7 tips to prevent pop-ups from hurting your SEO


You know them, you love them, and yes, you hate them.

Pop up! It’s a content marketer’s best friend with an average conversion rate of 11.09%.

But using pop-ups is also risky since Google announced it would devalue websites with intrusive pop-up ads in 2018.

So this article aims to dispel some of the uncertainties surrounding pop-ups and SEO.

Here are seven tips for using pop-ups without hurting your SEO.

1. Understand which interstitials are prohibited

Google’s mobile interstitial penalty specifically targets intrusive interstitials.

Note that “interstitial” is a broad term that can be broadly applied to most pop-ups, overlays, and modals, but not all interstitials are considered equally intrusive.

Typically, if your interstitials are spammy, hard to ignore, or diminish your users’ experience, your mobile page may be devalued.

And, since Google’s indexing is now mobile-focused, it can hurt your SERP positions more than you might think.

Here are examples of interstitials that make your content less accessible:

  • Pop-ups covering content that users are forced to close to continue reading.
  • Standalone interstitials must be skipped before users can access your content.
  • Misleading layouts where the part above the fold looks like an interstitial.

You should also avoid ads that Google dislikes and has penalized in the past, including:

  • Classic interstitial ads and splash ads that interrupt users as they navigate between pages and/or before they reach your homepage.
  • New pop-ups that open when a user clicks on your page.
  • Welcome mats, new pop-ups and other intrusive advertisements.
  • Overlay hard-to-close modals and/or easily redirect visitors who accidentally click on them.
  • Lightbox ads and intrusive pop-ups.

Additionally, Google’s John Mueller confirmed that exit intent-triggered interstitials are still allowed.

However, be careful not to rely too much on these. Boring your visitors is never a good idea.

2. Keep using non-intrusive interstitials

Google does not penalize non-intrusive interstitials.

These include anything you are legally required to display to restrict content or keep your users informed, such as age verification interstitials and cookie usage notifications.

Other pop-ups, such as banner ads, sliders, lines, and tabs, that take up a reasonable portion of the screen (15% or less is recommended) are also acceptable, as long as they’re easy to remove. ignore.

If you’re unsure if your interstitials are considered intrusive, I recommend avoiding fullscreen overlays, welcome mats, and ad modals.

Whenever possible, try to switch to the best banners and slider boxes that allow users to continue viewing your content and don’t disrupt the UX too much.

3. Switch to Timed Popups

If you absolutely must continue to use popups and overlays, you can try redesigning them to be as non-intrusive as possible.

One of the most important things you can change is the timing of your interstitials.

For example, instead of displaying a popup as soon as a user lands on your page, schedule your popup when users finish your blog post.

You can also limit how long pop-ups display – a pop-up that closes automatically after three seconds of user inactivity is better than a pop-up that never closes on its own.

Of course, the challenge with this type of interstitial is that timed pop-ups are only as effective as your content.

If your content isn’t compelling enough to make users stay put, click on your pages, and read your content, consider investing in your content marketing before you start plugging it in with ads.

4. Beware of “grey area” interstitials

Some interstitials affected by Google’s interstitial penalty might surprise you.

For example, Muller confirmed that language selection pop-ups on international sites could be devalued, because “yes, those are popups/interstitials too”.

Carefully monitor your page’s performance if you use these interstitials or other “grey areas,” such as sticky sidebars, related posts, share buttons, live chat boxes, and coupon popups.

While I don’t expect this to have a negative impact on SEO, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

5. Be careful with allowed (but intrusive) pop-ups

Some advertisements are definitely interruptive but are not penalized.

These “grey area” pop-ups are allowed, but be aware that Google may crack down on them in the future (they’re definitely heading in this direction):

  • Page-to-page interstitials: According to Muller, Google’s interstitial penalty only devalues ​​interstitials that appear when moving from the SERP to a site page, but interstitials between site pages are still fine. However, we know that Google values ​​good UX, and page-to-page interstitials are definitely not good UX.
  • Interstitials triggered by exit intent: Mueller also confirmed that pop-ups triggered by exit intent are not punished by the new update. Just insert an indexless tag in your code to avoid landing on the wrong side of the interstitial penalty.

Fair warning if you decide to use these interstitials: they may be penalized at some point in the (near) future, although nothing in the new algorithm update targets these interstitials.

The only three constants in this world are death, taxes, and Google making changes for a better UX.

6. You can still use intrusive ads on desktop

Some websites have found a band-aid solution to the interstitial penalty, which is to hide pop-ups on mobile devices and continue to use them exclusively for desktop visitors.

Many pop-up plugins include smart targeting options that allow you to show your ads only on specific platforms.

Some website platforms like Wix also allow you to hide potentially intrusive pop-ups on all mobile devices.

Again, though, intrusive pop-ups that diminish your UX could be punished in a future update.

I recommend that you find more permanent solutions than temporarily hiding your mobile pop-ups.

7. Limit pop-ups to sources other than Google’s organic search

Another “grey area” you could exploit is to only place pop-ups in front of visitors who move between site pages or find your website through sources other than Google’s organic search results.

According to Mullerthese will not be affected by the new algorithm update:

“What we’re looking for are really interstitials that appear during the interaction between the search click, the page journey, and the content view. So that’s kind of where we’re looking for those interstitials .

What you do next, like if someone clicks on things on your website or closes the tab or something, then that’s sort of between you and the user.

Of course, if organic search drives a lot of your traffic and it works to generate leads, don’t feel too pressured to switch.

Remember, the new interstitial penalty is just one signal of hundreds, and an interstitial ad or two won’t sink a website that’s otherwise full of useful content.

Final Thoughts

So here we are, years later websites are still using pop-ups on mobile and ranking well!

Even if it’s new to you, you can breathe a sigh of relief – you probably haven’t been deeply affected by this update.

But if you think Google’s mobile interstitial penalty may have hit your site, check out this article on how to recover.

More resources:


Featured Image: McLittle Stock/Shutterstock



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