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Google will punish sites that use annoying pop-up ads (theverge.com)
274 points by ashitlerferad 40 days ago | hide | past | web | 117 comments | favorite

Does this mean they'll get rid of their own popup ad:

   Get to Google faster. 
   Switch your default search engine to Google. 
   Yes, show me.
There's not even a "No" option.

(Google is my default search engine. I just have their tracking blocked, so they can't check this. Lame.)

I am glad to see I am not the only one who gets this. I use IE at work and it is annoying.

I have also noticed that Google's Captcha is more annoying than it is on Chrome.

I hope this is not too off-topic, but what features are we missing out on in Chrome that are present in IE?

Given that GP specified that they used it at work, it's possible that they don't use it by choice.

Can't speak for everyone, but in my case I've got a lot of old legacy rubbish that I need to access through IE that just won't work through Chrome or any other browser.

We have to keep it around for the admin control panels and management interfaces in some of our older (and not even that old) network hardware. Basically anything pre 2010 that uses frames and other crap like that.

Some require older versions of ie for old plugins to still function.

Not OP, but my employer's internal websites are still stuck in the early 2000s


It is too off-topic.

DuckDuckGo has gotten so much better.

I didn't think it was possible but I switched and I don't miss Google 99% of the time.

The biggest exception I've found is that the maps from open street map don't have street view.

There's Mapillary and OpenStreetCam, but the coverage is far smaller than Google's (what with its virtually unlimited budget).

Watch live TV with YouTube Red.

Yeah, that one's obnoxious. "Not now" - so it just comes back up in a day or two.

Wait, youtube red or youtube tv? Because one of those is a lot more expensive than the other.

One of my truisms is that Google is bad at product, so for all I know, pricing aside, those two are the same thing.

They're too busy having google music and youtube red already being the same thing.

Google is very concerned about ads that visually block text content. But somehow forcing ads in front of videos on YouTube isn't the same exact thing?

Both force an ad to be looked at before granting you access to the content you came for. I don't get the distinction.

Not to defend the ad industry, but I don't think these are equivalent. YouTube ads don't block content so much as they delay it, much like inline ads.

The equivalent YouTube ad would be if it started playing and didn't pause the video you're trying to watch.

There's two kinds of on-video ads on YouTube. The ones that you described, which play before or during the video that you're watching, pausing the video, and then the ads that display in a little overlay at the bottom of the video.

I don't see how either of these would be alright by this new pseudo-policy, but your argument most definitely does not apply to the latter kind.

Not sure I understand. Both are an overlay blocking content. I suspect Google would still punish an interstitial overlay with a countdown timer that dismissed it. If you don't click, YouTube sometimes makes you watch 30+ seconds of ads.

Here's Google's post about it: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2016/08/helping-users-easi...

I've seen a couple of five minute long ads on Youtube. I really doubt anyone intentionally watches them.

To be honest I've seen a couple advertisements that I watched the full ~5 minutes. Both were game trailers that were really interesting. I would have rather had a "click here to view the actual trailer video instead of the ad version" button though. I was sold after the first 2 minutes, but couldn't see the full name of the game until the end.

Game trailers as ads?

Over 95% of the stuff I watch on Youtube is gameplays, collagehumor and tech reviews, yet all my ads are diapers or clothing softeners. I've no idea why their algorithm sucks so much for my account.

Unless they figure you’re already going to buy it and don’t bother targeting you?

I've seen multi-minute prerolls on videos <1min long.

I'll take a pop up ad over and inline any day at least I know it's not a part of the content and the close button is usually in the same place-ish.

In line ads always confuse the hell out of me especially now that they are getting so camouflaged into the content and content sites have the scroll to next piece of content functionality.

Here is something that is equivalent, page level ads, which are identical to what Google calls interstitials -https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/6245304?hl=en

How will Google punish themselves? Or will Google just punish the publishers who bothered to follow their repeated recommendations to run page level ads on their site?

Watched the video, and they seem to rationalize it because the full page ad displays "between page loads on your site".

Meaning it won't show when coming from a Google search, until the user navigates to a second page of the same site.

I guess it's okay to irritate users if it's at least one step away from search?

Why does pausing the video matter? Pausing the video sounds more like blocking content than not.

Google owns one of them, so there's that distinction...

Have you ever seen the little "x" in the corner of google display ads? If you click it, you're asked for the reason you're objecting to the ad. Among them "ad covers content".

Meaning: you shouldn't always assume the worst, especially if there's evidence against it.

The YouTube ads cover the content by design. Google owns YouTube. Google isn't going to take action on their own site.

This option is available only on website. The app doesn't support it. Yet.

I think the difference is the potential for abuse. It's not possible for a YouTube advertiser to make a YouTube ad appear to be a system popup or for it to attempt to take over my browser experience by full screening. Keep in mind, Google has been fine with popup ads until 2017.

It could have to do with the fact that video and text articles are different mediums.

I'll bite. Visually blocking text vs video. Either requires a click (or long wait) to get to the content. What is different?

