Earlier this month, Google made a change which sees the use of popups and interstitials on mobile sites receive a slight demotion in the search result rankings. Google has made some types of popups exempt from the change, but of course SEOs are looking for other use cases where Google might turn a blind eye to the use of other types of popups or interstitials.
A question came up about popups that display for searchers when they first land on the site from the Google search results, when the popup is for the searcher to choose which language or country they prefer. While the use of hreflang could prevent some of this, some sites still prefer to go old school and ask the searcher to choose.
However, John Mueller has confirmed that these types of popups would be impacted by the popup and interstitial change.
@Modestos_ yes, those are popups / interstitials too.
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) January 17, 2017
Google has made some exceptions for some types of popups which are exempt from the change. For example, age verification and cookie use are exempt and a site will not be impacted for these types of legally required popups. However, this clearly is a popup used for convenience rather than for legal reasons.
John Mueller discussed the same topic last week, but offered a solution to those who want the customer to have control – a banner solution such as Amazon employs for some countries.
@kloeberdavid @methode depends on the specifics. Personally, I find that obnoxious & prefer a banner as a user. Eg, Amazon does it great.
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) January 12, 2017
When I go to Google.com from Canada, the desktop gives me a popup asking if I really mean to be on Amazon.com or if I want to be on Amazon.ca. But on mobile, they do not use one at all.
Bottom line, if you have a country or language selector popup or interstitial on mobile, you will be impacted by the change. So best practices are to remove it, use hreflang to handle this type of targeting automatically or to switch to a banner style instead.
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