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Are Pop-Ups Harmful, and How Can You Use Them Effectively?

Webmasters and online business owners often find themselves in tricky situations when trying to use pop-ups effectively together with search engine optimization, also known as SEO.

SEO is crucial for driving organic traffic, while pop-ups can be instrumental in converting visitors into potential leads. Pop-ups can be incredibly effective, with a notable conversion rate of 9.69%, which highlights their importance in generating leads.

The most challenging is to find the right balance between these two elements, as Google disdains intrusive pop-ups. Websites that overuse pop-ups often get pushed down in SERPs (search engine result pages).

In this article, you will learn how to use pop-ups effectively without harming your search engine rankings.

Different Types Of Pop-ups

Source: Freepik

What are Pop-Ups?

Pop-ups are windows that appear to users on the website while browsing. Their aim is to provide and collect information. Whether or not pop-ups hurt SEO depends on the kind of pop-ups they are and how they are used, as not all pop-ups are harmful.

Some pop-ups are designed to be non-intrusive. These pop-ups support and even boost SEO because they don't disrupt the user's browsing or negatively impact their experience on the site.

Types of Non-Intrusive Pop-Ups on a Website

Pop-ups for SEO, usually referred to as modal pop-ups, are widely used digital marketing tools. They pop up in the foreground, dimming and fading the background to catch the user's attention.

Modal pop-ups have a variety of uses, including:

  • sharing information about special offers, rewards, or events
  • collecting information about the user, such as email address, etc.
  • providing extra information pertaining to delivery, style, color, availability, and so on
  • prompting user input to guide the user to a conversion or enhance their interaction and experience with the site

To enhance the user experience rather than detract from it, a pop-ups timing, placement, and user-friendliness should be carefully considered. To avoid being intrusive, each pop-up should offer value to the user in some way.

Example Of Pop-up

Source: Convertflow

Some common types of pop-ups that are probably okay for SEO include the following:

  1. Click-triggered Pop-Ups: These appear only when the user takes a specific course of action, such as clicking a learn more button.
  2. Time-Delayed Pop-Ups: These remain non-intrusive by allowing users to engage with the site before appearing. Examples are invitations to subscribe or promotional sign-ups for discounts.
  3. Scroll-Triggered Pop-Ups: These appear only when the user scrolls to a specific point on the webpage. They can be used to encourage an interaction away from the page, such as downloading an eBook with related content.
  4. Exit-Intent Pop-Ups: These pop-ups only appear once the user signals their intention to leave, for instance, as a special offer incentive or an invitation to sign up and stay connected with the site in some way.
  5. Opt-In Bars: These are the least intrusive pop-ups, but they still collect emails and share product information and promotional material. They show up as a small bar either at the top or the bottom of the user's browser window but need to be selected to be read.
  6. Over-lay Pop-Ups: These appear in a layer that obscures some or all of the content. They are calls to complete an action before being permitted to continue. Although these are not popular from an SEO perspective because they interrupt the user's experience by stopping it completely, overlay pop-ups are the most effective marketing tool in some circumstances, like for a subscription news service.

Types of Intrusive Pop-Ups on a Website

Intrusive pop-ups cover content immediately. This practice is penalized by Google because Google believes users need time to evaluate the content of the sites they visit.

There are various types of intrusive pop-ups:

  1. Windows Pop-Ups: These open new windows, interrupting the user.
  2. Page-to-Page Interstitials: These pop up as users move from page to page, making it frustrating to navigate through the content.
  3. Welcome Mats and intrusive ads: These appear immediately, are full screen, and may include 'difficult' to close overlays that redirect users when they 'misclick'.
  4. Intrusive LightBox Ads/Pop-Ups: Lightbox ads cover content and are difficult to dismiss.
  5. Pop-ups that appear before users can access the content. These are frustrating because they prevent any access before the desired action is completed.

Do Pop-Ups Hurt SEO?

Whilst research links pop-ups with increased bounce rates, which suggest they disturb the user, when implemented correctly pop-ups generate leads and increase conversions.

