The topic of pop-ups seems to come up more often than not. Specifically, whether you should be including pop-ups on your website. This has been the question on everyone lips ever since January when Google began to devalue intrusive pop-up ads specifically on mobile versions of websites (desktops are safe for now, we will talk about this later).
As well this, Google devalued other intrusive interstitial that have the potential to weaken users experience, again especially on mobile phones. As we all know, Google cares about their users and giving them the best experience possible.
Google found that pop-up ads and other interstitials are not beneficial in any way to users.
So you are stuck is a virtual tug of war. You want to please Google and help boost your SEO but you also want to continue your high conversion rate you saw while using pop-up ads. And pop-ups do indeed work. Sumo found that the average conversion rate of a high performing pop-up ad is almost 10%.
As Google changes their view, it is important to again remind you that SEO is ever-changing. A tactic that was beneficial in the past may not reap the same rewards today. So make sure you are always keeping up to date with what Google is up to.
Pop-ups have featured regularly on a lot of websites. And it is understandable that these businesses do not want to give up a vital component of their sales funnel. Especially if the pop-up is high performing. But not doing something about your interstitials could results in a penalty from Google.
Hence the tug of war.
So the question remains: what do you do? Well, luckily there are ways to use pop-up ads that will not have a negative impact on your SEO. This means you can get the best of both worlds! Still have your conversion rate ticking along, all while keeping Google happy and ensuring you aren’t penalised.
If you are stuck in no man’s land and don’t know which way you should head, then don’t fret. This blog will investigate the best 5 ways to use pop-ups without them having a negative impact on your SEO. I understand pop-ups are sometimes a difficult area to master. If you are thinking about using pop-ups on your website make sure you have a good read of this blog!
Are you ready to get started? Have a read below about the top 5 ways to use pop-ups without a negative impact on your SEO:
1. Understand the Interstitials to Steer Clear Of
Google’s new penalty targeting pop-ups has a distinct focus on specifically intrusive interstitials. "Interstitial" is certainly a very board term and it applies to most pop-ups, modals and overlays.
However, not all interstitials are thought to have the same level of intrusiveness.
Let’s look at it this way, if your interstitial is difficult to click out of, spammy in nature or in general just reduces users’ experience, your mobile page will probably be devalued. You may not think it is important because it is just your mobile website, but Google is now indexing mobile first.
This means that Google robots will crawl and look through the mobile version of your website first, before they even look at your desktop version. And yes, you should certainly have a mobile version of your website. This will have a major impact on your SEO. If you would like more information about why mobile friendly websites are so important, have a read of this previous blog I wrote.
Have a look below at some of the most common intrusive interstitials that you should try to avoid as Google has been found to hate and penalise website’s that use them:
- Stand-alone interstitial which require the user to exit before they can even look at the content
- Pop-ups that cover content and the user can’t continue reading until it is closed
- Ads that disrupt users as they try to move through your website
- New window pop-up ads that open when a user goes on to your website
- Pop-ups that are deceptive and difficult to find how to close
- Misleading overlay modals that redirect users when accidentally clicked on
Have a look at your own mobile website. Are you currently using any of the above intrusive interstitials? If so, you will need to change the situation quick smart. But don’t worry because there are a lot of other pop-up options you can choose from instead! All the above intrusive interstitials will do is annoy your customers – and you don’t want that.
2. Use Non-Intrusive Interstitials
Google explained they didn’t like intrusive interstitials, but they didn’t say anything about non-intrusive interstitials. So make sure you keep using these types of pop-ups.
You are more than safe to use these as Google will not penalise you.
Non-intrusive interstitials include any information that you are legally required to show to keep users informed or to restrict content. Examples of non-intrusive interstitials include cookie use notifications and verification interstitial of users’ age.
Other pop-ups that are considered non-intrusive are ads such as tabs, banners, slide-ins and they should only take up a small proportion of the screen (recommended proportion is 15% or less). As long as they are easy to exit out of, Google will tend to leave you alone.
Sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether or not your interstitial is thought to be intrusive. As a general rule of thumb, if you aren’t sure what you can and can’t include, try to avoid full screen overlays, ad modals and welcome mats. These are all highly irritating to the user, especially if they take too long to download.
Instead of using the above interstitials, you could use slide-in boxes and even top banners. These interstitials are great because they allow users to keep looking at the content on your website. As well as this, if users are not annoyed by constant interstitials, they are more likely to sign up (or whatever your interstitial was designed to do) therefore further boosting your conversion rate.
