Google has reiterated its resolve to discourage websites with pop-up and interstitial ads.
Per a recent blog post, from January 10, 2017, such websites will be penalized and their rankings will come down in SERPs (or Search Engine Result Pages).
This is what Google says: Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller… This can frustrate users because they are unable to easily access the content that they were expecting when they tapped on the search result.
Here are some examples of techniques that make content less accessible to a user:
- Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
- Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
- Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.
By contrast, here are some examples of techniques that, used responsibly, would not be affected by the new signal:
- Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
- Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
- Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.
Of course, there are exceptions like the interstitials that ask a user to install a mobile app. This is necessary and Google is not going to penalize it.
However, remember, this new signal to identify pop-up or interstitial ads is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has relevant content.