In the world of online marketing, best practices can change quickly. What’s on-trend and all the rage today can be tomorrow’s fad that waned and failed (here’s looking at you, Flash). When it comes to pop-up ads, modals, or interstitials, you may find yourself wondering what’s okay and what’s not anymore. We often get questions such as, Are pop-ups bad for SEO? Or, What are Google’s rules on pop-ups?
(First, a quick note on terminology: You may see the words pop-up, modal, or interstitial used. These all have slightly different technical applications, but let’s not get hung up on words. For the purpose of this blog post, we’re talking about anything that’s not part of the standard web page itself and presents itself to your website visitor over the regular content in some form during their visit.)
It’s true that pop-ups in some forms can be very beneficial; after all, various studies show pop-ups can be effective and produce some impressive conversion rates. We know it can be difficult to get a visitor’s attention when they come to a page on your site. You do your best to make bright, colorful buttons and clear calls to action, but a pop-up or interstitial commanding the screen certainly gets higher visibility.
Stats on Highest Converting Pop-ups vs. Average Converting Pop-ups from Sumo.com:
However, we also know that pop-ups or modals, when done incorrectly, can also be obnoxious and aggravating. Google calls these types of pop-ups or interstitials “intrusive” because they know that they detract from the overall user experience on a site. When deciding if pop-ups are bad for SEO on your site, you need to look at the pop-up itself and how or when it’s displayed.
Questions to ask:
- Does the pop-up or modal show immediately after someone lands on your site?
- Does it fill the screen (especially on mobile), or otherwise block the main content of the page?
- Does it force people to exit out of it before they can see the page content?
- Is it for a purpose other than providing necessary legal info (such as a cookie notice)?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may want to reconsider as these types of pop-ups can be bad for SEO. From an organic traffic standpoint, in 2017 Google implemented a ranking signal that penalizes sites using these “intrusive interstitials”, particularly for the mobile visitor. This means utilizing a pop-up has the potential to lower your organic rankings. From the paid traffic side, if you’re utilizing Google Ads you should be especially careful with pop-ups or interstitials. Google’s Destination Requirements in their ads policy states that, “Websites with pop-ups or interstitials that interfere with the user’s ability to see the content requested” are not allowed. Violate this rule, and you may have your ads disapproved.
How can you take advantage of pop-up benefits, without doing the things that make pop-ups bad for SEO?
- Avoid pop-ups or interstitials that cover much of the main content. Slide-ins, tab style, or even banner ad style call-outs can all be quite visible without aggravating visitors.
- Consider timing: If a visitor is seeing your site for the first time, do you think they’re likely to sign up for something immediately when they land on the site? Let people see some of your content before you present them with a pop-up. Consider triggering the pop-up instead once they click on something, or perhaps once they’ve scrolled down the page more and shown engagement.
- Make the content simple and relevant. Don’t present a long, drawn out proposition; state shortly what you want them to do and make it valuable. If you’re reading this post on pop-ups and SEO, which offer are you most likely to sign up for: a free download of an SEO guide, or a webinar on Facebook advertising? Relevance matters.
If you’re going to use pop-ups, tread carefully. Incorrect use not only makes your visitors frustrated, but also can make pop-ups bad for SEO. If you’re struggling to get the right amount of leads, there may be other solutions to try (or problems on your site that need to be addressed.) If you need help, contact us today.