Google made an update this year that would penalize websites who use intrusive interstitials on mobile. Here’s how to deal with it.

In plain English, Google’s loathing (and subsequent punishment) of interstitials will negatively impact you if your website gets clicked on Google’s mobile search results and it then shows a pop-up.

Google will consider your page as not mobile-friendly which in turn hurts your ranking in search results. This includes zero-second pop-ups, pop-ups that don’t show up until after a few seconds or until the user scrolls down.

Google will also be removing the label “mobile-friendly” but make no mistake, they’ll still use the mobile-friendly criteria as one of the basis for ranking a site.

So what does Google consider to be intrusive interstitials?

According to the diagram they provided, anything that covers a large part of the main content is considered problematic.

Google also outlined the three type interstitials that are exempted from the new policy. As long as they are used responsibly and not abused, you can:

  • Use a popup in response to a legal obligation such as age verification or using cookies
  • Deliver log-in dialogs for private content that’s not indexed by Google
  • Use banners that only take up a reasonable amount of space. You can look at Chrome’s app install banner to get a good idea of how big it is.

Here’s more examples:

This is a static banner from Reuter’s News giving users the option to get rid of it via the X button

This content by Neil Patel is quite long but he makes sure that signing up is always on his reader’s mind by keeping the sign up form static on top of the page at all times.

This banner could do with being smaller but it doesn’t obstruct the reader’s view of the content.

In fact, it provides some entertainment which makes the whole experience less troublesome. Also, the pop-up message is for cookie usage so it’s completely acceptable that it’s there.

Another non-intrusive banner but this one is for social sharing.

Brandwatch displays their cookie pop-up at the bottom of the page allowing the users to see the content even if they haven’t agreed to the terms yet.

Google’s policy only applies to pages that are accessed via Google’s search results on mobile.

If the user navigates from one page of your website to another and they see a pop-up, you won’t be penalized by Google.

Any page the user decides to go to after that is not covered by Google anymore. This means that only the entry page should meet Google’s guidelines.

Just remember that every page on your website can potentially be an entry page for a visitor. You have an important decision to make about whether you should make the changes site wide or to specific pages only.

60% of online traffic online comes from mobile devices and forms are one of the main ways that marketers and business owners grow their email list. There are steps you can take to make mobile signups more seamless without breaking Google’s policy.

How to Get Subscribers on Mobile without Breaking Google’s Guidelines

1. Embed the form/call to action on your page

Embedded forms are great because they never leave your page.

They also don’t block the user from reading your content. Some marketers are hesitant to do this because they’re afraid it might not be enough to capture the user’s attention.

However, there are ways that you can make your forms pop on a page. You can use bright colors, clear text, concise copy, and other visual cues to draw the visitor’s eye to your form.

This is a great example from Insights since they made an attention-grabbing using the company’s brand colors.

Get creative with your design and see if you can come up with similar, eye-catching designs.

Explore other web pages and take note of banners and calls to action that catch your eye. Try to emulate those designs except use your own brand’s colors. An embedded form that’s beautifully designed could quickly turn into a subscriber magnet!

If the page has long content, consider adding the form in between to break up the text. This gives the user several opportunities to sign up.

Be sure the form isn’t too big or too long that it gets in the user’s way of scrolling to the next part of the content.

Going back to Neil Patel’s page, aside from the top static banner, he also puts a call to action in between his articles. Because he publishes long-form content often, he takes this opportunity to remind his users the benefit of signing up for his newsletter.

Here’s another example of a banner that’s used to breakup content. The great thing about these banners is that they are very much relevant to the page content and they highlight the benefit of subscribing.

2. Add an embedded form/call to action on top

This is a bit daring but it’s actually quite effective provided you do it the right way.

Keep it simple as much as possible by only asking for a few important information like the name and email address. It doesn’t take up so much space and still allows the user to have a pleasant experience.

Investopedia’s manages to put in two call to actions on top of the page while skipping the form altogether. If users want to see it, they have to click on either one which will take them to the landing page.

3. Add an embedded form/call to action at the bottom too!

Footer forms also work great because because by then, you’ve already provided value to your visitor which makes them more likely to subscribe to you.

Scour your site for top-performing content and add a footer form/call to action to those. It’ll serve as a reminder to users just how awesome your content is and that if they want more content on that topic, they should sign up!

This banner contains a bit more information in them but it’s acceptable since they do little to obstruct the user’s experience.

Reaching the bottom part of the page could also indicate that the user is about to leave so this is a perfect opportunity to reinforce the benefits of subscribing.