In fact, there's often less waiting with overlays on top of text content.

The difference is how advertising has been done traditionally. Think about TV vs. print. Advertisements need to be interspersed in both mediums, but how it is accomplished is different based on the medium. Why would it be different just because we now consume both on a different platform?

I say non-skippable YouTube video ads are more annoying and affect more people. Go punish yourself Google. Pathetic.

Maybe Google Search is punishing search scores for YouTube videos because of ads, but since most online videos exist only on YouTube, those results generally still rank highly regardless of the penalty?

Does this apply to twitters full-page sign up pop up?

To deal with that, right click on "Inspect element", mouse upwards until the whole popup is selected, and click "Delete Node".

For desktop.

Not mobile.

(I had, at one point, some 2,000 or so personally modified wepage CSS files under Stylish for just this sort of crap.)

this solution is absurd, do you understand?

It works. You can get rid of many annoying pop-ups and overlays that way. It even works on dumber paywalls.

True, but it isn't very practical and doesn't actually answer the question. It does work, however.

given that it's not automatic and it doesn't work on mobile or for people who have no experience in html, it doesn't work and it should not be even considered as a solution, because internet is not for tech-savy people and this discussion is about marketing and internet advertisement which is for all people.

so no, it doesn't work on a larger scale. it's like suggesting to hack MS Windows checks if provided licence key is valid in order to use OS. It works, but for narrow audience, and we should discuss about how to solve issue for all users.

Do as I say, not as I do.

I suppose it's a matter of practicality - with most text heavy sites you can put ads around the text and it works just fine. But with something like Youtube, that approach isn't really going to be as effective because people generally won't be scrolling around the page.

At least I don't have to play a hidden object adventure game to find the close button for YouTube ads.

This is only really because you're already aware of where YouTube's buttons are and how they work. If you visited any given other website often enough, it'd be more or less the same.

Will they also punish those websites with "activate notifications" pop ups?

I'm so tired of those and there seems no way of blocking, even after blocking notifications in Chrome settings.

Firefox let's you permanently block a site from asking for the notification permission

I've seen a number of sites prompting via a modal that isn't the browser's built-in functionality. If you say no, it just prompts again in a day or two. If you say yes, then you get the built-in (blockable) "enable notifications?" prompt.

Most notably Facebook

I work for an e-commerce company. This absolutely brutalized our sales until we made significant changes to our layout.

I understand that this instance is seen as a net positive for the end user, but Google should not have the power to force websites to conform to whatever Google decides is the new standard, or become irrelevant.

The end user should be deciding what is and isn't worthwhile content, or where to shop, or what have you. Not Google.

What kind of ecommerce company? I do a lot of work in the sector.

Your business is dependent on Google for traffic. You can embrace it and be beholden to platform rules, or you can build a direct audience and brand. The latter is hard but more defensible and there are many case studies to follow of other companies doing this.

Not you either.

If people come in through Google because they are searching for something and instead of arriving at the content that was advertised in search results, see a content covering popup, that's not really informed decision making. I think Google has legitimate right to rank sites that do this lower.

That's more ok for a smaller outfit, but now that Google is abusing their monopolistic market position it's not as ok.

Not to worry, the days of the U.S. government busting up monopolies seem behind us.

If users heard there were better results elsewhere though, they would switch from Google. However, it is more likely that by doing this Google prevents itself from being taken over by a competitor that creates this feature.

Why were you using popups? Don't they annoy you when you are browsing?

As a user, I am deciding to use Google exactly because of features like this and, for example, amp.

Well, I'm more likely to use Google because of features like this...

Performing as intended.

This is from over a year ago

Google later confirmed that the update went live in Jan:


I actually just added a full-screen video popup to a site a few days ago, and I made it so that it won't appear to googlebot. This wasn't for deceptive purposes, just because it wasn't relevant. I only show the video once to users, and it doesn't appear when they go back to the site...it's just a walkthrough of our products, which many people seem to need. I suspect many sites will check for googlebot and not show their popups to avoid this penalty.

Showing something different to GoogleBot than your users is against terms of service, all good until you get caught.

In my own case, I'm showing the same thing as users who have been there > 1 times. I could remove the check and it wouldn't make much difference, as gbot uses cookies anyway.

For sites that always show the popup to users and never show it to gbot, I agree. However I've seen a lot of scammy sites that do this kind of time so I don't know how likely google is to find out about it.

You're not getting "caught", and Google can fuck right off with any "terms of service" that I never agreed to about how I respond when they scrape my site without permission.

I know that there are practical concerns here, but Google has done a masterful job of shaping the conversation so that many people think anything not sanctioned by Almighty Google with regard to SEO (let alone actual "blackhat" tactics) is illegal or immoral.

It's not illegal, but if you're hiding content from Googlebot because you don't want it to derank that page, once they crawl it with an agent that hides the fact that it's Google, they will then derank your whole website.

So it's not illegal, but if you think you're beating Google by doing it, they're well aware of this workaround and will punish you harder.

