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Want to get rid of pop-up ads? Thanks to Google, you may no longer need an ad blocker

The infamous pop-ad is not exactly loved by all web users. To further improve user experience on mobile devices, Google has heard the cries of the internet and has responded with a ranking update that will punish sites for these kinds of ads.

We all know by now that Google loves mobile optimisation (like, really loves it), and now the company is going even further with its quest to keep on improving user experience. In an official blog post Google said that while 85 per cent of pages in mobile results were now optimised for mobile devices, many of them had pop-up ads that block page content, either in the transition from the search results page or as the user scrolls down through the content.

Google’s solution? Push these pages down the search rankings.

“To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly,” Google said.

Which pages will be affected?

Google identified three types of interstitials (as they are described in the Google Webmaster blog post) that will be affected by this planned ranking update.

  1. Pop-ups that cover the main content of the page, either immediately after clicking through to the page or as the user scrolls;
  2. Standalone interstitials that the user has to close or dismiss before being able to access the content;
  3. Layouts where the above the fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been in-lined underneath the fold.

Google example of an intrusive popupGoogle example of an intrusive standalone interstitialGoogle example of an intrusive standalone interstitial

However, not all pop-ups will be punished. Some types of interstitials, depending on what they are used for, will be unaffected by the change.

  1. Interstitials that are in place due to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or age verification;
  2. Logon dialogues for sites where content is not publicly indexable (such as private content like email or content behind a paywall);
  3. Banners that use a reasonable amount of space on the page and are able to be dismissed easily.

Google example of an interstitial for cookie usageGoogle example of an interstitial for age verificationGoogle example of a banner that uses a reasonable amount of screen space

Google also added that even if your page falls under any of the categories identified as intrusive interstitials that it “may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content”.

The silver lining

So, there’s a chance your pop-ups will survive, but it’s important to look at the bigger picture of what this update is aiming to achieve. Users, for one, will be thrilled that ‘annoying’ pop-ups will be removed from the mobile browsing experience, especially as they can be more difficult to close without the aid of a mouse. Initiatives like this might also reduce the demand for ad blockers, third party plugins that prevent ads from rendering on a web page.

Users encounter so many intrusive ads nowadays that they often block all ads to improve their internet experience. It’s possible, though, that they would not take a blanket approach if only the most disruptive, annoying ads were removed from their browsing experience.

A survey by the Internet Advertising Bureau revealed that even though some users install ad blockers, it doesn’t mean they want a completely ad-free experience, and in fact would rather deal with ads than having to pay for their content.

Meanwhile, respondents to a Hubspot study said that in order to support websites that were providing free content they would be fine with seeing ads as long as they were not annoying, with 31 per cent that said they were actually happy not to block ads at all.

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It seems if publishers and advertisers can get the balance right then users will come to the party, and Google is not the only ad-fueled internet giant keen to head off the ad blocker threat. Facebook recently rolled out a new feature that allows users to choose preferences for the type of ads they wish to see or to hide them from their News Feed altogether.

The purpose behind the update is two-fold. Firstly, Facebook wants to ensure that the user experience is as seamless and enjoyable as possible. Secondly, as the social network explained in its official blog post, it wants to convince users that they don’t need ad blockers. Instead, users will have the power to choose which ads they do and don’t want to see so if they are genuinely interested in your product then your ad will still be visible.

“Some ad blocking companies accept money in exchange for showing ads that they previously blocked – a practice that is at best confusing to people and that reduces the funding needed to support the journalism and other free services that we enjoy on the web. Facebook is one of those free services, and ads support our mission of giving people the power to share and making the world more open and connected,” Facebook said.

This method, like Google’s mobile pop-up update, is designed to make ads less annoying. By eliminating spammy ads like ‘Click here for your FREE iPhone’ and ‘You’ve just won $1,000,000,000!!! Click here to collect’, users can become more comfortable with ads from sites that are providing the content the user is trying to access.

In the short term, some marketers and businesses may be affected by the changes, but long term they will help keep the distribution and access of free content alive.

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Amber Denny About the author