Category

SEO News & Updates

Pop-up Ads: Does Google Hate Them?

By | Internet Marketing Service, Search Engine Marketing, search engine optimization, SEO News & Updates, seo tips

The internet as we know it today wasn’t always the way it is. Advertisers saw the potential reach of the internet back in the early 90s and started using it aggressively to advance their marketing goals. And the pursuit of capturing the internet user’s undivided attention resulted in the creation of the revolutionary pop-up ad. Today we’ll be discussing how pop-up ads were invented and why Google has come to severely penalize websites that use them.

First, let’s talk about where pop-up Ads came from and their history…

Pop-Up Ads: A Brief History

Back in the early 90s, there were less than 4 million internet users in the entire world. But the internet was gaining popularity at a swift pace and by 1995 the total number had grown to 16 million people. This rapid growth was something that marketers and advertisers could no longer ignore and soon the world of online advertising was born.

The first online ads were nothing more than images with some marketing text in them. These are now more commonly referred to as banner ads.

By the late 90s, online advertising was commonplace and advertisers were working hard at finding new ways of getting the internet user’s attention. But there was a problem. Advertising technology was still in its infancy and that led to online ads being placed on random websites. As one car company found out when they realized that their ads were being served on an adult website, which they believed would negatively affect the reputation of their brand. Thus, online advertisers had to find a way of disassociating the ad from the website they were being served on. This effort indirectly led to the invention of the pop-up ad.

Ethan Zuckerman, the inventor of the pop-up ad, designed it to cover a part of the website’s content underneath it. The pop-up ad had its own design so it stood out from the website it was being served on. This created a strong disconnect between the website and the ad itself and so the reputation of the brand being advertised would stay intact (in theory), while ads could still be served freely on any kind of website.

The pop-up ad proved to be a hugely popular way of advertising online. By 1997, popular websites such as AOL and the New York Times were pushing advertising through pop-ups.

This popularity was one of the major reasons for the pop-up ad’s demise. It was being overused, and that led to people being frustrated because of the way it hindered access to a website’s content. A study conducted in 2004 found that 95% of internet users reacted negatively to pop-up ads.

How Pop-Up Ads Work

Pop-up ads work through the use of web page scripts (predominantly JavaScript) that allow them to jump in front of the website’s content. Pop-ups may appear as separate windows or as part of the web page, obscuring the content of the web page being accessed, to instantly catch the attention of the visitor. Want to find out what Google thinks of your website? Get a free SEO report here!

Pop-up ads are designed to deliver “in your face” advertising. They’re something that cannot be missed and usually needs to be closed. Because the pop-up is guaranteed to get at least one click (meant to close it), it can be misused to instead redirect that click to another website. This is why most people find pop-up ads to be a deceptive or misleading form of advertising. In worst case scenarios, pop-up ads have been known to run malicious scripts designed to collect sensitive data or install spyware.

What Google Thinks of Pop-Up Ads

As annoying as pop-up ads were, they were never really on Google’s radar and as such the search results of a website with pop-up ads weren’t affected. According to our Search Engine Optimisation specialists, that quickly changed as smartphones gained popularity and a bulk of searches started to come from mobile devices.

From 2015 onwards, Google started implementing some new search engine measures that favored websites providing good mobile user experiences. The first of these measures was the mobile update which was announced in the autumn of 2014 and rolled out on April 21st, 2015. This update included search results which showed a “Mobile-friendly” label for websites that had been optimized for mobile devices.

Google SERP Penalties for Intrusive Pop-Ups

The push for better mobile user experiences led to Google penalizing websites that showed intrusive pop-up ads (or interstitials, as the company calls them) in early 2017. According to Google, an intrusive pop-up is anything that takes unreasonable amounts of screen real estate and generally impedes the user’s access to a website’s main content. The following are clear examples given by Google of pop-ups it deems to be intrusive:

  • A pop-up/interstitial that is displayed on top of a page’s main content immediately after a user has navigated to that web page from Google search results. This can also include pop-ups/interstitials that are displayed while the user is reading the content.
  • A pop-up/interstitial that forces the visitor to dismiss/close it before the content of the page underneath can be accessed.
  • A pop-up/interstitial which has been incorporated into the design of the page and appears at the above-the-fold portion of the page, with the original page content appearing after the interstitial.

