Google is now penalizing pop-up modals on mobile websites

Back in August, Google announced that they were going to make some major changes in the way their search engine indexes and ranks websites, especially on mobile. Earlier this month, they flipped the switch on a commonly used web design patterns which you should be aware of. They are now penalizing most pop-up modals or interstitials on websites.

One of the reasons Google is choosing to do this now is that upwards of 85% of websites are now optimized for mobile devices. This means labeling results ‘mobile-friendly’ as they have done in the past no longer makes a meaningful difference, and websites generally give a good experience. The search engine can thus focus on other attributes that give users a great mobile experience, like not having to hunt for a tiny button to close popups. Google calls these ‘problematic transitions’ and has provided some additional information that would be helpful for web designers and business owners alike.

Popups that will be penalized by Google

While having popups have made a comeback in recent years, Google is now punishing sites that do the following (Quoted from Google’s webmasters blog):

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Here are some examples they have provided.

Exceptions: Popups that will not be affected

However, Google has also gone on to give a few examples of popups that will not affect search rankings, for example, legal requirements such as cookie policy notifications and age verification are permitted. Also making the list are payment gates and banners that ‘take up a reasonable amount of screen space’. Here are the images that Google has shared.

While this is an important development about Google’s search algorithm, it is also worth noting that this is just one of hundreds of signals that Google uses to index and rank websites on their search engines. Thus, you should first and foremost still focus on creating awesome content that your users will find helpful and/or entertaining.