3. Try out Timed Pop-ups
If you simply cannot live without pop-ups and overlays then you should ensure you redesign them in a way that is non-intrusive. Probably the biggest way you can dial down the intrusiveness of your pop-up is through changing the timing.
Instead of having a pop-up that never closes, swap it out for one that will close automatically after a certain amount of time. Pop-ups that automatically close after say 3 seconds of user inaction is certainly better than one that never closes. This way you get the best of both worlds. You still get to keep your pop-up and users won’t get as annoyed or irritated with your website.
As well as this, you could set your pop-ups so they are only shown at a certain time. For example, have a pop-up show when a user has reached the end of your page or finished reading a blog post instead of the pop-up being displayed as soon as a user clicks onto the website.
When you change the timing to when users have reached the end of your blog you pretty much know you have them hooked. They have taken the time to read through your entire blog. Therefore they may be more likely to look at the pop-up ad in a positive light.
Timed pop-ups probably mean you are reaching a lesser amount of people. But in the end, users (and Google) are more likely to be happier with your website if the pop-up ads are less intrusive. As well as this, timed pop-ups can only really be as effective as your content.
This means, users will only see the pop-up if they read all your content and get to the end. Therefore, it is important that you have awesome and engaging content so that the users will actually make it to the end to see your pop-up.
4. Intrusive Pop-Ups Still Allowed on Desktops
It is important to note again that Google has made these changes towards intrusive ads ON MOBILES ONLY. This means you still can use intrusive pop-ups on your desktop! Hooray! But use this with caution.
I found that a lot of websites have sort of found a quick fix in terms of Google’s interstitial penalty. What they do is hide the pop-ups for the mobile version of their website and use them only for desktop visitors. There are many different pop-up plugins that can help you in this area.
However, as I said, continue using intrusive pop-ups with caution. These types of pop-ups truly limit user experience and Google knows this. Therefore I won’t be surprised if there is an update in the future made by Google that penalises websites that use intrusive pop-ups on their desktop version as well.
So if you would like to continue using intrusive pop-ups on the desktop version of your website make sure you are always keeping up to date with Google and their changes to limit the chances of you being caught out and slapped with a penalty. If you want my opinion, stop using intrusive pop-ups on your desktop now and you don’t have to worry about a potential future penalty!
5. Try the HelloBar
The HelloBar is a tool from the amazing Neil Patel. I find this is probably one of the best types of ads to include. It is incredibly non-intrusive but it certainly still does enough to catch the user’s eye.
The HelloBar only takes up a very small portion of either the top or bottom of the screen. Typically, the HelloBar can advertise products or encourage more people to sign up for a newsletter. On Neil Patel’s blog, his HelloBar asks people if they want more traffic. There is an option for users to either click “yes” or “no”.
As you are looking on his website, the “yes” and “no” buttons move slightly from left to right (they wobble) every 5 seconds. This little bit of movement is pretty much all you need to grab the users attention up to the HelloBar.
The HelloBar is a great way to go because it is small enough to not obstruct any of the important content on the page. This is what will keep both users and Google happy. With the HelloBar you can either have it at the very top of your website, so when users start to scroll down the bar disappears. Or keep the bar attached to the top, so no matter how much users scroll, the HelloBar remains.
So there you are! The top 5 ways you can use pop-ups without having them having a negative impact your SEO. Pop-ups are certainly a difficult area to decide on, especially with Google’s recent changes. So, Google now will penalise you if the mobile version of your website uses intrusive pop-ups.
But most businesses love pop-up ads because there is such a good conversion rate. Now, however, it is not worth the risk. Do not risk receiving a penalty from Google just to ensure you keep your conversions up.
People are certainly in 2 minds about pop-ups. They want the conversions for the website but they don’t want to negatively impact their SEO. Well, luckily there are options available for those who want to keep their high performing pop-ups and not receive a penalty from Google.
By reading the above 5 ways, hopefully you have found an option that works well for your individual situation. It is important you understand which intrusive interstitials are no-go zones. Try to use non-intrusive interstitials instead. Give timed pop-ups and the HelloBar a go as they are considered non-intrusive.
While you can still use intrusive pop-ups on your desktop, I feel as though your time is running out. Make the change to non-intrusive pop-ups now to ensure you aren’t hit with a penalty from Google in the future. By doing all this, you are certainly keeping your users happy, while pleasing Google as well!
Charlotte is a digital marketing and communications practitioner working in our Sydney office. She takes on a range of roles relating to SEO and has a keen interest in studying the SEO industry and its future direction, particularly in relation to content marketing. Charlotte takes her writing very seriously and always seeks ensure the content she produces is of a high standard of quality.