Examples of Pop-ups/Interstitials that negatively affect Google SERP rankings

This, however, shouldn’t be confused as a blanket ban on the use of pop-ups, for advertising or otherwise. Google just wants to discourage the use of intrusive pop-up ads that lead to a sub-par mobile user experience. The company has set clear guidelines for the types of pop-ups/interstitials that will not cause penalties for websites:

  • Pop-ups/interstitials that have to be used due to a website’s legal obligations. These can be age verification dialogs (for websites with mature content) or cookie-usage policy disclosures.
  • Pop-ups/interstitials that block access to a website that provides paid access to its content. The interstitials could be used for providing customers a way to login or to block the general public from accessing the original content of the page. An example of this would be news websites where a user needs to pay a monthly or weekly fee to be able to access the website’s content.
  • Pop-ups/interstitials/banners that take a small amount of screen real estate and can be easily closed by the user. Some common examples of this would be notification prompts or app-install banners that are shown in an above-the-fold portion of a website.

Examples of pop-ups/interstitials that are permissible according to Google

The Reasons Behind Google’s Dislike for Pop-Ups

1. Pop-Ups Lead to Subpar Mobile User Experience

Smartphones have limited screen real estate due to small physical display sizes. A pop-up ad can potentially take up all of the screen’s available space, thus forcing the user to either dismiss or follow through on what the Ad wants. This leads to frustrated users and a bad mobile experience in general.

2. Pop-Ups Disrupt the User Experience

The pop-up was invented to create a strong disassociation between ads and the websites they were being served on. Needless to say, this clearly hints at the fact that pop-ups rarely deliver content that is relevant to the website’s visitors. Not only that, but they’re also frustrating to encounter as they hinder access to what the user is really there for – the website’s content.

3. Pop-Ups Encourage Aggressive Advertising Tactics

Pop-ups have been designed to grab a user’s attention whether they like it or not. Pop-ups that are displayed successfully will always be able to show their content to the user. This has given advertisers the opportunity to include ‘click-bait’ content that is designed to get the most amounts of clicks. The focus here is not on the quality or relevance of the ad, just the number of clicks it can get from visitors.

Important Factors of Pop-Ups that Impact SEO

Pop-up ads can have a direct impact on the overall success of the SEO strategy of a website, even when Google’s penalties are not taken into account. We have seen this happen first-hand at A.P. Web Solutions.  The following factors should be considered when implementing pop-up ads on a website:

1. Timing

The timing of a pop-up ad can often decide whether it’s going to be considered as intrusive and frustrating by the user. Pop-ups that are displayed immediately after a webpage is accessed, are deemed intrusive by both Google and most internet users.

As such, it is advisable to display such pop-ups after the user has browsed a certain length of content on the page. Ideally, pop-ups should be displayed when the user has reached the end of the content and is likely to leave the page. If the user likes the content, they’re more likely to click on the pop-up and not leave with a bad impression of the website. If you want to consider hiring professionals to do the job for you, learn more about SEO pricing here.

2. Interaction

A pop-up should be easily dismissible by the user. This can include a clear “X” mark at the corner of the pop-up or a button which closes the pop-up ad. Considerations should be made to close the pop-up if the user clicks outside of the pop-up (this shows intent to access content).

Final Thoughts

The pop-up ad has revolutionized the way online advertising is delivered to web users. However, user response to this has been overwhelmingly negative. That is why most modern web browsers now include built-in pop-up blockers. But the pop-up ad is not going to disappear any time soon – it still remains a reliable way of capturing the attention of a website’s visitors.

