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How to use pop-ups without hurting SEO

While our company websites are unlikely to have brash, pop-up adverts on them, it can be tempting sometimes to include pop-up windows making offers. But can these hurt SEO?

We know for sure that Google isn’t enthusiastic about them, on the basis that they get in the way and worsen the ‘page experience’. However, the search engine must be pretty slick by now at identifying the nature of a pop-up’s content, and if it’s necessary, or just a nuisance. It will also be able to detect the difference between something that really gets in the way of the content, and something that puts a simple message at the bottom or side of the screen. So on both counts, there’s no need to worry about low-key privacy/cookies messages. That’s not what we’re concerned with here.

At the other extreme, on a mobile device it’s difficult to have an in-your-face pop-up that doesn’t dominate the screen. There needs to be a really good justification for having one of these if we’re also trying to improve SEO.

One solution I’ve seen proposed is to limit pop-ups to desktop screens, where they can be made less intrusive but still be effective. Remember that Google indexes our sites as a mobile visitor, so it will therefore not see them.

Another idea is to have them appear after a while, or on exit (as a mouse moves to the edge of a window, indicating the user is about to leave). Again, these are far less intrusive and will be considered as such in terms of Google’s ‘page experience’ rating.