There’s been a bit of panic around the interwebs that Google is “banning” mobile overlays. This stems from a January 10, 2017 change whereby “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high.”
That being said, Google was also quick to point out that “this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking and the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”
So what’s the deal?
If you want your pages to rank well with Google search, mobile overlays may not be the best solution. ...With a few exceptions.
Google Search Rules
Google points out repeatedly in their announcement that if the page content is highly relevant you may still rank highly, as this new signal is just one of hundreds that determine your page ranking. If you have a high performing page that matches your visitors expectations, the benefit of the overlay may be greater than the risk of triggering this one signal. We’ve also yet to see any evidence of rankings being affected by the updated signal change.
User Activated Overlays
On-click mobile overlays are triggered by the visitor. As they aren’t interruptive in the same way, these overlays shouldn’t be affected by the new signal.
Google also points out two use cases where mobile overlays would not be affected by the new signal:
- Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification
- Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable.
For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
Other Traffic Sources
With a few exceptions (eg. AdWords), most other platforms permit mobile overlays them as long as you’re providing relevant content.