Google's stance is that intrusive pop-ups are harmful to SEO. Its algorithms are primed to discover sites with non-intrusive pop-ups. They work on the principle that non-intrusion signals a better user experience and rank results.

Problems from pop-up messages have been known to create technical issues that can negatively impact SEO. For instance, each pop-up needs its own set of HTTP requests to collect its images and scripts. This slows down load times, affecting the quality of the user experience and lowering the site in the SERPs. Pop-ups have been particularly problematic for small mobile screen users, prompting penalties from Google.

Using a reliable SEO tool like SE Ranking can greatly help, especially due to its comprehensive website audit reports. Their Website Audit tool can identify issues that might hinder website performance, including problems caused by pop-ups. You can also monitor user experience metrics, which are part of Google's Core Web Vitals.

Website Audit Tool By SE Ranking

Source: SE Ranking

If pop-ups on your site are intrusive and negatively impact user experience, this could affect your site's performance for these metrics, which in turn could be reflected in your rankings and reported by SE Ranking's tools.

You need to remember that pop-ups are most effective when:

  • they are used sparingly
  • they are easy to close
  • they have minimal impact on the user
  • they have minimal impact on website performance

Are There Any Benefits in Pop-Up Messages?

As a matter of fact, there are some clear benefits that come from including pop-up messaging in your SEO strategy.

When implemented correctly, pop-up messages:

  • are a way to communicate with users in real-time
  • are highly visible and attention-grabbing, with a high read rate
  • collect immediate and therefore focused feedback, improving customer satisfaction, identifying opportunities and weak areas
  • dramatically increase user engagement and prolong the visit
  • are cost-effective with a wide reach
  • are highly visual and dynamic, with the power to captivate and motivate users while delivering a powerful message.

How to Take Advantage of Pop-ups Without Them Having a Bad Effect on SEO

There are 3 factors to consider in order to utilize pop-ups: the user experience, the conversion rate, and the impact of the pop-up on the SEO.

a. The User Experience

Google considers the user experience as a key ranking factor. Sites with high bounce rates and intrusive pop-ups signal the likelihood of a poor user experience. This can be avoided by:

  • Making pop-ups easy to close and dismiss so that the main content is always accessible
  • A thoughtful, mobile-first design that is both user-friendly and relevant
  • Using advanced plugins like the one by Ays Pro to provide the best UX, even if you don't have coding experience
  • Using the least intrusive form of pop-up, i.e., the Opt-In Bar pop-up.

b. Conversion Rate

Pop-ups can increase conversion rates by as much as 88% when their use is:

  • Based on user behavior data that allows targeting by defining user segments for the most relevant offers
  • Tested out by using A/B and multivariate tests on different versions to find out what format best suits the audience and timings
  • Simple in design and layout, with clear call-to-action buttons

c. SEO Impact

In order not to harm SEO or trigger any penalties, pop-ups should:

  • Keep the content clear by avoiding intrusive interstitials that are hard to dismiss
  • Avoid 'first-page load from search engine' pop-ups
  • Offer time-delayed pop-ups with information related to the original search inquiry
  • Be kept to a minimum
  • Be as non-intrusive as possible


Pop-ups can be a powerful tool for increasing conversions and engaging with website visitors, and their impact on SEO cannot be ignored. The key to leveraging pop-ups effectively lies in striking a delicate balance between user experience and search engine optimization. Non-intrusive pop-ups that provide value and are thoughtfully timed can enhance the user experience without harming SEO.

Keep in mind that a vital part of modern SEO is using data to monitor how well certain elements of the website are performing. Some metrics that are useful indicators of user satisfaction include bounce rate, time spent on a page, and scroll depth data. The data provided by these metrics facilitates a sound assessment of the impact a pop-up might have on the site based on when and where the pop-up appeared and how users responded to it.

When used effectively within a well-thought-out SEO strategy, pop-ups and their messages can help to secure the credibility of the content. Pop-ups can serve as powerful marketing tools for initiating and developing meaningful relationships between the site and the user, thus fostering long-term trust in the brand.

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