You can even add an incentive to make it more rewarding for visitors. This button found at the bottom of Mention’s page shows what you’re going to get if you sign up.

Here’s another example from Social Media Examiner. They took this opportunity to display as much relevant data as possible and use positive language to persuade the visitor to sign up.

4. Use exit-intent forms/calls to action

You can still attempt to woo your customer one last time with an exit-intent form.

This form only appears when the user is about to leave your site. Yes, it’s a pop-up but it doesn’t affect the user’s experience (since they’re leaving anyway) and is still compliant with Google’s policies.

This form works best when used with embedded forms because you get another chance to nudge your customer before they finally leave.

When crafting exit-intent forms, make sure to highlight a benefit.

Show them what they’re missing out if they don’t sign up for your site. To make the deal sweeter, you can offer them an incentive like a free eBook or access to exclusive tips on your website. Ensure it’s actually something that your target audience finds useful. The more valuable it is, the better.

OptinMonster is an example of a website that’s seen a 600% increase in conversions thanks to exit-intent forms. Apparently these forms have high conversion rates and keeps you away from Google’s radar.

5. Use click-to-open forms

Another way that you can surpass Google’s rules for mobile pop-ups is to use click-to-open forms.

This means that instead of displaying a form, you’re showing a button/link that the user clicks first before viewing the form.

The great thing about this is that you can add it to any part of your page.

Here’s one from Football365. You have to click on the Newsletter button first before that blank field shows up. Only then can the user begin typing in their information.

If they don’t want to see the form again, they just have to click on the Newsletter button again and it will hide it.

There’s also a study that supports the effectiveness of click-to-open forms.

One study from Stanford discovered that people are more likely to fulfill a demand after they do a small request.

It’s easier to make people follow through when they’re already committed to doing something at the beginning, even if it was a mundane task. In this case, it’s simply clicking on the button which will trigger the user to fulfill the larger demand which is filling out the form.

6. Make your banners small

Google allows pop-ups that take up “a reasonable amount of space” so why not copy Google Chrome’s strategy and make your signup banners like so?

Google didn’t give an exact size but the recommended is 15% of the screen or less (don’t forget landscape mode!) because it still allows the user to view several lines of content.

If you use a WordPress plugin for your pop-ups, make sure appropriate size adjustments have been applied. The content should be the main focus and not the banner.

7. Put pop-ups in other pages that are not yours

Did you know there’s a way that you can display forms on pages that are not yours?

Using a tool like Backly, you can display marketing messages on any content that you share.

It doesn’t break Google’s rules because the traffic comes from a different pathway, not Google’s search results. It also only takes up a reasonable amount of space and it’s not really your site.

With this method, you accomplish the following:

  • Share relevant content to your followers (who may not be subscribers yet!)
  • Gain more followers
  • Promote your brand in a non-intrusive way
  • Encourage signups

You can customize how your pop-up banner looks from the type of message it displays down to the type of animation.

If you go this route, be sure that you are sharing really good information. Anything you share will be associated with your brand and if users find it valuable, they’ll be more likely to subscribe.

8. Get rid of unnecessary pop-ups

Ask yourself: Is this pop-up really relevant to this page?

If not, get rid of it. Too many pop-ups can annoy the user discouraging them from signing up which totally defeats the whole purpose of having a pop-up form in the first place.

You don’t want that. Give your site an evaluation on mobile and list down pop-ups that you can remove from your pages.

9. Enrich your desktop with pop-ups

Google’s update only applies to mobile so you are still free to use pop-ups on desktop. Just remember to keep the intrusiveness to a minimum.

You still want to give your visitor a good experience so do your best to enrich your pop-ups with a clean format and high-converting copy.

10. Set your pop-up software to only show pop-ups on desktop

Even after you’re done setting up your forms in a way that conforms to Google’s standards, you still need to take some extra precaution.

If you’re using pop-up software to create your forms, set it up so it only displays pop-ups on desktop.

You probably don’t want to take your chances, so ensure that all intrusive pop-ups on mobile are turned off.

In Conclusion

Google is always looking for new ways to improve the user’s experience. Removing mobile pop-ups is just one of them.

When searchers click on a search result on Google, they expect to see content that answers their query. If they see an unrelated pop-up, it becomes frustrating thus ruining the ideal user experience.

Make sure to apply these important changes to your site. You will not only be complying with Google’s policies but you are also helping your visitor to have the best experience on your site.

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