Google Hates Popups On Mobile (And What To Do Instead) - Mad Lemmings

Google Hates Popups On Mobile (And What To Do Instead)

Have you heard about the Google Mobile Interstital Penalty they are going to roll out on the 10th of January?​

Yes, another big slap from Google is coming (I wish I did not have to just write such negative posts all the time! I have not even moved to HTTPS yet)​

And even if it turns out not to be that big, it's worth paying attention to it - because they have our visitors in mind!​

OK, So What Is This Mobile Interstital Thing (No One Can Pronounce!)

Google has decided, and maybe rightfully so, that us "marketing types" should stop ramming popups down our visitor's throats when they arrive.

You might have noticed that it is especially annoying on mobile. You open the site, and BOOM, a popup appears. Covering the whole screen. And you have to take your not so dextrous finger and try to hit that little X in the top right (if it's even visible!)

Yes, it is definitely more difficult to close popups on mobile. Let's be honest.

So, maybe Google is on to something.

But, you probably just want to know what exactly the Goog have said. Well, here is the lowdown:​

Mobile Interstitals You Should Remove

Here is what Google has said are examples of what they don't want to see:

  • 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.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial [popup] that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion [the part you see when you first arrive on the page] of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined [hidden] underneath the fold.

Basically, anything that covers the screen/content.

And here is what they look like (at least to Google :>) :

Mobile Interstitals Google

Small Popup

(covers content)

Mobile Interstitals Google

Full Screen Popup

(covers content)

Mobile Interstitals Google

Popup-like

(content hidden down further - below fold)

What Have Google Allowed Instead?

The big question you probably have (if you are going to remove all your popup-like windows on mobile) is what can you use instead?

Well, of course the options are less effective, so you will likely get less optins or reactions from your mobile visitors. But, it's either that, or lower rankings on mobile search.​

Check out the nicely highlighted green box below for details:​

What Google Is Allowing On Mobile

Here is what Google has said are examples of what they don't want to see:

  • 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.

And here is what they look like:

In reality unless you are using a popup for cookie acceptance or age verification or login, it's a NO-GO.

What Google recommend instead is to use a ribbon overlay that is either at the top or bottom, and does not take up more than about 20% of the screen (not and exact % from Google, I am just looking at their image).

There are actually lots of other options, so let's take a look at what I did...​

How I Fixed Mine In 5 Minutes

It depends on what kind of plugin or system you are using for your popups, but most of them have adapted to this change already.

I use Thrive Leads and am a huge fan for so many reasons. One of which is that I can control exactly what appears on my site - where, when and how. Including on which device (mobile or desktop).

So what I did first was switch off all my popups on mobile:​

Then, I added a ribbon for my main optin for Yoast SEO improvements.

Of course, it is not as high performing as the popup I have on desktop, but the difference on mobile is probably not that great as they just annoy people anyway (hard to close etc).

Other Popup Alternatives

Again, depending on how good your email optin plugin or tool is (go Thrive Leads :>) you have a few options. 

First, you have to exclude the annoying, page-dominating ones, so that means:​

  • No Popups
  • No Slide ins
  • No - Anything that is big and covers a lot of the screen (more than about 20-25%)

But that also leaves us with some nice options like:

  • Two-Step Optins - which means click a button/image/link and a popup appears. This could also include the now famous Content Upgrade (which is usually a link with a popup)
  • Inline optin boxes - so you could have a nice, styled optin box in the middle or at the end of your content. (Thrive Leads has both options)
  • Ribbons - Simple headings with a button which opens a popup, either at the top or bottom of your page (if you see this on mobile, you will have probably seen mine)

I already use these within my pages and posts, so did not have to add anything specific (yet). But if you don't use inline optins, or two-step popups, it is something that can bring you a shipload of emails!

And here is what my ribbon looks like on my iPhone (a nice reader informed me it was too big and looked like a popup :> now it seems to be ok)​

Google is actually not leaving us without options. They are just focused on user experience and don't want people to land on annoying, spammy websites, and then think Google Search results suck. That is what Google is always focused on. I respect that.

And ultimately, it helps us. If our users are happy, and like our content, our website, our products, they will find a way to sign up to our email lists or keep in touch.

And remember, you can also use browser push notifications too, something I have been playing with. It is a smaller version of email optins  (in terms of flexibility, and control) but is an option worth exploring!​

Google Hates Popups, But It's OK

If you are using popups and a significant portion of your traffic comes from mobile, then I would start looking at your options - AND SOON. January 10th is only a week away.

Depending on the technology/plugin you are using it could be easy to fix and adapt or a complete pain in the ass.

For me it was not that bad, and in fact, I am kinda ok with it because I think my visitors will be happy (I know my girlfriend tells me that the popups on my website suck, so she will be happy!).

What do you think about it all?​

About the Author Ashley Faulkes

Ashley is obsessed with SEO and WordPress. He is also the founder of Mad Lemmings. When he is not busy helping clients get higher on Google he can be found doing crazy sports in the Swiss Alps (or eating too much chocolate - a habit he is trying to break).

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