SEO Update Jan 2018 – Google’s Page Speed Announcement

By | search engine optimization, SEO News & Updates, seo tips, SEO tools

On 17th January 2018, Google announced an upcoming update that will supposedly come into effect in July 2018 and will affect rankings directly. They are calling it…

“The Speed Update”

Now, page loading speed has been a ranking signal for 4-5 years already. You might have read some of our other articles talking about the importance of faster loading speeds. So why is this important? What has changed?

Well, in total there are more than 200 factors in Google’s algorithm that are “ranking signals” which affect your website’s placement in the search engines. But not all ranking signals are created equal and some of these are far more important than others. So while “page speed” has been a ranking signal for some years, it was rather low on the list and has become more and more important over the last year. And now with this announcement, it safe to say that it has made the Top 10 List.

In other words, fixing your page speed will no longer be optional in the near future if you want to rank. It used to be that a specialist could rank a website without maximizing the website’s speed but this is no longer the case. The last thing you want is to build a great looking website, only to find out people are getting frustrated because it takes too long to load!

fix your page speed SEO update 2018

What exactly is considered “fast” page speed?

We finally have a specific answer from Google. Their current benchmark for fast-loading web pages is…

3 seconds or less

So basically if your site does not load in less than 3 seconds, your rankings will likely take a hit. Google has mentioned the rankings will be affected on mobile devices. But remember that Google is well on their way to moving towards a “Mobile-first index” meaning that their Mobile Index will become primary (which has also been estimated to go fully live in 2018)

When does this Update come into effect? The real deal

Google’s official announcement says July 2018 but we know from history how misleading those dates can be. As it was with the Mobilegeddon update of 2015, it is likely that Google has already started rolling out this update. It is much more practical for them to roll it out over a period of months rather than suddenly in one day.

What can you do about it?

The time to take action is NOW to make your website lightning-fast to load, which secures not only your rankings but provides a better experience for your potential customers and website visitors (thus helping with conversions). Google generally reveals very little information on how to get organic traffic so when they make an announcement like this, it is certainly something you should address.

First things first. You need to know what your site’s current score is.

To check this, go to gtmetrix.com and note the following numbers: PageSpeed Score & Fully Loading Time (in seconds), both highlighted below:

While a grade of B+ or B used to be perfectly fine, your website really needs an A to perform well in 2018 and beyond, with a loading speed of 3 seconds or less.

If your scores are less than that, get in touch with us and we guarantee to boost your Site Speed as high as possible and get that Grade A score.

Don’t Take Shortcuts

If your website is built with WordPress, it can be enticing to simply install a plugin that promises to fix all your page speed issues in an instant with one click. You don’t want to do that! Why?

  1. While there are some plugins that can effectively take care of issues that might be contributing to page speed issues (such as suppressing large images), there’s isn’t a single reliable plugin that can fix ALL those issues.
  2. Plugins create conflicts. The more you install, the more you make your site vulnerable, both in terms of functionality and security.

It is best to do the work manually, especially delicate work like minifying JavaScript & HTML. Getting a plugin to do this sort of work is literally asking for a disaster. So it is best to get your SEO expert involved!

A.P. Web Solutions is an SEO Agency based in Melbourne, Australia and working with local businesses all over Australia to help with getting organic traffic and leads. More information here

Google Updates: Security Warnings HTTPS & Google My Business Posts

By | Internet Marketing Service, search engine optimization, SEO News & Updates

There have been 2 main updates from Google this month:

Google’s Security Warning

You MAY have received an E-mail from Google recently about the importance of securing your website with an SSL certificate.

converting your website to HTTPS, installing SSL certificate SEO update

If you have NOT received this email, it is probably because you do not have Google Search Console installed on your website, which is the only channel Google uses to communicate with website owners.

