Answered: Are Pop-Ups Bad for SEO?

We’ve had a lot of questions from clients recently asking if pop-ups will hurt their SEO.

  • will pop-ups impact rankings?
  • will I get a Google penalty for having a pop-up?

There’s a divided opinion about this,  lots of great articles and some Google’s guidelines, but unfortunately the answer depends on lots of variables.

The fact is, there are plenty of factors Google considers when looking at pop-ups and this article should answer lots of your questions by giving some sound advice on what to include and what exclude on your site when thinking of pop-ups.

The don’ts of Pop-ups

Pop-ups in a New Window:

Pop-ups that open up in new window or tabs, usually as a form of advertising, are a no go.  Google does not like these and they’re horrible for a user.  These can also be disabled by most browsers usually through the form of a pop-up blocker or something similar. If you’re considering a pop-up which appears in a new window – don’t.  Try and think of a different method.


Interstitials are also a big no! These are elements which pop-up in your browsing window usually containing a form of advertising, maybe for a third party, and can also stop a user from continuing on the page for a number of seconds. Google hates these and users hate these too. Don’t use interstitials unless you want to hurt your rankings and annoy your visitors.

The do’s of Pop-ups*


Overlays are small elements that pop-up in the same browser and usually ask you to fill out an email address in return for something of value such as a newsletter. They can also feature a link to an e-book (or similar).  The information tends to give value to the user, and they also get the chance to refuse. Google is a lot more lenient on these and you probably see them quite often as you browse through different websites.


Very similar to overlays, however these tend to contain a bit more information for a user to fill out – such as name details, email address and more data capturing elements. Modals pop out right over the content you are viewing but you also get the option to close it which will allow you to continue engaging with the website you’re on. So long as the information is useful, and isn’t spam or advertising, you’ll be OK.

*Pop-ups which are deemed ‘OK’ for SEO are still subject to a lot of crucial factors (which we’ll cover below), and these still have the potential to harm your site depending on the content.

How can I minimise the impact Pop-ups have on SEO?

A lot of factors govern this, however crucially user experience is a massive one, as Google is all about user experience.

Content for the user, not third parties:

A crucial thing here – if the content helps enhance the user experience on the website, such as the option to sign up or log in, then great – there’s nothing wrong with this.  If you’re advertising for a third party such as the download of a third party App, then I’d recommend against this because it takes the user away from website and Google dislikes that type of behaviour.

When does it appear?

It’s common for pop-ups to appear as soon as you land on the page, but apparently timing can make a huge impact.  Search Engine Journal recommends that you try timing the pop-up to appear after a visitor has read your content.  Also control when pop-ups close – keep the timing to a minimum here.

Can a user close it?

It helps if a user can close the pop-up as soon as it appears.  You’ll also get a much better idea about your leads when you can distinguish those who take the time to fill out some information or submit an email to those who don’t.

Be Careful on Mobiles:

With the mobile Index approaching us, Google is rapidly watching out for websites who might not fit this new searching experience. Make sure any pop-ups you add that may appear on mobile keep content visible and don’t stop a user from reading it.

Consider removing the element for visits from search engines:

There are features on pop-ups which you can control to stop them appearing from visitors who find you by search.  If you desperately want your pop-ups but are worried how it will impact your site, exclude them from search visitors.  However, keep in mind that if search is where most of your traffic comes from then your pop-up will see less engagement.

Take Aways – how to measure what works:

As we said – Google loves to give a good user experience and websites that harm this tend to find themselves lower down the rankings.  Moz go into some great detail about the above so if you want to do some more digging read their article, or contact us if you’re concerned about your website.

So long as your pop-ups are not giving a poor user experience then you should be OK. However, it’s likely that as soon as you introduce a pop-up to your website a user metric will be impacted (such as bounce rate, time spent on site, returning visits). Only you will can decide if the value you gain from a pop-up is worth trading for those metrics.

Would you like to talk more to Harry about pop ups or how you can improve get more leads from your website? Fill the form in below and we will get back to you

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