Google hates obnoxious pop-up ads: Here’s why you need to look at the ads on your site

Well, it’s official. Google doesn’t like overly intrusive ads like pop-ups on websites. This sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? After all, Google makes its money from advertising. However, as a search engine, Google’s number one priority is to make a searcher’s experience a positive one. And, just as Google put sites with mobile interstitials on the naughty list earlier this year, it’s now taking a stand against pop-ups and other annoying ads.

Google’s not the only one that is annoyed by pop-up ads. Your potential customers don’t like them either.

In a recent survey by inbound marketing giant HubSpot, they found that consumers don’t like overly intrusive ads. Consumers especially don’t like pop-up ads, mobile ads and video ads.

HubSpot Consumer Ad Review Survey

Not surprisingly, the HubSpot Adblock Plus Research Study found that one of the most frustrating types of ads were full-page pop-up ads that make the user find the “X” or some other (often difficult-to-find) button to close the ad.

Just look at the example below. On CNN.com, a half-page ad appears at the top of the screen when you go to the home page. This ad literally takes up HALF the screen (valuable real estate) — and there’s no obvious way to close it. This makes for a horrible and intrusive user experience.

CNN Pop-Up Ads

Here are some other stats from HubSpot’s survey:

  • 83 percent of respondents feel that not all ads are bad, but people would like to filter out really obnoxious ads.
  • 63 percent of respondents said that most online ads don’t “look professional.”
  • 56 percent of people felt that ads are insulting to their intelligence.
  • 77 percent agree they would like to be able to filter ads instead of completely blocking all ads.

As consumers, we all know what “annoying ads” look like: ads that force you to wait before you can get to the content you want to read, full-page ads that overtake your screen, ads with music or videos that automatically start playing — you know the ones. (If you’ve ever been at your cubicle quietly working, then clicked on an article link and been greeted by the unexpected audio from an ad that started playing, you know what I mean.) These types of intrusive ads are part of the reason for the 30 percent increase in ad blocking software.

Google cracks down on these annoying ads

Google’s latest anti-intrusive ad effort relies on the Coalition for Better Ads standards, and it has already begun by sending out emails warning websites that have “highly annoying, misleading or harmful” pop-up ads on their sites that violate these standards.

So, what types of ads are offensive? The group ran surveys to determine which ads most annoy and irritate consumers. In their survey, they simulated “real world” experiences of users as they looked at ads while reading website content.

The research results identified the types of ads that are most likely to frustrate users — four types of desktop ads and eight ad types for mobile devices:

Desktop ads

  • Pop-up ads
  • Auto-playing video ads with sound
  • Prestitial ads (appear before content is loaded) with countdown
  • Large sticky ads (ads that stick to the edge of a page)

Mobile ads

  • Pop-up ads
  • Prestitial ads
  • Ad density higher than 30 percent
  • Flashing animated ads
  • Auto-playing video ads with sound
  • Prestitial ads with countdown
  • Full-screen scrollover ads
  • Large sticky ads

Here are a couple more examples that I’ve experienced. Forbes.com double-whammies you when you try to read an article on their site. First, you are confronted with a full-page “prestitial ad with countdown” — the countdown timer must run to zero before you can get to the article you want to read:

Forbes Countdown Timer

And then when you finally get to the content you want to read, a video automatically starts playing on the article page itself:

Forbes Audio Playing Ads

In the example below, check out the article that The Wall Street Journal wrote about how Google is planning to block ads. Notice the pop-up ad on the page? (A little ironic, huh?)

Wall Street Journal Pop-Up Ad

Google’s backing of these Coalition for Better Ads standards is leading up to next year’s release of a version of the Chrome Browser that will stop showing ads (including those ads owned or served up by Google) on websites that are not compliant. This feature will be turned on by default on desktop and mobile versions of Chrome.

Given that Chrome is the most popular browser, with more than 1 billion users, every business needs to re-evaluate the type of ads they put on their site — starting today.

Why the switch?

There are a variety of reasons for this massive switch in how Google identifies and evaluates intrusive ads. First, we are moving more and more to a mobile-first world. Companies vying for potential customers are trying to improve the mobile user experience — and Google encourages that.

Secondly, studies show that consumers do not like intrusive and obnoxious ads. When providing search engine results, Google’s mission is to give users a list of websites that provide great information and a great experience. Intrusive ads on websites can frustrate users and make them leave offending sites more quickly.

A high bounce rate signals to Google that the site either didn’t provide the information the consumer was looking for or didn’t provide a good user experience. When Google sees that a website has high bounce rates, that can negatively impact how that site ranks on Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs).

Ad guidelines for businesses

To help businesses understand which ads they should keep on their website and which ads are annoying visitors, Google has created a new tool called the Google Ad Experience Report. Google defines an ad experience as the combination of site layout and behavior, as well as the content and ads that your users are exposed to.

This tool gives website owners a clear look at how the Better Ads Standards apply to their web pages. It even gives you screen shots and videos of the annoying ad experiences on your website so you can find and fix them.

Viewing Ad Experience

Users and owners of websites that are verified on Search Console can review the Ad Experience Report.

Google Ad Experience Report

After you get your website connected to the Ad Experience Report, you can choose to view either the Desktop or Mobile version of the report.

Ad Experience Web Tool

If your website hasn’t been reviewed by Google, you will see “Not Reviewed” in the Status section:

Ad Experience ReportIf this is the case for your site, a Google representative in the Ad Experience Report help forum asks that you be patient: “The Ad Experience Report is focused on covering as many domains as possible and our coverage will ramp up during the year. While there isn’t a way to request a review and we can’t provide timelines for when your site will be reviewed, new sites are getting reviewed every day.”

If a sample of your site has been reviewed by Google, you’ll see either a “Passing,” “Warning” or “Failing” notice.

The meaning of your review status

You’ll see one of the following statuses at the top of the Report:

  • Not reviewed: Google hasn’t reviewed the ad experiences on your site. They recommend pre-emptively fixing any ad experiences issues before they review your site.
  • Passing: Google reviewed your site and did not find a significant number of annoying ads.
  • Warning: Google evaluated sample pages of your site and found ads that violate the Better Ads Standards. You should fix the problems as soon as possible and resubmit your site for review.
  • Failing: Google has reviewed your site and detected abusive ad experiences or numerous ad types that violate the Better Ads Standards. They will send an email to registered site owners and users at least 30 calendar days before they start ad filtering. You should fix these ad issues ASAP and submit your site for another review. If your site remains in the “Failing” status, Chrome will filter ads.

Note: Google does not look at every page of your site; they look at sample pages and report on the ad experience they find.

What do you think of Google ad blocking?

What do you think? Have you noticed any sites that have changed the type of pop-up ads they have? Are you planning to change the type of ads you put on your site? Do you see offending sites with obnoxious ads?

We’d love to hear your thoughts — please share them with Search Engine Land on Twitter or post on our Facebook Page.

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