Google Now Penalizing Mobile Websites With Popup Ads

Ad Industry News
Last updated: August 30, 2019 | by Kean Graham

This post was most recently updated on August 30th, 2019

Popup ads. Everyone’s been annoyed and even frustrated by one at some point in their lives. It can really be offputting to be interrupted by some ad in the middle of consuming digital content. It’s even worse when it happens on the tiny screen of a mobile phone. A lot of times you can’t even close the popup ad and you just end up leaving the site and never coming back.

And this is exactly why a Google algorithm update will take effect on January 10 to penalize mobile websites with popup ads. Yup, if you’ve got a mobile site running popup ads then you’re most likely going to see your rakings go down. Google has actually announced this way earlier back in August 2016. You can check it out here.

According to Google, they are doing it because:

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

To be clear, though, they’re not penalizing all popups. Below are examples of techniques that will cause a mobile site to get penalized:

Examples of popup techniques that will cause a mobile site to get penalized

  • 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.


And below are examples of popup techniques that when used properly will not be affected by changes

  • 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.


Honestly, we think it’s about time these changes have been implemented. Unwanted popups don’t help in user experience and it doesn’t help anyone in the end. Unless of course this was a popup ad perfectly timed and offering something a user is begging for.

But it’s rare that these things happen and even then there are other ways to serve users an offer. We’ll talk more about that in the future. For now, if you’ve got a mobile website running popups then make some changes!

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