Pop-Ups To Be Hit With An SEO Penalty By Google

Google recently announced that pop-ups and other content-covering visuals will affect a site’s ranking in search engine results. Certain types of pop-ups and interstitials will be exempt. If the content is restricted to those over the age of 18, for example, a pop-up asking users to verify their age is essential and won’t affect the rankings. Google is looking to discourage the sort of visuals that block content with a special offer or another type of announcement. Why? Well, because they are annoying.

This begs the question of why web designers and site owners are using a tool that annoys their audience. The goal is to please the audience, to make their experience on your website so positive that they recommend it to others. To succeed at this, their engagement must be natural. Holding the content visitors have come to see hostage with a pop-up or interstitial asking them to join a mailing list is ham-fisted. It forces the audience to reconsider how valuable your content might be to them.

A more effective approach is to consider it from the audience’s point of view. Making empathy for the audience a fundamental part of web design creates a better user experience (UX). And it is not hard to understand why a good user experience encourages more engagement and ultimately leads to more sales.

Google’s announcement shouldn’t send everyone running to eliminate all pop-ups and interstitials. It should, instead, encourage us to think about how every element in a website affects the user experience. What makes the site easier to use? What reduces the number of errors a user makes?

What causes frustration and what increases satisfaction?

The answers depend on who your audience is. Young, educated, tech-savvy professionals may approach a website with different expectations than their parents have. The notion of having empathy for your audience is not just trying to make things easy for them; it is understanding them well enough to know what will make their user experience better. Pop-ups and interstitials aren’t the real problems. They are just symptoms. The root problem is focusing on the site owner’s needs instead of the site users.

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