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How to Deal With Google’s Latest Mobile Ranking Update About Popups

How to Deal With Google's Latest Mobile Ranking Update About Popups

Here’s why you hear the word “intrusive” more often these days: Suddenly it has become a part of Google’s mobile ranking algorithm!

Last year Google warned webmasters it would start down-ranking sites with intrusive interstitials, commonly known as popup ads, in mobile search results. As of today, that update should be live, so you can start monitoring your mobile rankings to see if your site seems to have been effected.

With more and more people searching and finding your website on a mobile device, suffering a drop in your mobile rankings can be a huge loss.

What exactly is intrusive?

An intrusive ad is one that interferes with the user experience. If a user has to perform an action to hide an opt-in form to continue using your site, that form is intrusive.

Google is OK with intrusive popup forms if they cannot be avoided (for example, by law, you need to confirm your age before proceeding to the site).

Google is not OK with intrusive popup forms you can basically do without if they provide a poorer user experience, distract a user from their initial intent, force the user to opt out or somehow remove the form before they can fully interact with the page.

For example, covering half of your above-the-fold screen with an opt-in form encouraging a user to subscribe to your email list and forcing a user to click away to remove the form before they can read further, is what Google considers intrusive.

What’s more, Google doesn’t care whether an intrusive popup or an ad is served immediately once the user lands on a page or whether they’ll see it after scrolling. In both cases, that’s considered intrusive if you use the popup to capture a lead or monetize your website.

As per Google, here’s exactly how much screen you can cover with your opt-in form and avoid being intrusive:

Remember, Google only cares about immediate user experience – Once a user clicks on a search listing and lands on your page, that’s where Google wants to make sure you serve them right. Basically, they want to make sure if they send you the user for you to provide them with a satisfactory user experience.

After the user starts clicking your navigation links going from page to page, you can serve them more noticeable ads based on their behavior. It will be between you and your users once they choose to stick around.

The bad news for marketers is that many of those popup lightbox windows work like a charm for conversions. People claim huge spikes in signups once they start serving them.

So how do you make sure you are not hit with this Google Update without losing your conversions? How do you have people complete your forms without being obnoxious?

To summarize what I’ll describe in more detail below, here are three generic tactics:

  • Don’t show popup opt-in forms for mobile users at all. Instead, serve different less disruptive forms to them such as an opt-in bar for example. Note: You may keep your lightbox popup forms for desktop users.
  • Don’t show popup opt-in forms for Google referrals. Or only serve them your forms once they go deeper into your site.
  • Switch from being intrusive to being effective. Serve different calls-to-action based on user intent.

1. Use different opt-in forms for mobile users

If you are not ready to change your website opt-in forms in fear of losing your conversions, you can at least change how they appear for mobile users. Remember, this update is only about mobile user experience, so it is crucial that you take action and make sure your opt-in forms qualify as non-intrusive for mobile users first.

Hello Bar is a full-width bar that spans across the top or bottom of your website and helps you grab visitors’ attention without interrupting their browsing. Hello Bar can be used for all kinds of calls-to-action:

You can choose to create a separate Hello Bar specifically for mobile device users where you can choose to:

  • Change your call-to-action to find the best working one
  • Animate entry/exit of the bar to draw your visitors’ eyes to it.
  • Select the width of the bar to make it easy to notice and use, while preventing it from covering too much of the screen.
  • Keep it always on top of the page while the user scrolls down.
  • Allow to hide the bar (I would certainly recommend checking this option as web users prefer to have a choice).
  • Place it on the top or bottom of the page
  • A/B test different bars you have been running and compare results

It’s very easy to integrate Hello Bar with your email provider. Just choose your email marketing platform, authenticate Hello Bar access and choose your email list to add new contacts to.

Here’s a quick Hello Bar case study from DIYthemes to illustrate how it works. Hello Bar helped DIYthemes gain an additional 1,180 email subscribers within 30 days!

You can also use expandable calls-to-action allowing your users to act after a click.

Here’s a good example of what I am talking about:

It’s an interesting way to test two-step optin performance on your site.

2. Show different forms based on the referral

Another possible way to ensure you comply with Google’s guidelines is to serve different ads based on the referral. For example, you may choose to show different opt-in forms to people coming from Google search results or serve them no forms at all.

PadiAct is one of the easiest ways to create intricate rules for when to show your calls-to-action and how to customize your opt-in form behavior. For example, whenever a user is referred to your site by Google, you can choose to only serve your opt-in form once they proceed to page #2 of your site:

You can also connect PadiAct to Google Analytics to clearly see how your forms are working based on the referral.

You can also use PadiAct to serve your forms only to people who have visited a certain page or a certain section of your website.

3. Use different calls-to-action based on the keyword intent

This is not specific to this Google mobile ranking update but it’s a great way to make sure your calls-to-action are relevant to your specific landing page.

It may not be about how well your call-to-action stands out or how easy it is to notice. The issue may be in how well you meet the needs of visitors of a particular page.

If you notice a high bounce rate or a low conversion rate on a specific landing page of your site, the chances are your call-to-action doesn’t match the intent of users coming to that page. Fixing this is likely to increase your conversions.

For example, there may be little point in trying to sell a product to someone who came to find an answer to an informational query. A better way to address different types of user intent would be:

  • If a user lands on your knowledge base page looking for an answer on how to use your product, a good subtle call-to-action to chat with a company representative for further help would make more sense than inviting a user to subscribe to your email list or buy the product. In contrast, the same online chat popup on a page where a user can buy a product may be intrusive and distracting.
  • If a user lands on a page in hope of finding an answer to a generic non-commercial question, serving them a subtle popup inviting them to opt-in to download a more detailed PDF guide addressing the same question is a good way to have the user engage.

Two helpful tools in this section are Serpstat and Whatagraph.

Use Serpstat to research keywords for your landing pages, especially questions. Question-type queries work wonders for email opt-in because users are hungry for more information.

To access Serpstat question data, type in your core term and then proceed to the “Content Marketing” section:

Serpstat also provides a tag cloud containing words which most often occur in questions containing your core term:

This is a great source of information to direct your content strategy and organize your keyword lists into groups for each landing page, and target a specific keyword group. Clicking each tag will filter the list of questions to those containing that word. Most of these queries can fit into one landing page:

Whatagraph integrates with Google Analytics and turns its data into daily reports which are highly visual and easy to understand. Their reports contain a section listing pages with the highest bounce rate and the highest exit count. These are the pages to look into to see if your information and calls-to-action match the user intent!

Whatagraph also emails daily goal completion stats for you to easily keep an eye on your forms and which of them seem to perform better or worse, so you can act accordingly.


A high conversion rate is not about being intrusive, it’s about being effective!

Are you prepared for Google’s latest mobile ranking update? Please share your tips!

Guest Author: Ann Smarty is the brand and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas and co-founder of Viral Content Bee, the free platform helping your content reach social media influencers!

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