Pop-ups – The Pros and Cons

Pros and cons of using pop-ups

Balancing the aesthetics of your website with the desire to create leads is a delicate juggling act. Nothing demonstrates this better than pop-ups.

Let’s define pop-ups

Pop-ups are windows that appear on the screen over other windows or documents when someone visits a page. Sometimes they appear seconds after you arrive on a page (by design). Pop-ups come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Some pop-ups aren’t all that bad – you really hardly notice them. Then there are pop-ups that are distracting to the point where they’re downright annoying.

Recent research confirms that pop-ups improve conversion rates and sign-ups. When used appropriately, pop-ups can enhance the user experience on your website and help improve your conversion rate.

Over the past few years, pop-up forms have re-emerged as a popular marketing tactic for promoting content, driving blog subscriptions, growing email lists, and fueling lead generation.

The problem is, as 2017 rolled in Google started penalizing mobile sites for having what they describe as “intrusive” pop-ups. Google defines ‘intrusive’ as, ”anything that obscures the main content, either prior to, during the user accessing it.”

There are “bad” pop-ups…

Google has posted images with examples of pop-ups they don’t like and some they don’t mind as much. Here are the offending types of pop-ups.

Pop-ups Google penalizes

Shown above are pop-ups that Google has issues with:

  • Pop-ups that covers the main content, either immediately when the user navigates to a page, or later while they are reading through the page.
  • Displaying a stand alone interstitial that the user has to dismiss by clicking on an “X” before accessing the content they’re looking for.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page is similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content is dropped below the fold (where you’d need to scroll down to see it).

To summarize, Google is targeting and penalizing overlays that gray out the content beneath them to prevent you from reading a web page, either for a few seconds or until you find and very carefully tap a little X to dismiss them. These would count against you if they load immediately after a page is opened or if they appear after scrolling a certain distance. Google also dislikes ads that create the effect of a pop-up without actually being a pop-up, by taking up most of the page after a site is loaded.

Google has explained that not all pop-ups and interstitials will be penalized. They also have provided examples, which “would not be affected by the new signal, if used responsibly”.

…and some “good” pop-ups

Pop-ups Google doesn't penalize

Shown above are pop-ups Google doesn’t mind much:

  • Interstitials that are being used to fulfill a legal obligation like for cookie usage or age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, private content such as email or unindexable content that’s behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. The app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.

Do pop-ups work?

When used appropriately, pop-ups boost email list sign-ups and click-through rates. As much as people complain about them, they tolerate them for the most part.

If you decide to test a pop-up on your own site, test it for a specific amount of time and evaluate your results before making pop-ups a permanent part of your website. The right kind of pop-ups can improve website conversions, but implementing a strategy that annoys visitors can do serious damage to your marketing efforts.

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