Popups Causing Google Penalties on Mobile Devices

On January 10, 2017, Google released a penalty for what it calls mobile interstitials (i.e. popup-type elements blocking a website’s content on mobile devices). An update on January 10 to the Google Webmaster Blog’s press release on the mobile interstitials penalty stated, “Starting today, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high.”

While this penalty is not a significant update to Google’s core algorithm, it could pose a large potential threat to student housing websites that utilize popups on mobile devices. After analyzing data from student housing properties over the course of 2016, we found that 51.92% of website traffic came from mobile devices. Since search engines are the highest source of traffic to student housing websites, a significant decrease in rankings on mobile could have a devastating effect on both overall website traffic and leads.

At Catalyst, we believe that a streamlined approach on mobile devices creates a better user experience, and results in higher website traffic and engagement. We’ve always hidden popups on mobile devices and will continue to do so, in light of this new update, to continue generating high-quality traffic on mobile.

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