Pop-ups, do they impact SEO?

Understanding the SEO impact of Pop-ups and Overlays, and discovering SEO-friendly pop-up strategies.
inblog Team's avatar
Jun 05, 2024
Pop-ups, do they impact SEO?

In the world of SEO, every element on your website plays a crucial role in determining your visibility on search engine results pages.

While pop-ups and overlays have the potential to boost user engagement and lead generation, poorly executed ones can disrupt user experience and incur SEO penalties from search engines. For instance, overlays are typically deemed acceptable for SEO; however, penalties may arise if they appear upon the initial load of an organic or paid landing page.

Before delving into some best practices, let's take a look at what a certain form of pop-up called "intrusive interstitials" is and then move on.

What Are Intrusive Interstitials?

In 2016, Google introduced guidelines regarding "intrusive interstitials," which are pop-ups that can hinder a user's access to website content.

Also, the document "Avoid intrusive interstitials and dialogs" being included in the "page experience" section of the Google Ranking and Search Appearance document indicates a significant concern that they could negatively impact user experience.

Avoid intrusive interstitials and dialogs

These guidelines target specific types of pop-ups: those on mobile that cover the main content immediately after landing from a search engine. In other words, pop-ups that appear a few seconds after the visitor has scrolled or triggered a mobile exit-intent script are not considered a problem.

Google mainly focuses on improving user experience, especially on mobile devices, and ensuring that content is easily accessible without unnecessary obstacles.

Examples of intrusive interstitials

When Google first talked about this issue in 2016, it gave some examples of intrusive interstitials:

Intrusive interstitial examples from Google.
  • A pop-up that covers the main content immediately after a person navigates to a webpage from the search results or while they are looking through the page.

  • A standalone interstitial that a person has to dismiss before accessing the main content.

  • A webpage with above-the-fold content similar to a standalone interstitial where the original content is inline underneath.

Pop-ups that are OK include:

  • Interstitials for legal obligations (like cookie usage notices or age verifications)

  • Login dialogs on sites, such as to access private content

  • Banners that are easily dismissible and don’t take up too much space on the webpage

  • Desktop or tablet pop-ups

Interstitial examples that are OK per Google.

Why Do Intrusive Interstitials Matter?

Intrusive pop-ups on websites significantly degrade the user experience for mobile users, which can consequently harm your website's SEO rankings.

In 2017, Google introduced penalties for intrusive interstitials(link) and has announced that Google will reinforce its emphasis on the mobile search experience with a new penalty affecting "intrusive interstitials" on mobile web pages.(link)

January 10, 2017 update: Starting today, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high. As we said, this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking and the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content. (link)

With interstitials playing a role in Google's latest page experience algorithm update, it's clear that intrusive pop-ups are incompatible with a mobile-first approach.

How to Use Pop-Ups Without Putting Your SEO at Risk

In our research for an SEO-friendly pop-up for our Inblog product's lead capture form, we identified three crucial strategies:

Prioritize User Experience

While pop-ups are a favorite tool for marketers, they are often disliked by web users. In a recent survey, 82% of respondents expressed their aversion to pop-ups(link). This sentiment can impact SEO since Google considers user behavior in its ranking algorithm(link). If pop-ups lead visitors to leave a site promptly or shorten their stay, it could adversely affect SEO.

However, studies cited by Ott Nigulis in a CXL article revealed that pop-ups did not significantly affect bounce rates or session durations(link). While poorly executed pop-ups might increase bounce rates, the right pop-ups can enhance the user experience by suggesting additional content or product recommendations, thus potentially reducing bounce rates and increasing session durations.

Using pop-ups inappropriately may lead to penalties from Google, and it's reasonable to assume that they could indirectly impact SEO if they compromise the visitor experience.

Consider the following factors for user experience:

  • Avoid covering content on mobile devices with pop-ups.

  • Ensure easy dismissal of pop-ups.

  • Pay attention to pop-up sizing and clickability on mobile; ensure the exit button is clickable on all devices.

Adjust Your Pop-Up’s Timing

Google has explicitly expressed its disapproval of pop-ups that appear immediately, as highlighted in both the "intrusive interstitials" article and the Search Quality Raters' guidelines.

This still leaves us with several options for displaying your pop-ups:

  • Introduce a delay before showing the pop-up.

  • Display the pop-up on the second page visited during the session.

  • Implement a scroll condition (e.g., show the pop-up once the visitor has scrolled through 50% of the page).

  • Utilize exit-intent pop-ups.

These options offer an additional advantage, especially if you're using pop-ups to collect emails. By allowing visitors more time to explore your services before prompting them to share their email addresses, your leads are likely to be more qualified.

a correlation between scroll depth and conversion rates

Depending on the type and purpose of your content, there are studies indicating a correlation between scroll depth and conversion rates, with users scrolling past 50% of a page being more likely to convert.(link)

Leveraging this insight, Inblog presents pop-ups at the critical 50% scroll point as a form of lead capture for its content, targeting readers who are most engaged and likely to convert.

Optimize Your Modals for Mobiles

Understanding and improving User Experience (UX) is important, especially when it comes to mobile devices. While UX covers a lot of ground, focusing on mobile experience separately is key because it's really crucial. Google doesn't always give clear SEO guidelines, but it's super important to follow their rules about pop-ups and ads on mobiles. They want these to be as unobtrusive as possible.

So, for mobiles, there are two main things to think about.

First, when you use pop-ups, they shouldn't take up too much of the screen, usually just 20%-30%. This keeps things looking clean and makes it easier for users to see what's on the page.

For mobiles: stick to 20%-30% of the screen

Second, it's really important to make it easy for people to close those pop-ups. On mobiles, tapping can be tricky, so the close button should be a good size, usually between 42 and 72 pixels, and not too close to the edges of the screen.

To sum up, making sure mobile users have a great experience is a big deal. Follow Google's rules about pop-ups and ads, keep them small on the screen, and make sure they're easy to close. That way, people can enjoy using your site or app on their phones without any annoying interruptions.


  1. https://www.bruceclay.com/blog/page-experience-intrusive-interstitials/

  2. https://wisepops.com/blog/SEO-friendly-popups

  3. https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2016/08/helping-users-easily-access-content-on

  4. https://developers.google.com/search/docs/appearance/avoid-intrusive-interstitials

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