The “Google Mobile Popup Algorithm Update” – Best Practices & Solutions

On January 10, 2017, Google has added a new ranking factor, known as the “Google Mobile Popup Update”, to its mobile search results.

Starting today, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high.

Google Webmaster Central Blog

What this means in a nutshell is that mobile popups – no matter if they contain email optin forms, registration forms or ads – will negatively impact a website’s search ranking on mobile. Desktop search results aren’t affected.

Google’s algorithm is made up of 200+ factors, so this alone won’t make or break your site’s rankings. Here it is, straight from the horses’ mouth:

As we said, this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking and the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

– Google Webmaster Central Blog

Google Mobile Popup Update – Solutions

The remainder of this post discusses solutions, workarounds & best practices related to Google’s Mobile Popup Update.

1. Turn off mobile Popups

If you’re using our Optin Cat plugin, follow these instructions.

1. Make sure that you’re running Optin Cat v1.8 or higher. (To identify your version of Optin Cat, log into your WordPress Admin panel, then navigate to “Plugins”. You’ll find Optin Cat’s version number displayed in your list of installed plugins.)

2. Next, navigate to your popup. Scroll down to “targeting”. Under “devices”, select “Desktop only”. That’s it.

2. Choose a Mobile Popup Alternative

Mobile accounts for a large chunk of total traffic on the internet. Luckily there are plenty of mobile popup alternatives that are within Google’s guidelines.

Optin Bars

Optin Cat’s Optin Bar, a feature introduced in v2.0, is a polite, unobtrusive way to convert visitors into email subscribers.

An Optin Bar is a narrow bar displayed on the top or bottom of your site that includes an optin form. It only takes up a small amount of screen real estate. Based on illustrations published by Google, we’re confident that using an Optin Bar on mobile will not negatively impact your rankings.

Above is an example provided by Google that “uses a reasonable amount of screen space”. Note how similar this looks to our Optin Bar.

You can use Optin Cat’s smart targeting rules to trigger your Optin Bar. Rules include:

  • Display after x seconds
  • Show after the user scrolled down x%
  • Display only/never on specific posts/categories/pages
  • And much, much more…

Optin Bars also look great on Desktop. Make sure to give them a try.

(Optin Bars are included in Optin Cat Premium. You can learn more here.)

Slide Ins

Slide ins are small optin forms that appear in the bottom corner of the screen.

They’re smaller and much less obtrusive than popups, but a bit more aggressive than Optin Bars.

Slide Ins are included in our Optin Cat Premium plugin. You can use our smart targeting rules to fine-tune when and how to display your Slide In.

We believe that Slide Ins are within Google’s guidelines as they only take over a small amount of screen real estate. However, we recommend using a small amount of text and hiding the “name” field.

Slide Ins also work great on Desktop. If you want to give your visitors a nudge to sign up for your list, but want to stay away from using popups, Slide Ins are the way to go. (Slide Ins are part of Optin Cat Premium. Learn more about Slide Ins here.)

Two-Step Optin

What if instead of displaying popups, you’d only display a popup after your visitor clicks a button or text link? This is the premise of Optin Cat’s Two-Step Optin feature.

Two-Step Optins are the least aggressive method proposed here – users will only see a popup if they proactively click on a link or button.

Nonetheless, this method is very effective. Once your visitor performs the first step – clicking on a button or link – he’s committed to finishing his task. He’ll be quite likely to perform step 2 – enter his email.

Lots of bloggers have been having lots of success with Two-Step Optins. Some have even seen 700%+ conversion rate increases. Curious? Click here to learn more about Optin Cat’s Two-Step Optin feature.

Two Step Optins are included in all version of Optin Cat Premium.

”I want to keep using mobile popups”

You can actually keep using mobile popups, if you really want. Read the following statement made by Google:

Starting today, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high.

– Google Webmaster Central Blog

The whole point of Google’s mobile popup update is to make it easier for its users. The goal is to help searchers to find what they’re looking for, instead of being obstructed by overlays, interstitials or popups.

This is where it gets interesting….

Optin Cat Premium comes with a pretty sweet targeting rule called “Number of pageviews”. Using this rule ensures that your popup will only be displayed after your visitor has viewed at least X pages during his session. (A session is a visit and expires after 30 minutes without activity).

Setting “number of pageviews” to 2 ensures that no popup will be displayed after the transition from Google search results to your website. Only if your visitor keeps browsing your site and views another page will he see the popup.

This configuration conforms to Google’s guidelines, while still letting you use mobile popups.

Wrapping up

In this post we’ve discussed the Google mobile popup update, as well as a number of solutions. Our recommendation is to turn of popups on mobile and replace them with another type of optin, such as our Optin Bar or Slide In, or to only show mobile popups on the 2nd pageview.

We’ll keep this post updated as we learn more about Google’s mobile interstitials algorithm change…

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