In my opinion, there is not a better way to annoy me than to flash a Popup on my screen when I'm visiting a website. When I'm viewing and reading a page, there is nothing worse than a popup that takes over the screen and forces me to disrupt my reading in order to click on the "close" button on the popup so I can continue browsing the webpage. It is so frustrating to me, that most of the time, I will just back out of the page and move on. I also find that websites that are heavily padded with banner advertisements (especially the flashing animated kind), are also obtrusive, and cause me to bounce right out of the website.
Well, now Google has announced that it will be penalizing websites that have those annoying popups that block users from reading the page, which is not good for a website's SEO and ranking. As Google has always done, it is looking for websites that provide the best user experience and good information and content, so blocking a user's view of content with a popup (such as a "Subscribe today!") is not considered beneficial to the user and therefore the page is not as valuable to readers as pages without the annoying popups. Google is doing this mainly due to it's developing stance for mobile-friendly viewing, as popups on mobile are very disruptive and prevent users from viewing the page content that Google sent them to the website for to begin with.
Above: Examples of interstitials that make content less accessible. Source: Google Webmaster Central Blog
Many of my clients ask for subscription popups, as the marketing arena always touts "capture your users' information," but I believe that you can have a simple subscribe form or link users to your social media platforms on your page without having to pop it up right in their face to the point of obnoxiousness. If users really like your business or products, they may choose to follow you on social media or subscribe to your email newsletter because they actually want to, not because a popup form is forced upon them.
According to the official statement, Google will start cracking down on websites that do the following:
“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 (popup) 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."
Google listed three types of interstitials that “would not be affected by the new signal” if “used responsibly.” These are:
Above image Source: Google Webmaster Central Blog
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
So, if you want to be a SEO Hero, make sure you are thinking about what is best for your users. Over time as Google continues to evolve how it uses signals to rank websites, one thing I know for sure – Google wants the website to be user-friendly and packed with new and original information relating to the subject searched. So make sure your website is designed to be user-friendly – think: "What can I do to make my site as informative and useful to my users as possible?" ... NOT "How can I force more users to subscribe?"
If your website is built for your viewers to provide information, in the long run, your website will stand the test of time and Google and search engine ranking!