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Google Will Closely Monitor Mobile Sites with Hard-to-Dismiss Popups

Google Will Closely Monitor Mobile Sites with Hard-to-Dismiss Popups

Google has announced that starting January 10th, 2017, they will more closely monitor mobile websites that feature hard-to-dismiss popups and may punish sites with lower rankings if the popups degrade the user experience. In this in-depth guide, we’ll explain the details of Google’s policy change, best practices for mobile interstitial ads, and tips to audit your site and avoid potential ranking penalties.

What are Hard-to-Dismiss Popups?

Hard-to-dismiss popups, also called interstitial ads, refer to advertisements or notifications that take over the entire mobile screen when a user visits a page[1]. Common issues with these pop-ups include:

  • The “X” close button is tiny and hard to find
  • Tapping outside the pop-up does not close it
  • Content is obscured until the popup is dismissed
  • Popups automatically open video or link the user off-site

While popups are an effective monetization strategy, they can seriously degrade the mobile user experience if not implemented carefully. Google’s goal with this policy change is to discourage designs that make content inaccessible.

Details of Google’s Policy Update

Here are the key points about how Google will treat hard-to-dismiss popups starting in January 2017:

  • Sites with popups that cover content or have no obvious close option may see ranking drops.
  • Standalone interstitial pages before content requires dismissal will be penalised.
  • Popups for logins and legal obligations should not be impacted if designed well.
  • Google will evaluate on a case-by-case basis rather than blanket penalties.
  • Monitoring technologies can discern best practices from intrusive implementations.
  • Sites are encouraged to test alternatives, like offering dismissal options for mobile.

The policy aims to protect the mobile user experience while still allowing helpful notifications when done right. Google wants to discourage intrusive designs without punishing all popup usage. Proper testing and monitoring will help sites stay compliant.

Audit Your Site for Compliant Popups

To avoid potential ranking issues, sites should carefully audit all pages for popup compliance.

  • Check every page’s popup behaviour on mobile screens
  • Identify any covering content or hard-to-dismiss designs
  • Inspect standalone interstitial pages practices
  • Consider testing alternatives like removing popups on mobiles
  • Monitor pages you aren’t sure about designs
  • Document findings for necessary optimisation

Services like [IPS] offer comprehensive website audits to analyse popup usage across a site. This identifies any violations requiring fixes and also notes designs that may warrant testing improvements. Proactive auditing is key to staying compliant.

Best Practices for Mobile Interstitial Ads

When used appropriately, interstitial ads can still enhance the mobile user experience. Here are some guidelines:

  • Make the “X” close button big/clear; avoid tiny text or icons
  • Ensure one tap outside the ad closes it
  • Do not automatically play video/link off-site on open
  • Only show after significant user interaction, like scroll
  • Limit interstitials to one per page visit
  • A/B test alternatives like removing on mobile
  • Monetize responsibly without hurting user flow

Sticking to these best practices helps create compliant pop-up designs that still provide value without harming the user experience or search rankings. Proper testing optimises compliant approaches.

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FAQs About Google’s Mobile Popup Policy

Here are some frequently asked questions about Google’s policy update:

Q: Does this only apply to ads or any popups?
A: The policy refers broadly to any type of hard-to-dismiss popups, including notification messages in addition to ads.

Q: Will pop-up usage hurt my mobile SEO right away?
Google won’t immediately penalise sites, but designers are encouraged to update before January 10th, 2017 to avoid potential future issues with non-compliant pages.

Q: Are pop-ups still allowed on desktop sites?
A: The policy specifically targets the mobile web experience. Popup usage may be evaluated differently for desktop and mobile versions according to their impact on usability.

Q: Can I still show popups if the X is big enough?
While an easily dismissible design helps, Google advises testing alternatives like removing popups entirely on mobile to be safest. Compliance is evaluated case-by-case.

Q: How can I check if my site may be impacted?
Conducting an audit of all pages with tools like IPS can surface any potential violations for testing improvements before the policy change date.

Key Takeaways

To summarise, the main points website owners should take from Google’s impending policy update on hard-to-dismiss mobile popups include:

  • Carefully audit all pages now to identify any potentially non-compliant pop-up designs
  • Consider alternatives like removing interstitials entirely on mobile
  • Follow best practices for an easily dismissible, high-quality user experience
  • Changes targeting intrusive ads may not penalise all popup usage, depending on design
  • Stay updated as Google evaluates on a case-by-case basis after January 10th, 2017
  • Proactively testing improvements helps avoid potential mobile SEO penalties

By making any necessary changes before the deadline and continuing to monitor pages, sites can help ensure their mobile user experience and SERP performance are not negatively impacted by this new policy.

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