You Shouldn't Need to Be Forced to Respect Your Reader

This past week Google decided pop-up ads and newsletter sign-up forms are such a bad experience, they will penalize sites still using them starting in 2017.

I've been running newsletters since the 90s. I know they're bad for readers, which is why I've never used them.

Most publishers insist on subjecting readers to them simply "because they work." They don't really work, because of the costs involved to support the lower-quality subscribers pop-ups bring in, but that's not something most publishers have any clue about yet. They just want larger subscriber counts. Numbers are easy.

There are 3 reasons I'm not thrilled about this change at Google, though:

  1. It was so easy to detect which sites didn't care about their readers with pop-ups. If I start reading an article and something pops up, I'm gone forever. Easy. Now, it may an extra 10 seconds to detect sites I should permanently stay away from.
  2. We gave Google the power to reshape the web on a whim and celebrate when they force a benevolent change. I love that pop-ups are going away, but what happens when they start changing things that are good for readers? Indeed, it can be argued they've already done that several times by dictating which article length and format scores higher in their rankings.
  3. Are pop-ups really going away? I have a hard time believing Google will penalize its content partners, who use pop-ups all the time. It's going to be interesting to see if Google applies this policy across the entire web, or just to sites they're not in business with.

I would never use pop-ups because I respect my readers. But, I would also never tailor this site to meet Google's specific guidelines about content, because I respect my readers.