Starting on January 10, 2017 your website could suffer a Google penalty for pop ups on mobile.
Do you use pop ups or a “welcome mat” type home screen on your blog or website? Then your site could be at risk.
To avoid being pushed down in the search results you need to rethink your pop up strategy.
What is a Google Penalty?
The thing to remember is that Google is a search engine.
Their goal is to provide the very best search results to people that are looking for information.
Google wants to deliver results that are relevant and user friendly. The user experience is a big part of Google’s product.
So, step back and think like a web surfer instead of a blogger.
You search for something and pick the first result. It is right on point – but Boom – a pop up well, pops up and blocks the whole screen.
Now you have to click away that box or scroll down to find the information that you are looking for. Sometimes even multiple times.
It is frustrating.
Personally, I know that I have clicked away from sites that just have too much popping going on.
What is a Pop Up?
Now put yourself in the shoes of the blogger or the internet marketer.
When someone lands on your website, you want to capture their information.
Chances are that they may not come back to visit you on the web again. But if they give you their email address then you can send them your updates on a regular basis.
As annoying as a pop up is – it has been proven to be a very effective tool for collecting email sign ups.
Where Things Go Wrong
To test it out, you put one pop up on your site and now your user has to click the little “x” in the corner to see the content. Or they have to answer a somewhat ridiculous question to see your content.
We’ve all seen things like this: “Do you want to make millions in three days? Yes! I do. or No. I don’t need the money.”
Then you discover the welcome mat feature – which greets your user with a blank-ish screen that contains a brief welcome statement and an opt in box.
Now your user has to scroll down to find your content.
Then you discover content upgrades, and you put a pop up on specific pages with unique free offers.
Sometimes, things get out of hand and your reader has to jump through multiple hoops.
What Google is Planning to Do
According to this article on the Google Webmaster Central blog – the Google penalty for pop ups will only apply to websites that use them on mobile.
I think that they are targeting mobile specifically because the screen space is so small. Pop ups tend to take up the whole screen and block the results.
Not only that but users are navigating mobile on the go and can’t precisely click and scroll to make the pop ups go away.
Personally, I would make my strategy compliant on desktop as well.
Google has also said that not all pop ups will be subject to the penalty, and I quote:
By contrast, here are some examples of techniques that, used responsibly, would not be affected by the new signal:
Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.
What Are Your Options
As a blogger, if you use pop ups – you need to rethink your strategy for collecting email addresses.
First, keep an eye on the Google Webmaster Central Blog to see if they issue further guidance as to what is acceptable and what isn’t.
Second, weigh your benefits.
In most cases, a higher position in the search results will outweigh the benefits of a pop up box. If people can’t find your site, they certainly can’t sign up for updates.
Use inline sign up boxes within your content and in your sidebar. These are not as effective as a pop up – I know. But they are compliant.
What About Pop Ups that Appear After Scrolling?
The same Google Webmaster Central article states that sites that show boxes after a certain scrolling percentage also makes the “content less accessible to a user”:
Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
What About Pop Ups that Show on Exit?
The answer to this seems somewhat unclear to me.
In the comment thread on that post, someone asked a question about exit intent.
John Mueller, who appears to be a Google representative answers (another quote):
this is specific to issues users would face when coming in to a site from search.
Again, I would weigh the benefit that you get from that exit intent sign up.
Your Own Interpretation
The key takeaway here is that you want to keep your site super user friendly.
It is a good business practice. Period.
Annoying your readers will not create loyalty.
Avoid a Google penalty and stay Google’s good graces by rethinking your pop up strategy.
Everything that I wrote in this article is my own interpretation. Please do not rely on this information alone to figure out what to do on your blog or website. I do not work for Google nor do I have any insight into how they rank websites in their search results.
What Changes Will You Be Making?
Will you remove pop ups from your site? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
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The Google Penalty for Pop Ups on Mobile is Here – Check to see if your site is at risk.