“Subscribe to our newsletter and get another 10 percent off on your booking” isn’t the message you want to see when you are trying to read a blog post on a travel site. Pop-ups are annoying, more so if you have a slow connection or are browsing on mobile. While most people will argue that they can increase conversions or subscriptions, you still can’t dismiss the frustration of not being able to find the button that says “no thanks” or “close” on mobile.
That is why, Google has decided that after January 10, 2017, pages with popups that cover the main content may be ranked lower. A blog post by Google says, “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.”
Google has been taking various steps to improve the user experience on mobile and this is another step in the same direction. They have previously pushed up websites on the basis of how mobile friendly they are and if they use encryption. Interstitials that cover the main content while navigating the page, standalone interstitial that have to dismissed before accessing the content or displaying them above the fold might push down the page rankings. As you would expect, pop-ups confirming legal requirements or informing about cookie usage are okay.
It is not necessary that every website using these ads will be affected as this will be just one of the many factors that go behind ranking a page. However, this could have an effect in the long run. Brand and publishers might not like this much but Google’s argument behind this move is pretty reasonable.