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Should popups be a negative ranking factor?

     
5:37 pm on Jul 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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If you click on a google search result to go to an article, sometimes you only get to read a few words when a big popup appears and covers what you're trying to read (in some cases you can still see the edge of the article but not enough to read it). The popup might have an ad or infomation about a premium membership, etc). Sometimes you can see a way to close the popup, but not always. If you can't close it, then you can't read the article.

I seem to be encountering more and more of these popups lately. So my question is, should google demote pages and websites that employ them? what's your opinion?
7:16 pm on July 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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aristotle - I'm encountering these more and more as well, and they are growing increasingly persistent. They generally gray out the page, and want you to subscribe to the site's newsletter. I encountered one the other day that simply wouldn't go away. They're going to be hard for Google to ignore. Yes, they are truly obnoxious.

As I potential Google quality factor... I would describe them as the temporal equivalent of ads above the fold. Instead of interfering with my viewing of the page because of position, they're interfering with the time sequence. And though there's no actual page redirection, they are similar in effect to redirects, as they're not the content you expected. Again, not the kind of thing that Google likes to see.

I don't know how hard they are for Google to detect. To the degree that they cause visitors to return to Google search results, they are likely to send clear negative signals that the current algorithm can catch.

Worth noting that the particular site that returned the one that wouldn't go away a few days ago now has a very clear exit "X" to click on. Perhaps it was A-B testing to see how pushy it could get before it lost me completely.
7:59 pm on July 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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They already are indirectly a negative ranking factor. Huge pop-ups are a turn-off and that leads to fewer people wanting to link to your site. I agree it is annoying and it would be nice to see them go away but it would be hard for Google to code this as a negative factor without many false positives.
8:07 pm on July 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I would consider anything that has a significant negative impact on user experience to ultimately have negative impact on search ranking.

For me these include:
  • Pop ups, sliding ads, auto-expanding ads (anything that obscures content and/or require being closed to interact with the site)
  • Pup unders
  • Auto-playing music or video
  • Pay walls
  • Odd sized fixed height/width sites
  • Significant flash content
  • Too many ads (not just above the fold)
8:46 pm on July 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'd add mouse-over ads to your list. My mouse often wanders around... :(
9:00 pm on July 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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If I never see another interstitial ad again in my life it will be too soon. One company in particular seems to be *everywhere* the past few weeks.

As far as I'm concerned they should count as a negative, but they probably won't. I understand the need to monetize traffic, and most of my personal sites are ad supported, but it's hard for me to believe that the few pennies interstitials might bring in are worth pissing off your users. Seems a very short term strategy to me.
9:03 pm on July 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I would consider anything that has a significant negative impact on user experience to ultimately have negative impact on search ranking.

One should hope. There have been a few recent threads about search engines reading js files. Usually it's presented from the positive side: to get a full understanding of the page, you need to read and parse the scripts. But it's just as important from the negative side. Most humans-- outside of, ahem, the present venue-- do have scripting enabled by default. So if a script does something that annoys the user-- up to and including making them hit the Close box forthwith-- the search engine needs to know about it.

:: idly wondering just how many sites in real life have scripts masquerading behind the exact name "piwik.js", because if they didn't exist, why would search engines keep asking for the file? ::
9:10 pm on July 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Here's something similar, but maybe even worse. You read 3 or 4 paragraphs of an article, then you see the message: "To read the full article, become a premium member."

There's also another variation of the popup: Some of them close automatically after a time interval. One day I was looking for a way to close one of them when I noticed a "countdown" in a lower corner with about 20 seconds left. That gave me time to return to the search results and open a couple of more tabs while I waited.
9:29 pm on July 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Maybe one reason these aren't flagged right away is because the action may not be apparent on the page and is activated according to settings in a configuration file. I don't know about Joomla and Drupal, probably they would use AJAX; in WordPress, a plugin would handle it and the actions after loading might not be apparent on the page itself. Need to look into that..
9:45 pm on July 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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It's a tricky question, because some of the biggest and most respected media sites use interstitials (either paid ads or subscription pitches). As much as I might like the idea of, say, The New York Times getting dinged for shoving ads in my face, I'd probably prefer an in-depth New York Times story with an interstitial to a Huffington Post story without one.
10:39 pm on July 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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a big popup appears and covers what you're trying to read

Those things seem to be getting more and more common, and increasingly annoying.

But so far I've been able to get most of the info I want to see elsewhere.

Should they be a negative ranking factor? I suppose it sounds odd, but I'm not sure about that.

In the meantime I can always vote with my mouse and wallet.

Today another one popped up on site that was selling stuff in the multiple tens of thousands of dollars.

[...Wanna see what we're selling, register first!
No.
You have thousands of competitors that would probably be happy to sell me the EXACT widget, not similar, the SAME widget, I wanted to see on your site, and then you'd get to split the profit with them. Yup, that makes good business sense...]
2:08 am on July 15, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I would love to see sites with pop ups demoted, they drive me insane.

One site I visit has a pop up on everty single page nagging you to become a member. It just doesn't let up, I find it particularly frustrating as I do most of my browsing on my iphone and find pop ups a bit harder to delete on the phone as the X is often off the screen and you have to fiddle around dragging it back on there. Once, per site visit I could just about swallow, but not every time you move to a different page.

Rant over.
5:58 pm on July 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I would like to see many of these sites banned.

Some have multiple pop-ups. Firefox asking if you would like to "Install" an app for this site popping up. EU cookie compliance. Then, a survey or email request pop up. Two or three boxes to close before you can see the content!

My favourites are those that ask for a survey asking what you think of their site...before you have seen the site!
12:39 pm on July 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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God yes, pop up ads are considerably more annoying for users than above the fold ads can ever be! Sites that run popups without the user clicking an item to view the ad (like onload event) should be buried in the serps!
 

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