As humans, we find most pop-ups annoying—especially on our phones; Google takes mobile pop-ups personally.
Though publishers, e-commerce websites and millions of others rely on pop-ups for advertising revenue, lead capture and augmenting owned media, these sites now have a choice: choose between a high organic search position and obtrusive but lucrative ads.
Google announced back in August 2016 that on January 10, 2017 it would begin penalizing sites that use “interstitials”—which applies to pop-ups that users have to dismiss in order to continue navigating on a site, as well as advertisements that cover the top half of the page. Pop-ups that are part of a legal obligation (i.e. to verify a user’s age or notify about cookie use ) won’t be penalized, nor will small banner ads.
Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. 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.
What Can Replace Pop-Ups on Mobile?
Marketers should always solve mobile SEO challenges first. And with that January date right around the corner, here are a few ways you can satisfy Google and not lose online opportunity:
• Don’t forget to look side to side. For B2Bs where lead capture is imperative, use your site’s sidebar to embed a lead capture form. Since responsive websites typically wrap content on the right below content on the left, test moving your sidebar to the left-hand side in 2017 to ensure the lead capture form is seen. It might be best to put some mobile styling in place so that other sidebar elements are collapsed, and visitors can get to your primary page content faster.
• Make some room in the header. Calls to action that are relevant and entice a visitor to click are your best bet. Work with your designer to create an area within the header of your site for promotions, email list signup, to registrar for an upcoming webinar, etc.
• Mark the exits and don’t discount widgets. For any organization looking to grow its email list by offering an incentive (or not), the pop-ups that appear upon page load and upon scrolling a percentage of the way down a page must go! Instead, pop-ups can appear upon exit attempt without penalization by Google. They can also be manually triggered from small widgets in the corners of your site on desktop or at the bottom of your site on mobile. If you use a service like Privy, there are settings offered just for these options, and they offer both a free version and a free trial if you’re interested in testing it out before purchase.
• Display Ads on AMP. Google loves Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) more than ever, and display ads embedded within content keep pages loading faster on mobile than those with pop-ups. If you haven’t run retargeting, demographic or contextual ads, 2017 might be the year to try them—either on your site or as part of your marketing mix.
With web technology and integrations becoming easier, less expensive and more admin-friendly, there are ways to get the attention of your audience without being intrusive. And as many are in agreement, this move forces marketers to focus more on user experience and their offers—and less on hacks and tricks.