Google Announces Issues For Websites Using Intrusive Ad Features

For Lawyers, Doctors, and Dentists

Google recently announced another potential issue to a website’s search rankings if it doesn't adapt to its mobile user-experience agenda. 

Google recently posted an announcement that it will be downgrading websites’ rankings if a website creates undesirable user experiences using pop-up ads or the like. This will go into effect January 10, 2017.

For many medical and legal practices, this would affect websites that utilize “intrusive” live chat forms and promotional pop-up ads, including free offers and inbound content (promotions for downloadable ebooks, consumer resources, etc.).

More Focus On Mobile Experience

Google continues to focus its growth by maximizing the user experience of its mobile users, knowing it continues to be the primary view for reading emails, watching videos, engaging in social media, and simply accessing the Web. 

Earlier, Google gave the ultimatum to online marketers to develop their website in a more mobile-friendly manner, or risk losing credibility and important listings on the Web’s most dominant search engine. Google’s goal in policing its results is to manage its users’ experience on the websites they rank high, and help them find the information and content they are seeking.

All of this emphasizes the need to develop and market with a mobile-first perspective. Thus, building and monitoring your website should start with viewing it and experiencing it as many, if not most of your visitors do, on a smartphone.

Penalties For Pop-Ups

Google refers to these as “interstitials,” but for the majority of clients and consumers, they are known as pop-up ads.  Pop-up ads are not new to the Internet or marketing-focused websites. However, more online content is being viewed on smaller screens and ads are becoming more intrusive, controlling more of the user experience, particularly full-screen ads that cover the entire page and block access to its content.

It is in this environment that Google now targets these intrusive ads with its most recent announcement. On a recent Google Webmaster Central Blog post, Google says:

“Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller.”

It goes on to say that “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

The pop-ups that are the biggest concern are those that block or reduce access to content users want. These ads typically cover the primary content when you immediately or shortly thereafter visit a page and force you to engage, click to remove or provide personal information before you can view the content. One way this can be done is through website programming that displays the ad and simultaneously blocks the main content (standalone interstitial).  Another strategy is to use a layout that positions the ad similar to a standalone ad where it take up the entire display “above-the-fold” of the page and hides the original content below the bottom of the screen and requires scrolling down in order to view it.   

Not all Pop-Ups Affected

In some cases, pop-ups may serve a user purpose or is not intrusive to the point they negatively impact the user experience. In these cases, Google indicates they would not be affected, “if they are used responsibly.”

Some of these unaffected instances are ads that are used to address legal obligations or protect private dialogs. For example, pop-ups that give users the choice of allowing cookies or those that provide age verification because of the nature of the website’s content are not affected. 

One area that creates some questionable grey area in Google’s reference to pop-up ads that would not be affected is banners that use a “reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible.” The example Google used showed a pop-ad that did not take over the whole page and only covered about 25 percent of the mobile screen (vertical display). Although Google did not give details as to what is or is not reasonable, I would suggest sticking pretty close to what the example showed; certainly not more than 50 percent of the screen.

Give us a call at 800-916-3886 or email us if you have more questions about pop-up ads or other items that may be affecting your SEO results, or lead conversion.

~ Bill Fukui, Director of Sales & Marketing

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