The email warns website owners that starting October 2017, Google Chrome (the most popular internet browser) will start displaying “Not Secure” warnings to visitors to your website, unless you have the SSL certificate installed (which converts your website from HTTP:// to HTTPS://).

This is another step from Google towards their long-term goal of making ALL websites secure with SSL certificates and marking all others as “not secure”. This 2014 blog post from Google’s official blog explains their long-term goal of making all websites secure with the https encryption and also hints that it is a ranking signal.

In the past, this applied mainly to websites that carried out transactions and where users had to enter payment details within the site itself. So it was mainly a consideration for E-commerce stores and such. However, this new update changes the landscape even for local SEO and businesses that do not transact from their website.

So jump on the safe side and install an SSL certificate on your website!

We are providing this service for a $150 one-time fee per website. If you would like us to do this for you, click here to pay by Paypal. And please note that you must provide Hosting information for us to be able to install the SSL certificate on your website. You can also ORDER THROUGH THIS PAGE.

Once you pay, we will get in touch by email requesting the information we need.

 

Google My Business Posts

Yet another great update from Google to enable businesses to make Posts that appear directly on the results page!

In other words, when people search for your business name, in addition to your Maps listing showing on the right, a “post” can also now appear just below it. These posts are much like Facebook and Twitter updates, except that they appear directly on Google and people do not need to follow you or even know about your business, to read them.

They can be used to promote events, discounts, promotions etc. Here’s an example screenshot, with the Google Post, highlighted in red:

A.P. Web Solutions provides digital marketing & SEO services to businesses Australia-wide. We have recently started working with a startup company operating from Tasmania and aims to revolutionize the options available for Australians to buy fresh edible products online. 

What Are AMP Pages And What It Means For Your Business?

By | Internet Marketing Service, search engine optimization, SEO News & Updates

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are part of a recent update that Google has been rolling out gradually this year. So let’s be futuristic and try to figure out how this could affect your business and your website in the months to come. We wouldn’t want to be hit by a Google penalty now, would we?

picture of cute panda artIf you followed Google’s announcements at all last year, then you have likely heard about the huge Mobile-Friendly update that hit in April 2015. For those of you that didn’t have Internet at the time, this update was when Google announced that they would practically be punishing websites that weren’t mobile-friendly by lowering their positions in the search engines. The main reason they did this is because they want to ensure the best possible user experience and since more and more people are now browsing the Internet on mobile devices, Google wants to make sure that websites that aren’t easy to navigate on the phone are not be shown in the first place.

Well, the AMP update is kind of an extension to last year’s “mobilegeddon” update. AMP is merely a very condensed version of your current web pages. When you have AMP installed on your website and someone tries to view it on their mobile device, instead of loading the regular version of your site (which would take longer and consume more data), it would load the AMP version of your website, which is more user-friendly and easier to browse. These are exactly the kind of updates that we keep track of at our local SEO Melbourne agency to help our clients stay ahead of their competitors.

Here’s what AMP Pages look like…

When 2 or more websites are competing for the same position, Google always prefers the one that provides the best experience to its users and it gauges that by how up-to-date and relevant your website is. So you’re likely to get more visibility for your business if you go AMP. If you’re ever in a position where you can’t understand why the traffic you’re getting to your website is not converting, ask yourself if your viewers are having a hard time finding the information they’re looking for. Is your site easy to navigate through? Is the Call Us button prominent and easy to find, if you even have one? Is there a Find Us button that gives them instant directions? Consider getting an expert’s take on what your website looks like and how it can be improved to attract and convert prospects into paying customers. Click here to find out more.

At the end of the day, traffic is only as good as the sales it converts into. The more user-friendly your site is, the more Google will reward you with organic traffic. And as far as your website’s health is concerned, organic is always better.

Can’t be bothered following Google’s ever-changing rules and algorithms? Hire an SEO consultant and let us take care of it for you. A.P. Web Solutions offers SEO services with guaranteed rankings. See apwebsolutions.com.au for more information!