Interstitial Pop-Ups: Should You Use Them?

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing, interstitial pop-ups remain a contentious topic. 

Loved by some for their immediate visibility and loathed by others for their intrusive nature, the debate around the use of interstitial pop-ups is as alive as ever. 

In this guide, the team at Distribute Digital delve into the concept of interstitial pop-ups, examining their impact on search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts and website user experience (UX). 

Crucially, our SEO experts are here to identify scenarios where interstitials might actually be beneficial depending on the aim of the content. 

What Are Interstitial Pop-Ups?

Have you tried to visit a website, only for a pop-up which you can’t seem to get rid of to immediately take over the whole screen? If so, it was likely an interstitial pop-up. 

Not all website pop-ups are created equal, as interstitials are considered to be those which overlay the whole page. This renders the rest of the page unusable until exiting, with Google describing interstitials as “intrusive”, and something which not only frustrates users, but also can “erode their trust in your website.” Ouch indeed. 

Commonly, interstitial pop-ups contain advertising or sponsored content. Though in some cases such as on news websites, they can be used to appropriately grab attention better than other methods available on a standard CMS. 

However, on the whole, interstitial pop-ups are associated with providing a highly irrelevant and annoying experience for users. This is especially the case given that interstitials are purposely designed to be difficult to navigate away from. Therefore, interstitial pop-ups must be used carefully and in the right ways. 

The Impact of Pop-Ups on SEO

Google’s primary objective is to enhance the user experience on the web, which is why in 2017, it rolled out an update to penalise websites using intrusive interstitials on mobile pages. This move aimed to ensure content is easily accessible to a user coming from the search results. Therefore, from an SEO standpoint, the use of interstitial pop-ups can be a double-edged sword.

Mobile Penalties

Websites that employ intrusive pop-ups risk lowering their mobile search rankings. To avoid penalties, it’s crucial to design pop-ups that are less obtrusive and easily dismissible.

Page Experience Signal

With the introduction of the Page Experience signal in Google’s ranking factors which incorporates Core Web Vitals, the use of pop-ups could potentially affect your site’s loading time, interactivity and visual stability. Reduced performance across any of these technical SEO aspects could negatively influence your website ranking. 

The Impact Pop-Ups Have on Website UX

The user experience is paramount in website design and development. Pop-ups, especially when not executed correctly, can be a major deterrent for users, leading to increased bounce rates and reduced engagement.

Intrusive vs Non-Intrusive Pop-Ups 

The key with pop-ups is to strike a balance. Ensure your pop-ups are relevant, offer value, and are timed appropriately to not interrupt the user’s journey.

Best Practices

Consider using non-intrusive banners or slide-ins instead of full-screen overlays. Also, timing your pop-ups to appear after a user has spent a certain amount of time on the page or is about to exit can significantly improve the UX.

SEO-friendly pop-ups, designed with the user’s experience and accessibility at the forefront, play a crucial role in striking a delicate balance between engagement and search engine rankings. These pop-ups are carefully crafted to be easy to close, ensuring they do not obstruct access to the main content of the webpage.

Pop-ups can prioritise user experience by featuring a prominent ‘close’ button. They can also be programmed to appear at intervals that minimally disrupt the user’s journey. Suitable intervals may include when users have spent a considerable amount of time on the site or when a user exhibits intent to leave. 

Considerate integration allows websites to harness the engaging potential of pop-ups for marketing purposes, like lead generation and announcements, without contravening SEO principles or diminishing the user experience.

When to Use Interstitial Pop-ups

Despite their potential drawbacks, there are times when interstitial pop-ups can be used effectively.

Lead Generation 

For capturing email addresses or promoting sign-ups, timed pop-ups can be highly effective when offering something of value in return, such as a free guide, webinar registration or discount codes. However, it’s always worth assessing whether a traditional popup or popunder may prove more credible to users instead. 

Legal Requirements 

Use interstitials for age verification or cookie usage consent, as these are not only necessary but also exempt from Google’s mobile interstitial penalty.

Cookie consent pop-ups are designed to be clear and informative, providing users with options to accept, decline, or customise their cookie preferences. Unlike traditional marketing or promotional pop-ups, cookie consent pop-ups are essential for legal compliance and user privacy. They typically appear when a user first visits a website and must be designed in a way that does not obstruct access to website content, yet is prominent enough to ensure the user’s informed consent.

Effective cookie consent pop-ups balance the need for regulatory compliance with user experience, making them less intrusive and easily dismissible after the user has made their choice, but still accessible for users who wish to change their preferences later. This approach aligns with SEO-friendly practices by not significantly detracting from the user experience or hindering access to content, thereby supporting a website’s SEO efforts while ensuring legal and ethical compliance with data protection laws.


For important announcements or breaking news, an interstitial can ensure that vital information is communicated immediately to the user.

Final Thoughts

While interstitial pop-ups can be a powerful tool in the digital marketer’s arsenal, their use requires careful consideration of SEO and UX implications. At Distribute Digital, we advocate for a balanced approach—designing user-friendly, compliant and strategically timed pop-ups that enhance rather than hinder the user experience.

If you’re navigating the complexities of digital marketing and need expert guidance on creating an SEO strategy that works or developing a website that balances user engagement with performance, Distribute Digital is here to help. 

Our team of SEO and web development professionals is equipped to refine your approach, ensuring your digital presence is both powerful and user-centric.

Contact us today to enhance your digital marketing efforts and drive meaningful engagement to your website. 

Keisha - SEO Account Manager

Keisha is a driven SEO Account Manager with a person-centred approach and a degree in Business Psychology from the University of Worcester. Keisha has extensive client service experience and excellent organisational skills.

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