Why Interstitials Hurt SEO & Rankings

Will using interstitials on your website hurt your keyword rankings, impressions, or SEO?
It’s tempting to use adverts or attention grabbing UI on your website, especially in the form of interstitials—those pop-ups, overlays, and modal dialogs that can either be a minor nuisance or a major barrier to content accessibility.

However, it is true that interstitials can cause negative effects to your website’s ranking and allow you to fall out of favour with Google’s guidelines.

What’s The Problem With Interstitials on Landing Pages?

Interstitials, by design, are meant to capture user attention for promotional or legal purposes.
However, when poorly implemented, they can significantly detract from the user experience, leading to frustration and, ultimately, a negative impact on a website’s SEO and ranking.

This can be done through a variety of ways…

Why Are Interstitials Problematic?

  • Obstruct Content Access: Interstitials, popups, or modals block immediate access to content, requiring users to take an extra step to reach the information they sought initially.
  • Harm User Experience: A poor user experience can increase bounce rates (and other metric changes like time-on-page), as visitors may leave the site rather than deal with intrusive interstitials.
  • Affect Mobile Usability: On mobile devices, where screen real estate is limited, interstitials can be particularly disruptive. Not all users have the largest screens, most responsive devices or fastest connections to download extra resources.
  • Slow Down Search Engine Crawlers: Interstitials can also make it difficult for search engines to crawl and index content, potentially leading to a decrease in search visibility. Google may need to come back with a specialist JavaScript bot, or move away from mobile-first crawling, for example.

Interstitial’s Impact on SEO and Rankings

Google’s policies and guidelines around UI/UX are quite clear when it comes to the specific issues caused by this type of modal…

Intrusive dialogs and interstitials make it hard for Google and other search engines to understand your content, which may lead to poor search performance. Equally, if users find your site hard to use, they are unlikely to want to visit those websites again, including through search engines.

Google’s Search Central Documentation on Interstitials

What Problems Are Caused By Interstitials?

  • Decreased Page Accessibility: Interstitials can lead to lower page accessibility scores, affecting SEO.
  • Increased Bounce Rates: Frustrated users are more likely to leave a site without interacting further, negatively impacting SEO metrics. These typically happen moments after a popup, modal, or interstitial appear on the page.
  • Lowered Engagement Metrics: Intrusive interstitials can reduce time on site and pages per session, both important metrics for SEO.

Solutions and Best Practices

Mitigating the negative impact of interstitials on SEO and user experience involves strategic planning and implementation of best practices.

Designing User-Friendly Interstitials

  • Timing is Key: Display interstitials at natural transition points or after the user has engaged with the site for a sufficient amount of time. Instantly halting a users view and obstructing it with a banner or popup will undoubtedly cause negative affects.
  • Keep It Minimal: Use banners or smaller notices that do not obstruct the entire view of the content. The larger the intrusion, the more negative of an effect it will have. The same is true for messaging, requests, and forms.
  • Easy Dismissal: Ensure interstitials can be easily dismissed without confusion. Clear and instant access to remove the popup will work best – don’t make them work for it.

Implementing Alternatives to Interstitials

  • Use Banners: Opt for smaller, less intrusive banners for promotions and notices. A banner pinned to the bottom of the screen keeps your content visible, while requesting user attention when they feel available to give it. The downside is that you don’t always guarantee and interaction – privacy and consent banners suffer here for example.
  • Leverage Browser-Supported Solutions: For app installs, consider using browser-supported app banners that are less intrusive.
  • Utilize Common Libraries: For standard functionalities like newsletter sign-ups, use common libraries and plugins that are designed to be less intrusive. These third party companies typically have millions of data points to help them design sleek, minimal, and more effective solutions.

Conclusion

By understanding the problems associated with intrusive interstitials, recognizing their impact on SEO and rankings, and implementing the solutions and best practices outlined in this guide, website owners and marketers can navigate the delicate balance between promotional strategies and user-centric design.

Google’s Search Central documentation on how to avoid intrusive interstitials and dialogues can help you understand why you should implement best practices to improve SEO when using modals, popups, and similar styles of UI/UX.