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Google: Sites Can Safely Display Pop-Ups On Temporary Basis

Mobile sites can display pop-ups on a temporary basis without being penalized in search results, according to Google’s John Mueller.

Google: Sites Can Safely Display Pop-Ups On Temporary Basis

Google’s John Mueller says sites can display pop-ups without being affected by the mobile interstitials penalty, as long as the pop-ups are temporary.

Since the intrusive interstitials penalty was introduced in 2016, the word from Google has been to avoid showing pop-ups to mobile visitors or risk having your pages devalued in search.

Now we’ve learned it’s safe to display pop-ups on mobile, at least for a limited timeframe.

Penalizing intrusive interstitials isn’t high on the list of priorities for Google’s web spam team, Mueller says.

This topic is brought up during the Google Search Central office hours stream held on January 22. A question is submitted from a site owner asking about using a mobile pop-up for a limited period to capture leads.

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The site owner wants to run a survey for a week and direct visitors’ attention to it with a pop-up.

Can the site do that without being devalued in search results?

Here’s what Mueller says.

Google’s John Mueller on Pop-Ups and Mobile Search

Mueller says it’s unlikely a site will be devalued in search results for temporarily displaying pop-ups to mobile visitors.

Even if Google did devalue the site it wouldn’t be removed from search results. It could even end up ranking despite the pop-up.

What’s referred to as an interstitials “penalty” is more of a subtle ranking factor, Mueller explains. While subtle, it can can count against a site in Google’s search rankings to some degree.

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If you’re going to use a mobile pop-up, Mueller recommends not leaving it up long and not showing it to every visitor that lands on your site.

“I don’t think we would penalize a website for anything like this. The web spam team has other things to do than to penalize a website for having a pop-up.

There are two aspects that could come into play. On one hand we have, on mobile, the policy of the intrusive interstitials, so that might be something to watch out for that you don’t keep it too long or show it to everyone all the time.

With that policy it’s more of a subtle ranking factor that we use to adjust the ranking slightly if we see that there’s no useful content on the page when we load it. That’s something that could come into play, but it’s more something that would be a temporary thing.”

Let’s say you start showing pop-ups to mobile visitors, and intend to do so for short time frame, but Google picks up on the signal right away. What happens then?

It’s not something that will count against your site permanently. Mueller says Google will move on when it recrawls your site and sees the pop-up has been removed.

“If you have this survey on your site for a week or so, then during that time we might pick up on that signal, we might respond to that signal, and then if you have removed it we can essentially move on as well. So it’s not that there’s going to be a lasting effect there.”

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Lastly, Mueller adds that sites can run into problems if they display a pop-up in lieu of proper content. It’s best not to do that as Google will index the content in the pop-up which will hurt rankings.

“Another aspect that you want to watch out for is if you’re showing the pop-up instead of your normal content then we will index the content of the pop-up. If you’re showing the pop-up in addition to the existing content, which sounds like the case, then we would still have the existing content to index and that would kind of be okay.”

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Hear the full question and answer in the video below:


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Matt Southern

Lead News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt ... [Read full bio]

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