Google will punish sites that use annoying pop-up ads


Google is about to deal a small blow to some of the most annoying ads on mobile: pop-ups and interstitials. It’s not a stretch to argue that readers don’t like these ads. So Google is making a call that websites that use pop-ups and interstitials are worse search results and may rank them lower because of it.

There are a "hundreds of signals" that go into Google’s search result rankings, so it’s not like every website that uses these ads will feel pressured to remove them overnight. If a site with a pop-up still has the best information, it’s still likely to appear first. But this change ought to benefit one site over another when those two sites appear roughly equal otherwise.

Google’s intention is to not just direct people to more informative results, but to results that work better for them — e.g., don’t annoy them with a pop-up — too. This is something Google has increasingly been doing with its search algorithm. Last year it began boosting the rank of "mobile friendly" websites, and in 2014, it began boosting the rank of sites with encryption as well.

As you’re probably aware, not all websites offer mobile sites, and most websites are still not encrypted. So it’s not like every time Google says "jump" that developers and publishers immediately jump. But search ranking is something that most developers pay close attention to — it’s often a major source of visitors — and Google’s continued nudges could make a difference in the long run.

These new changes will go into effect next year, beginning on January 10th. From that point on Google will start lowering the rank of sites "where content is not easily accessible."

For the most part, Google is targeting overlays that gray out the content beneath them to prevent you from reading a website, either for a few seconds or until you find and very carefully tap a little X to dismiss them. These count regardless of whether they load immediately after a page is opened or whether they appear after scrolling a certain distance. On top of that, it sounds like Google will also count ads that create the effect of a pop-up without actually being a pop-up, by taking up most of the page after a site is loaded (you may have seen one of these if you’re reading this article on mobile).

Not all pop-ups and overlays will be counted in Google’s new rankings. Pop-ups needed to meet a legal requirement — like verifying someone’s age — are still okay, as are smaller banners at the top of a screen that use, in Google’s not-at-all-defined formula, a "reasonable amount of screen space."

Publishers are likely to be unhappy about the change, as it’s liable to take away either visitors or ad revenue. And it’s fair to question whether Google should be the one to dictate when ads are and are not acceptable. But that all said, its intention here seems to be pretty reasonable. These ads make websites into slightly worse search results, and Google is going to start treating them that way.


On top of that, it sounds like Google will also count ads that create the effect of a pop-up without actually being a pop-up, by taking up most of the page after a site is loaded (you may have seen one of these if you’re reading this article on mobile).

So maybe the Verge will stop serving ads that are x pixels wide, where x = the width of my screen, whether it’s a mobile screen or a 21:9 desktop monitor? To be fair, I’ve had my adblocker running for a long time so maybe they stopped doing that a while ago.

They haven’t. Content blockers on iOS 10 beta weren’t functioning properly for a time, I noticed The Verge still used massive banner ads. Glad they are working in the beta again.

About those "Reasonable" Banner Ads… Good to see google Taking a shot at annoying ad practices

Has everyone else noticed that virtually every website nowadays uses these popups? Especially when you move your mouse out of the screen in desktop mode, almost every website has some bullshit to say to you before you leave their site.

Is there any way to block these? Since they’re not "ads", adblock doesn’t seem to do anything about them. But they’re still annoying as hell and should be treated like ads.

If you can get into the habit of closing tabs via keyboard commands you’ll avoid some of them. Basically they track your mouse cursor and when it leaves the viewport the ad pops up.

Sure, Google will punish you – unless you’re using Adsense interstitial ads:

Those are okay, I am sure.

And adsense ads were usually the least intrusive ads. Not cool, google.

Yeah, this seems sketchy and a little monopolistic. They’re basically encouraging websites to use Google AdWords over other advertising services.

I hate intrusive ads as much as the next guy, but this is really iffy when there’s business for Google to gain via its ad business.

I don’t know what that article is talking about. Google has had interstitial ad positions for a long time.

Here’s a youtube video from 2013 that demonstrates how to create a multi-page interstitial ad using Google Web Designer.

Our current mobile app has interstitials using Google’s DFP… and it was launched 2 years ago.

It takes an absolute lobotomized moron not to realize that these offensive, irritating, obtrusive automatic popup messages only make site visitors want to close the message and leave the site as soon as possible. It’s counter-advertising to their message and their business. Why would I want to patronize a business that inflicts this type of insult and pain upon me? Yet somehow they persist.

A marketer might argue that, in a business’ interest, it’s better to be known for annoying ads than to be unknown.

Right. It makes your website worse. Makes sense you should appear lower in search results. You’re a worse website because of them.

I also hate those stupid websites that use slideshows or make you click next to read a list. It’s less annoying but still.

Good. Most websites are trash on mobile, especially when you’re trying to read an article and it keeps skipping up & down because it’s trying to load the ads elsewhere.

cough cough "AHEM"

What about PC pop-up ad pages that are linked from Googles New page?

The same crap happens on the PC also. There are sites I won’t even go to anymore, like USA Today, which is a regular mess of appearing and mutating windows. The latest is ads that actually block part of the text on purpose and cannot be closed even after a few minutes. And almost every trafficked site jumps up and down like a drunk rabbit trying to load this, that and the other thing. Watch the little loading lines on the bottom left churning along and you get the impression every site is an inferno of dozens or hundreds of loads. It all stinks. Good for google for going after this crap.

I agree with the idea… maybe Google should start by looking closer to home.

GOOD. Pop-ups and banners that take over my entire screen have made some sites unusable. Like, they crash my news reader app. It’s gotten to the point where I hide ore mute sites that use these types of ads. I have no interest in their content if they treat readers like that. And besides, I’ve found that it’s a pretty safe bet that if a site uses annoying and intrusive ad displays, they probably don’t have content worth reading in the first place. It’s more likely a repost of something that was posted somewhere else for the sake of luring in readers so they can bombard them with annoying ads.
No thanks.

Hmmm…when will they crack down on sites that use huge top banner ads that are resource hogs? It’s almost like you walk into a zoo to see the exotic animals only to have shit thrown in your face by a smiling disabled chimpanzee. Yes, people who put excessively large top banner ads on their sites are chimpanzees; who happen to be disabled from excessive masterbation (that is why they are smiling). You go to scroll down, and the ad just keeps following you; depectively attempting to trick you into clicking it. Glad to see The Verge doesn’t do that kind of stuff.

Reading news articles now especially on mobile is just awful. Sometimes its almost impossible to read the article at all. The page is constantly reformatted, the article itself is full of links to other articles or ADs made to look like legit articles, big fat ads that takes up the whole page and if you don’t scroll carefully it takes you to the ad. Or they put another article on top of the one you actually want to read except that article that looks like news is actually an ad. Its freaking annoying. And its not just the secondary bs "news" outlet. Even CNN, USA today etc. all do this. I’m better off turning the tv onto TMZ.

I hope this includes the shitshow that occurs when I accidentally follow a link to Forbes…

I think it is a business decision by google and not an altruistic move. It is better for google in the long run that surfers are not annoyed by intrusive advertisement. If web visitors keep getting annoyed by ads and turn to adblock as many have already done, it will directly impact google’s bottomline.

Google itself offers interstitial ads for mobile via AdSense so how does their new ranking apply here?

I generally view Google as doing the devil’s handiwork, but this one act may in fact redeem them just a little bit. Assuming they do not discriminate to favor sites using their own ad network that is…

View All Comments
Back to top ↑