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Google Popup Update

Thank you Google Popup Update!

Popups have always been a nuisance to anyone that has ever visited a website with them.  They get in the way of trying to read content and take away from the user experience.  Google had known that for a long time, but it took them a bit before they did something about it.

It was January 10, 2017, when Google announced that it was going to start to punish sites with mobile popups.  These were popups that were considered to be intrusive to the experience of the user.

The Age of the Smartphone

The update that came from Google in January of 2017 came at a time when smartphones were taking off.  In the year 2015 alone, nearly 1.5 billion smartphones sold.  These included Apple iPhones, as well as Android devices.  As of today, the majority of the use of the internet is coming from mobile devices.

There is just so much content that is being viewed on phones, whether it be an Apple iPhone or Android device.  Google knew that it had to take action and it certainly did by fighting the popups that harm the user experience.  The latest update was a testament to just how seriously Google was making the mobile game.

Lower Rankings

Google, with the update that it put in place in early 2017, was going to start to rank sites lower due to them having popups.  These were popups that were considered to be intrusive to the user.  The act by Google goes hand in hand with the many other changes that it is making to improve the mobile search experience.

Defining an Intrusive Popup

What exactly is considered to be an intrusive popup?  Google identifies it as being a popup that covers the main content of a page.

The three types of these popups include popups that appear immediately after clicking through to the site, or those that show up while a user is scrolling.  The second type is a popup that you have to click away from before you can then get to the main page.  The third is one that looks like a welcome mat but is an advertisement that you have to scroll by to get to the page.

Exceptions to the Rule

The only exceptions that Google is perfectly fine with include popups that have to be there for legal reasons.  Take an example of a site that is advertising alcohol.  The site has to have a popup that makes sure that the user is of age to consume alcohol.  Verifying ages and such is not considered to be having a popup that instructive.

Login boxes are also considered to be perfectly acceptable by Google as long as the content, once the user is logged in, is supposed to be private.  Email login pages are a perfect example of this.

It all comes down to the value of the content that you are putting out there, whether or not it is worth reading to the average user.  If you have high-quality content, you should be in good shape.

The Goal of Google

Google is on a mission to try and get as much quality content to the top of search engine results as possible.  When a user is out there and operating on Google, the hope is that the will be able to get what they want, as soon as they start to search for it.

The push towards mobile started back in 2015 hen the search engine giant rolled out mobile-friendly tags.  It has only expanded since then, but there has always been that frustration that users still end up on sites that are not mobile friendly.

Google does not have to worry about this so much anymore, as over 85% of sites are now mobile friendly.  The focus has shifted away from sending users to the mobile-friendly websites and instead of sending them to those that have the best content.

No Popups, Please

The big issue that Google has with popups is that the visitor on the page cannot read the content once they arrive.  They have something that is blocking their way.  It is like if you want to watch television, but someone decided to put a poster over the tv.  You have to get up and remove the sign just to get a good view of what is on.

While you can usually just click away from a popup by hitting an X button or exiting away, they are still going to be there and messing with your ability to view content.

Popups Alternatives

There are some things that sites can do to help to get around the popup issue.  A perfect example of this is the idea of a scroll box.  The scroll box works by only appearing after a reader has been able to get through a certain level of content.  This is usually cone by the site based on a percentage.  Consuming a specific portion of the material will trigger the scroll box popups to appear.  If you read that much content, the contextual popup may be value add.


The popups are still very valuable to sites to gain subscriptions, people that want to get e-mail alerts and such of new content that is coming out on the site.  Due to this, you want to get creative with how you use popups, while not harming the rankings that you get on the Google search engine.  Scroll boxes, as mentioned above, are a great way to do that.  They do not block the whole page of a user so, allowing for a quality experience.

If you are running a website, you are going to want to get rid of any mobile popups.  The Google popup update that went into place in January 2017 started to rank sites lower that had these popups.  The immediate impact was harsh.  This is only the beginning as Google continues the push to mobile, so sites need to start to react and prepare now for what is to come in the future.