As Google Penalises Mobile Pop-Ups - How Can eCommerce Adapt?

Google’s page ranking signals are constantly changing, and it’s important that eCommerce retailers, along with everyone else, consider how these changes are likely to effect their online stores.

The latest change to come out of Google HQ relates to mobile interstitials (pop-ups to you and me). Google is beginning to frown upon and penalise any mobile features that create (what they view as) a bad experience. They began punishing sites that aren’t ‘mobile friendly’ back in April 2015 and this is continuing today with their new policies on pop-ups.

What’s Changed?

The main change that Google have made involves pop-ups that are deemed to be intrusive. The aim is to improve the user experience for mobile internet users and reduce the amount of time and steps taken to reach the content actually displayed in search results.

We’ve all run into interstitial content that is annoying or difficult to dismiss, and this seems to be how Google is angling their changes. As a result, there are some pop-ups that will be deemed inappropriate or unnecessary - such as the examples set out below. Here, pop-ups cover either all or most of the screen and require user interaction to remove or dismiss them.


Google will, however, make some exceptions to the rule when it comes to content that is necessary for the site. Examples would include legally required messages such as cookie notifications and age limited content, as can be seen below.

Not Intrusive

Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space should still be permitted and shouldn’t be penalised in Google rankings - so if your offer pops up subtly from the top or bottom of a mobile phone screen and only takes up about 15% of the display, you can relax.

eCommerce retailers also don’t need to worry about pop-ups on sites that are not publicly indexed such as pay-walled or account pages, for example.

How Can eCommerce Merchants Adapt?

So these changes are sure to impact on eCommerce merchants, many of which use pop-ups for email list signups, offers and as part of personalisation systems.

Remove Pop-Ups

The first option would be to remove interstitial content altogether. Some retailers may be able to rely on other methods for contacting customers such as email followups or even Facebook Messenger notifications. Marketing automation tools can allow eCommerce retailers to monitor users and contact them when certain actions are carried out, so this could be a better alternative.

eCommerce retailers may even be able to replace some pop-ups with remarketing campaigns. Instead of displaying a popup for abandoned carts, merchants could remarket through platforms like Facebook Advertising and Google AdWords to draw these customers back in.

Be Less Intrusive

As Google does intend to continue allowing popups that don’t fill too much screen space, retailers could display less intrusive messaging on mobile by having smaller banners. Banner ads at the top or bottom of the screen can get the message across without being too intrusive. Merchants could also think about incorporating pop-up information into their page content.

Be Inventive

There are sure to be some inventive methods of circumventing these changes cropping up between now and January. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on the area for new and creative ways of interacting with customers on mobile. As long as these aren’t intrusive, think about incorporating them into your eCommerce site.

The main obstacle is likely to be making the first contact with new customers. Think about how you can collect information such as email addresses and communicate offers to your customers in inventive ways. Once you have customer details, you could dynamically send messenger notifications, triggered by certain actions.

Will Mobile Experiences Improve?

The short answer is, probably yes. We’ve all encountered some pretty infuriating pop-ups, and they can often seem especially annoying on mobile. Mobile pop-ups tend to be hard to dismiss and fill the whole screen, totally obscuring the content you were looking at. On the whole, retailers will have to adapt. But a new level playing field, free of pop-ups, is a good thing.

We all want a better experience for our users, and sometimes bombarding them with interstitial content and offers runs against this aim.

In Summary…

There’s still plenty of time to prepare for these changes, with Google not introducing them until next January. You should be thinking now about how you’ll adjust your eCommerce site and improve user experience on mobile, while still getting the necessary messages across to customers.

One more thing - don’t imagine that Google won’t roll this out to Desktop sites in future. Usability seems to be a key concern, and pop-ups usually obstruct this, whether on mobile or desktop.

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