Google has been updating its algorithms for a while now and marketers are no strangers to the fact that any of the changes implemented are entirely based on how users have been interacting with the internet.

A recent update by the search engine is aimed at making the internet experience better for mobile users.

In 2014, Google had introduced the ‘mobile friendly’ tag in search results for websites that were optimized for mobile – text was readable without zooming or having to scroll horizontally, and the links were spaced enough to prevent mis-tapping.

Picking up on the same, businesses and marketers alike understood the importance of responsiveness of design and two years marked 85% of the mobile search results being optimized accordingly.

So now Google is introducing a new criteria!

According to the official statement published on the blog, the new algorithm changes are introduced to make content easily accessible to the mobile user. More specifically, pages that use ‘intrusive interstitials’ hampering the user experience.

Intrusive interstitials – popups.

There has always been controversy around the use of popups. While some marketers are skeptical using it, there are others who have proven that when strategized and use well, they are able to direct an internet user to effective conversions for the business. And the latter is what just got reinforced with the new update.

Here’s what an ‘intrusive popup’ is:

  • A popup that covers the main content of the website immediately as the user navigated to the page from a search result or while they are looking through the page
  • Displaying a popup that needs dismissal before being able to access the content
  • Using a design layout where the popup appears above the fold and the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

google popups 1

Does this mean mobile popups are dead? No.

The blog has also published which of the mobile popups are still acceptable and will have no affect on the website’s ranking.

Here are the guidelines:

  • Popups that appear in response to a legal obligation such as age verification and cookie usage
  • Login dialog boxes on websites that don’t offer publicly indexed content
  • Popups that will use only a reasonable amount of screen space and can be dismissed easily

google popups 2

What does this mean for marketers?

Business marketers will now need to focus more on creating not just mobile responsive popups for their websites, but those that will not be deemed ‘intrusive’. This only goes to say, that the element can be used only when backed by a strategy that focuses on not hampering the user experience on any of the devices.

In one of our previous posts, we had discussed about how websites should replace their entry popups with exit intent popups. The primary reason we had given for the same was to not compromise on a visitor’s experience in any way.

If he has come looking for something, then he should be able to access it immediately after landing on your website. If he has maneuver around to find the information, he might as well look for a source that lets him consume content at his pace before retargeting him on-site.

According to Smart Insights, 51% of digital media is consumed on mobile devices in comparison to the 42% that is accessed via the desktop. So you’ll be losing almost half your organic traffic by misusing popups.

Although this is a huge blow to those businesses that used popups to monetize from their website, marketers of other business models only need to be smart and keep user experience first in mind.

Here’s how you can use interstitials or popups on your website without hampering your search results:

1. Ensure that they are not triggered as soon as the visitor lands on your website

First things first, don’t retarget someone who has just landed on your website and has probably not even seen your content. The idea of ranking on search engines is to let the internet users know that your business offers what they are looking for. Keep the intent of your mobile website clean and let the consume the information you have to offer first.

2. Choose a design that does not hide away the main content of the page

Use a popup design that does not cover the main content completely. Ensure that it only hides away some part of it so that the visitor knows he can either convert or dismiss the popup to get to the content. Using a transparent or translucent background can do the trick.

Also read: 15 popup design inspirations you absolutely need to see

3. Opt for action triggered popups for on-site retargeting

Instead of retargeting the visitor out of nowhere, make your popups trigger based on an action. For instance, the time spent on your website, the scroll point or if he clicks on one of your engagement buttons. This makes the popup appear contextually, ‘after the visitor has consumed the content he was looking for.’

4. Make them responsive and easily dismissable

Test your popup design and layout on all possible mobile devices. Ensure that it is not just responsive, but also works perfectly. Be it to convert or to dismiss what you’re offering, the visitor should be able to do so easily – not having to zoom in to find a close button.

5. Don’t feature promotional content on your popups, talk context

Being contextual is everything today. It is the one and only way to engage a prospect and the only way to convert as well as retain him. Then why lose the practice while implementing a popup? Following all the above, also ensure that your popup doesn’t feature promotional content. Use the opportunity to retarget the visitor with something that adds more value to him and is not just sales oriented.

6. Opt for banner popups on mobile websites

Since the announcement clearly state that the popups must not cover the main content on the website, it is a wise idea to use banner style designs instead of the ones that take the main screen. The hover banners are certainly a good idea for those who feel their audience needs a consistent push to conversion – for instance, subscribing to a blog.

7. Optimize the popups for speed

If your website takes longer than 2 seconds to load, you are going to lose the visitor before he even becomes a prospect. Your mobile audience is already on the go, so if your popup is going to cause any more delay, you can be sure of them bouncing off your web page. This is why it is important that you optimize your popups for speed as well.

Also read: 8 best practices to optimize your mobile popups and get more customers

Since there are still a considerable number of loopholes in the official statement, we advice marketers to take a tactical approach to using popups for their mobile audience. Closely monitor your analytics and web page performance to understand where you’re losing customers and if any of the changes have significantly decreased your organic reach.

Your primary goal while trying to execute on-site retargeting on mobile, should be to continually optimize the user experience.

Considering that there are times when you’re required to nudge a customer into a micro conversion like subscription, demo, etc, what do you think are the workarounds with the current changes Google implemented?


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Pavlos Linos

Founder and CEO at Exit Bee. I enjoy working on customer development and marketing optimization. I mostly write about how you can turn more visitors into customers.

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