A few weeks ago, Google announced they’re making changes to the way they handle certain websites. First, they’ll be removing the label of “mobile friendly” from search results now that more than 85% of sites fit this criterion (meaning they’re responsive to mobile devices).
More interestingly, though, is that they essentially proclaimed website pop-ups dead.
Beginning in January 2017, Google will penalize sites for “intrusive interstitials.” If you're as confused by the word "interstitials" as I was, it means Google is going to ding your site's search ranking if you annoy visitors with pop-ups.
Marketers around the world collectively gasped - then panicked - then went back to business as usual.
Separating the Good from the Bad
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with pop-ups. Many claim they get incredible opt-in rates from them. Others claim the interruption of your user's experience just isn’t worth whatever opt-ins you gain.
The argument for and against pop-ups is two sides of the same coin, boiling down to: “How aggressively annoying do I want to be?”
(An argument can be made that using interstitials in specific, targeted ways makes sense, while senselessly installing them everywhere doesn’t, but that’s not really the point right now.)
And it will most likely be a moot point moving forward because Google is solving the argument for you. Here are the criteria Google will use when deciding whether your interstitials are intrusive:
They’ve also pointed out three types of interstitials that will continue to be okay (if used responsibly).
- Those needed for legal obligations (like notifications of cookies)
- Logins for private content (all that good stuff behind a pay wall)
- Easily dismissible banners that take up little space
If your pop-ups meet these three ok'd criteria, you’re probably fine. If not, you've got three months to figure out a new strategy.
But don’t freak out yet.
Like most announcements like this, people are going to worry about what it all means and ruminate on it's effects. Then January will come and go and things won’t be as bad as most thought.
In short, life will go on.
Besides, you can rest assured it won’t be long before some marketers find entirely new ways to interrupt and annoy visitors. And you’ll be back to arguing with yourself about whether you should trade your customer’s good will for a few extra opt-ins.