Google announces search ranking penalties for popups and obscuring content

Using the internet on a smartphone is quite often a terribly frustrating experience. One of the best things about the web, its openness and the ability for anyone to publish anything they want in whatever way they choose, has sadly also given advertisers and marketers free rein to bombard us with junk and distractions as we browse. While that’s probably never going to go away completely, it might at least be about to become less intrusive.

Following the addition of a “mobile-friendly” tag and better search rankings for sites offering a decent browsing experience on mobile devices, Google has announced its next step in not-so-gently encouraging publishers to stop harassing users. In a blog post published yesterday, the search giant described new checks that could see sites using “interstitial” content suffer penalties to their search engine rankings. You already know what “intersitials” are even if you don’t recognise the name; those needy fullscreen popups begging for likes, follows, feedback, your email address, pretty much anything other than the thing you actually arrived on the site looking for.

This is awful. And now Google says so too.

This is awful. And now Google says so too.

Popups and interstitials are a huge source of frustration for users, but they serve the interests of publishers by collecting likes and follows from people just trying to get the junk out of the way so they can continue what they were doing. As wonderful as the lawless web is, it’s good to see a major player step in and impose a few ground rules, and enforcement will come in the only form some of the worst offenders will pay any attention to: a hit to prized search engine rankings.