Google’s Mobile Popup Rules and Recent Algorithm Changes

Smart phone in hand image

Over the past couple of years, Google has enacted several algorithm changes to their search engine, stressing the importance of the web user’s experience. Web sites that have used spam content, keyword stuffing, and intrusive ad placements were severely punished, sometimes crippling whole industries.

Interestingly enough, Google announced their most recent algorithm change before it went live, giving publishers and website owners the opportunity to tweak their layout to be in accordance and ensure rankings in the search engine results page. The algorithm change was first announced in August 2016, with the tech giant informing users that the shift will go live on January 10, 2017.

It was meant to focus on websites that abuse mobile pop-ups. For example, if a site uses a pop-up ad from the Google network that takes up substantial screen real estate or covers part of the content, then it can be potentially demoted to the back of the search engines. This can spell out exponential loss, especially since you can lose up to 90 percent of your target market overnight.

Google Has Been Cracking down on Abusive Publishers

If the website had pages that were inundated with pop-up ads that hid content or forced interaction, Google would end up punishing the sites. Mobile pop-up ads still have their place in the advertising industry, with the algorithm changes only aiming at mobile pages. Also, these new rules only apply to the first click on a page. Once the user is on the website, there are no penalties for mobile pop-up ads showing on another link.

The algorithm change also focused on interstitials ads. These pop-ups show up before reaching the content. They are intrusive and contributed to many users clicking back to the search engine results page, increasing bounce back rates for most publishers. Google will not penalize interstitials that are required by law, like pop-ups that ask for the user to input their date of birth to ensure that they are of legal age to view sensitive topics.

Google also released a statement stating that even though many mobile pages have content that don’t require the user to zoom; Google notice that many publishers showcase interstitials that were getting in the way. Visual obscurity is something that Google has emphasized in their ad program, encouraging users to make sure that a limited number of Google AdSense ads are placed in such a way that they aren’t mistaken for menus or as a continuation of written content.

Just like mobile pop-up ads, all ad placements must keep the user as their number one priority, with Google noting that users want to quickly access content when they tap on a link in the search engine results page. Thankfully, the impact of this algorithm change has been relatively well-received and did not cause much frustration from SEO experts. This may be due to the web giant giving publishers about four months to tweak their online properties.

Deciphering What Is Allowed

When used correctly, mobile pop-up ads still have their place, especially when it comes to improving online leads and newsletter subscribers. Carefully targeted, behavior-based pop-up ads have some firms noting a 75 percent conversion rate increase, opposed to websites that do not use pop-ups.

It’s important to decipher what Google meant when they mention “intrusive” mobile pop-ups and interstitials. If you are enacting any lead capture pop-ups targeting visitors on personal computers, then you can continue doing so. These pop-ups can be in the form of a slide-in or lightbox, or even a full page dedicated to capturing visitor information. These are compatible with desktop users. Furthermore, you should strategically tweak your pop-up offers to make sure they are the most relevant to computer users.

The use of mobile pop-ups also considers the real estate of the screen. Naturally, the screen size of a smartphone and tablet will be significantly smaller than a computer monitor. These algorithm changes understand the value of conversion optimization. Even though it may seem like Google is always on the side of website visitors – as it should – fewer ads can actually make you more money in the long run. Google also provided examples of what reasonable mobile pop-up ads look like for lead generation. Push notifications, small app banners, and exit pop-ups are all viable and compliant with Google’s recent changes.

It’s important to note that some major brands simply ignored Google’s warnings or weren’t listening in the first place – do not be like these online publishers. Google’s end goal is to ensure a positive experience and connect users with relevant, highly focused information. It is best that publishers and online property owners continuously test mobile ad placement with A/B testing for every algorithm change.

Gavin is an internet marketer and co-owner of Gavin lives in Barry in south Wales with his wife, Didem and cats, Munchie and Pixie.