past the Honda video, they can learn about a bride who visited a doctor to have a bug removed. Hey, it’s possible that that will be such compelling content to mobile users that they’ll keep LittleThings.com’s rankings strong.
That’s basically what Phan is saying.
“Remember,” he writes, “this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”
Marketers may qualify for other exceptions to Google’s rule of don’t-be-annoying. Here’s what Phan says can be acceptable uses of interstitials:
- Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
- Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content, such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
- Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.
What do you think, marketers? Did some advertisers abuse popups and interstitials and bring on Google's algorithm update themselves, as Bauman believes? He thinks marketers did so "in the form of java overlays, app store redirects, in the case of Android Phones APKs. As of late, advertisers have been more and more applying this to the interstitials now, causing this trend. In terms of ad blocking and restrictions within the online space, the advertisers themselves are causing this increase in usage of ad blocks and the increase in restrictions by allowing this on. Publishers unfortunately, are perpetuating this by not policing their ad networks and the ad networks not policing the advertisers."
Please respond in the comments section below.