Google Changes Will Make Pop-Up Live Chats Bad for SEO

Google Changes Will Make Pop-Up Live Chats Bad for SEO

If you’re a lawyer with a website, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with those pop-up live chats that are extremely popular on many law firm websites. If not, take a few moments and browse the sites of your competitors. You’ll find what we’re talking about. You’ll be on a firm’s site one minute, happily looking around, then all of the sudden—bam—a smaller window pops up in front of your screen, asking if you’d like to speak to a live representative.

At best, these pop-up windows are rather small and simple to hide. At worst, they take up your entire screen until you click them away or, worse yet, pop up again 5 minutes after you dismiss the first. More times than not, they’re more frustrating than useful. After all, if a possible legal client really needed to speak with a live representative, wouldn’t a smaller window in the corner suffice?

The worst part about pop-up live chats might be the fact that on mobile devices, they can severely limit a user’s screen space. On a desktop or laptop computer, that pop-up window may not take up too much space, but on a mobile device that same window can take up half your screen or more, hiding useful content. When law firm website creators use pop-up windows like this to the extreme, web users may end up frustrated and find another site to browse if they’re researching potential firms.

Legal practices aren’t the only types of businesses that use these pop-up windows, either. They’re commonly found on numerous business websites and blogs ranging from writing blogs that push the viewer to download an eBook before accessing the site to businesses and entrepreneurs soliciting for newsletter subscriptions, business inquiries, social media followers, and more. Some pop-ups are more annoying to deal with than others, but the worst can discourage a mobile viewer from visiting that site entirely due to their obstructive sizes and the fact that they load repeatedly.

Mobile Accessibility is Our Future

These intrusive pop-up windows, technically referred to as interstitials, can have a serious impact on how accessible content is while performing web searches—especially on mobile platforms. Google admitted this in a news post posted August 23nd. According to Google, “Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

Google provided three examples of pop-up windows that make content less accessible: pop-ups that cover a site’s entire screen at any time upon loading the page or while browsing, standalone pop-up windows that the user has to dismiss before accessing content, and design layouts that place an interstitial over useful content. Any websites still using these types of pop-up windows may face SEO ranking penalties beginning in January.

“Necessary” pop-up windows such as those used when gaining permission for cookie usage, for age verification purposes, or that take up less than roughly one-fourth of a mobile device’s screen size are deemed more appropriate and won’t be impacted negatively after this change takes effect. It’s also important to note that a site’s ranking won’t likely tank overnight due to this one change. This new ranking factor, or signal, is just one of hundreds of other signals Google uses.

If your law firm’s website features live chat pop-ups which follow Google’s poor examples, you have a few options. The easiest is to omit the large pop-up entirely and place a simple button somewhere on your site’s layout that guides potential clients to your live chat feature. Designing a smaller interstitial is always an option as well, but ensure that it’s small enough to comfortably view with other content on smaller mobile devices like smartphones.

Given the numerous complexities of Google’s current search signals and algorithms, we at Legal InSites highly recommend following Google’s suggested guidelines and taking the necessary steps to ensure that potential clients view your firm’s site as high as possible on Google’s rankings. As any SEO expert will tell you and we can attest to, the smallest of changes can add up and make a significant—and hugely beneficial—difference.

There’s also the simple fact that mobile accessibility is going to continue to be a key factor for every type of new search ranking signal we see in the future. Mobile search is our future. If you need any assistance in helping make your law firm website as mobile-friendly as it can be while maximizing your SEO potential, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.