Marketers are often faced with the same difficult question: whether to use pop-ups or not? Google has been devaluing pop-ups for some time now, along with other interstitials that might harm user mobile experience.

Pop-up advertising can be highly effective: high-performing pop-ups have a conversion rate of 9.28 per cent. But they can have a damning effect on your SEO, as Google works to penalise websites that contain intrusive, unwanted interstitials.

What’s more, many users will avoid visiting a website that doesn’t contain a healthy balance between the use of pop-ups and a positive user experience.

So, if you don’t want to ditch the interstitials but want to avoid a hefty Google penalty, what are your options?

Here are three tips on how to use pop-ups without harming your SEO.

 

Know which interstitials will harm your SEO

Google’s mobile interstitial penalty specifically goes after intrusive, unwanted interstitials. “Interstitial” is an umbrella term that can be applied to most pop-ups, modals and overlays. This being said, they do contain different degrees of what is perceived as intrusive.

Typically, if your interstitials are hard to dismiss, spammy, or diminish your visitor’s experience, your mobile page may be devalued. Furthermore, because Google’s indexing prioritises mobile, this may harm your SERPs ranking more than you know.

The following are examples of interstitials that you should avoid:

  • Content-covering pop-ups that visitors are forced to exit to continue reading.
  • Standalone interstitials that have to be dismissed before visitors can see your content.
  • Deceptive page layouts whose above-the-fold section appears to be an interstitial.

You also want to avoid ads that Google has penalised in the past, including:

  • Classic interstitial and splash ads that interrupt visitors as they navigate between pages and/or before they get to your homepage.
  • New window pop-ups that appear as soon as a visitor clicks on your page.
  • New window pop-ups, welcome mats and other intrusive ads.
  • Overlay modals that are difficult to exit and/or easily redirect users who accidentally select them.
  • Intrusive pop-ups and lightbox ads.

Finally, Google has confirmed that interstitials triggered by exit intent are okay. However, you don’t want to rely too heavily on these, as they will only frustrate visitors who go to your website for a different reason. This will indicate a poor user experience and will harm your SEO regardless of Google’s position on them.

 

2. Stick with non-intrusive interstitials

Google won’t penalise you for using non-intrusive interstitials. These include anything you’re legally required to display to keep your users informed or to restrict content, such as cookie use notifications and age verification interstitials.

Other pop-ups, such as tabs, inlines, slide-ins and banner ads are okay, given they don’t take up too much of your screen (15 per cent or less is recommended) as well as being easy to dismiss.

If you are unsure as to whether your interstitials are considered intrusive, simply avoid using ad modals, welcome mats and screen overlays. Where possible, attempt to switch to slide-in boxes and top banners that allow users to continue engaging with your content without harming user experience.

 

3. Convert to timed pop-ups

If you genuinely have to continue using pop-ups and overlays, you can create them to be as non-intrusive as possible.

One of the main things you can alter is the timing of your interstitials. For example, instead of displaying a pop-up as soon as a user visits your page, time your pop-up for when users have finished viewing your content.

You can also set a limit on how long your pop-ups will be displayed. A pop-up that automatically closes after three seconds of user interaction is better than one that doesn’t close on its own accord.

There is a challenge with this type of interstitial in that timed pop-ups are only as efficient as your content. If your content isn’t engaging enough to retain website visitors, then you have to consider investing in your content marketing campaigns before using these timed pop-ups.

 

Conclusion

Interstitials can be an important method for business owners to advertise their goods. However, there is a fine balance between displaying pop-ups that Google will penalise or not. Furthermore, you don’t want to flood your website with interstitials that your users will hate, as they will only leave your website in frustration.

So, by following the above tips, you should be able to steer clear from the interstitials that will only harm your website and stick to those that can be highly effective for your digital marketing strategy.

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