Google Is Out to Kill ‘Sign Up for Our Newsletter’ Pop-ups

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“Interstitials” — those pop-up boxes on websites exhorting readers to sign up for newsletters or like pages on Facebook that pop up — are both deeply irritating (to readers) and highly useful (to publishers desperate to retain and entice those readers). And like all things useful to publishers, they are now subject to an attempted murder: Today, Google announced two important changes to its search algorithm that will penalize sites in search rankings for using interstitials.

Google explains:

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. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.

The email-solicit neg has become a common tactic among large publications (including this one! Ha ha, please like us on Facebook, and so on). If, for instance, you don’t want to sign up for our email list and want to clear the interstitial, you have to click “No, I don’t want smart takes on tech.” According to people in the know, this passive-aggression is effective. Also: Who doesn’t want smart takes on tech, such as this very post?

But it’s also annoying, and now Google is putting a stop to it. Sites using standalone interstitials or ones “[s]howing a popup that covers the main content” will be dinged in search rankings. That means sites will have to come up with other ways to guilt you into signing up for an email newsletter you’ll never open.