If you are an SEO-news day-to-day follower, August 23rd, 2016 might have been a huge day for you.
Not because it was your birthday (just kidding!), it's because the one and only Google announced two major updates. This time, it's about backlink-related change, but it's about user experience.
The first update is the removal of the "mobile-friendly" label that we usually see next to the website URL on search results.
When you search on mobile, how of often it is to find the "mobile-friendly" label on each result? It's way too frequently because 85% the results shown by Google mobile search are mobile friendly.
So why bother displaying the label if the majority of the search results are already mobile friendly? Maybe that's what Google technicians thought.
The second update most likely will affect thousands of sites, and your site(s) may be one of them.
Have you ever opened a site on mobile, and a huge popup out of nowhere blocks the view of the content you are trying to access?
Or websites that force you to close the popup first before getting to see what the content is about?
Yeah? The good thing is: Google will penalize those websites.
Google's primary objective is to help users/searchers find the content they need fast. And to do so, it's important for Google to "get rid" of websites that slow the process down.
Some examples mentioned by Google in their official statement include:
- Popups that are placed on top of the content covering it. Applies to both popups that are displayed directly after a visitor click the site link from the search results, or popups that are displayed AFTER a visitor scrolls.
- The annoying popups that force visitors to close they can view the content.
- Popups that cover the whole page, and visitors have to close it before they can access the page's content.
If your website has one of the three interstitials above, then you better remove or revamp it.
The update will take place starting from January 10, 2017. There is still a plenty amount of time to re-think a good strategy to replace those "annoying" interstitials.
But wait, will Google penalize EVERY website with a popup that covers the page's content?
Of course not! Only the sites with interstitials that "disturb" the process of searchers finding the content are going to get punished.
Remember that it's all about user experience, sites with popups that cause poor user experience are the targets.
What kind of popups that are safe to keep? Google did provide some good examples, such as:
- Age verification popup before visitors enter the page.
- Popups/banners that do not cover the content, but instead are placed effectively without disturbing the searchers.
Will these two updates create a ruckus or a blessing? No one knows.. yet.
But one thing for sure. The websites that satisfy what the searchers are looking for fast and undisturbedly are going to hit the ranking jackpots.
Be sure to position yourself as a searcher. Open your website on a mobile phone, and re-evaluate how easy or how hard, how fast or how slow, how simple or how annoying your page is.
Finally.. After years of discussions on a single question:
Do popups (the bad practices) hurt SEO?
We can finally answer... Yup!