If you don't care about ranking, then no biggie. But why would you manipulate your web server like that if you weren't trying to rank.

>scrape my site without permission.

No one needs permission to request a web page, and that includes bots. But if that still bothers you, why not create arobots.txt with your preferences?

You’re giving permission to scrape by way of having a page accessible to the general public. If googlebot is bothering you so much, install a two line robots.txt and it’ll go away.

robots can ignore your /robots.txt.

Googlebot, and every other search engine robot of note. Putting a page up on the public internet includes the risk that it may be visited.

And considering the state of the web I doubt there was any punishment at all.

I'm not so sure about that. They change up things a lot. Search is only part of the equation however, people can still buy an add to show you anything they like. So these practices aren't going away, they're just pushed into an arbitrage situation.

How about the sites with the obnoxious "sign up for our newsletter" pop over?

If they can punish those Sumo Me fullscreen popups that ask for your email everytime you're 2 seconds into the page, that would be great.

This was something from January (2017) and trailed in 2016.

It also covers the adsense product - so using google product can affect your google rank.

HOWEVER there are many many news websites that have not been penalised despite a full range of pop ups, interstitial and screen take over adverts.

Anyone from Google able to explain why there is such a discrepancy?

Any idea what would happen to chat boxes that pop up on companies websites? they don't block the content and are there to interact with customers (think olark). Does anyone know if that would lead to lower search ranking as well?

It doesn't matter, ad blocking is here to stay and expand, and it's a ticking clock on this nonsense. How many HN users ever see an ad at this point?

If some people get it their way and the web becomes like a binary blob, it might become harder to block ads across the board.

That is a terrifying proposition, but it might also be the required impetus for an alternative to the web actually taking off, and eventually, over.

Google will take a shot at a 1990's problem that desktop browsers have done away so long ago, that people hardly remember?

This seems rather analogous to digging up a corpse to give it a spiteful kick in the ribs and bury it again.

Given all the SEO spam in the Google search index, it is a misplaced priority to make a target out of sites with popups.

This is good. Also, can they punish sites that download 50MB of bullshit before showing a word on the page?

They do that with amp.

And people scream about it, even though it’s an unambiguously better experience for the user .

That's how a trojan horse works. It has to have an outward reason to invite it in.

This is great. Ideally you look at the % of the page with actual content and % of the page with 'everything else' and sort by % content. Hopefully, this would motivate sites to compete with one another for cleaner UX.

i dont know why they always says this and never fulfill. search 'free porn' and youll see pornhub.com and xnxx.com and they have popups but never get deranked.

They may well be penalizing those sites, but in the porn world, everyone's using those sorts of abusive ads, and being equally bumped down in rank.

I wonder how they detect if something is annoying.

How can sites punish Google? I guess they could switch to non-popup ads that aren't powered by Google...

While I hate ads, I also think google has way too much power already, and this is not a healthy development.

That is laughable. They push full screen pop-up ads within AdSense itself...

Is this true? Afaik I've never seen full screen Google ads (or perhaps I have, but just didn't identify them as such).

They do and have said it would be a negative ranking factor.

So yes, one google product can result in a penalty with another. You will probably make a few quid more on adsense though.

Can they please also punish sites that cover whole page with that stupid cookie warning, thanks.

The legally required one?

...that wouldn't even be necessary if they didn't try to mine the marrow out of you.

Could they just get around the requirement by using the HTML5 storage stuff? It's such a silly legal requirement. There's significant privacy concerns. And they make me close this silly message that has nothing to do with privacy at all.

2016 story FYI.

Like this one I get every now and then across all of their services? http://i.imgur.com/f5NS6GQ.png

Or this infuriating one that hijacks page scroll so it's almost impossible to get to the mobile site: http://imgur.com/a/tNVoP

Or this one for search: https://imgur.com/a/gwrjX

I wouldn't call that an ad. Nor would I condemn Google occasionally reminding users to check their privacy settings. In fact, I encourage it.

That's not google reminding you of privacy settings (in fact if you want to change those this menu is highly impractical with a lot of nesting). This is google making you agree with their T&C to go any further.

Isn't that effectively a legal requirement? That users must make some sort of actual confirmation step to acknowledge the terms for them to be legally enforceable?

I mean, look at my submission/comment history, I'm literally the voice of Google criticism on this website. But it's hard to see how this little diversion has to do with pop-up ads. It's not advertising, first and foremost.

I don't know of any websites that force me to agree to a privacy policy so I can access it while logged off.

Most websites aren't being fined billions by your government!

Particularly when you flush cookies and data on the browser session closing

Coming weeks after headless Chrome is released, wonder if there is a connection.

Not sure what you mean. Google using Chrome headless for crawling? I'm sure their crawling infrastructure was already more than capable.

How else would they detect popups?

I'm sure by now Google wouldn't need Chrome headless to be released for them to have that capability.

Not as bad as Google punishing sites that host conservative/controversial authors and viewpoints:


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