The New Google Mobile Friendly Rules for Popups (and How They Affect OptinMonster)

Last month, Google announced the changes that are coming to mobile search results in 2017. One of the things mentioned was sites that use “intrusive” interstitials on mobile devices will lose their “mobile friendly” tag.

Since mobile friendly tags are one of the many ranking factors that Google uses, this announcement caused panic in marketing circles. A lot of misinformation was spread, and we received many questions from users about what this change meant for OptinMonster.

In this post, I want to explain what Google’s announcement is all about, and how OptinMonster is the only lead generation software that has been compliant from day one.

Is this The End of List Building?

Because Google’s announcement stated that the use of “intrusive interstitials” will lead to a page losing it’s mobile friendly tag, several folks jumped to the conclusion that lightbox popups and to the greater extent, email list building, will be dead!

As you can imagine, that’s quite an exaggeration.

To help you better understand what changes are coming and how OptinMonster helps you stay compliant, we’re going to break down every detail one-by-one.

1. This is Not Immediate

The changes to mobile results aren’t happening until January 10, 2017.

You have plenty of time to further improve your lead generation strategy with OptinMonster (more on this later in the article).

2. This is Only for Mobile Devices

This new rule applies to mobile search results only.

In other words, you can continue to use our full screen welcome gate (interstitials) for desktop visitors.

OptinMonster already has device specific targeting rules to help you deliver the best user experience for all users (no matter the device).

Simply go to the Display Rules setting in the OptinMonster Builder and adjust the device settings.

Device Specific Rules for OptinMonster

3. This is Not Just For Popups

A lot of “journalists” are spreading incomplete information because they’re focused on writing juicy click-bait headlines.

Google in their announcement explicitly made a point to limit using the word popup (used 2 times) and rather chose to use the word “interstitial” (used 27 times).

Why is this important?

Because the definition of an interstitial as explained by Google is a lot broader and includes:

“…a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.”

In other words, this isn’t specific to a lead-generation technique or technology; it’s about your website’s entire user experience (UX).

Someone using a welcome gate or a zero second popup is in the same category as someone who is using a big call-to-action (hero image) that’s built into their website design.

Google’s goal is to make sure the visitor sees the content that they were promised in search results (RIGHT AWAY) without scrolling or anything blocking their view.

4. Screen Space Matters

Google understands the importance of conversion optimization and lead generation.

That’s why they have given an example of a “reasonable” use of screen space for lead generation on mobile:

Google Approved Mobile Screenspace

And once again, we’ve already got you covered.

OptinMonster floating bars are 100% optimized for mobile devices. You can even use our device specific rules to create targeted floating bars just for mobile users.

In Google’s announcement, they mention that banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible would not be affected by the new signal.

Both of those things we offer because like Google, we also believe that you have to deliver a good user experience if you want to be successful in your conversion optimization efforts.

5. Mobile Friendly Label is Going Away for Everyone

The first part of the announcement that a lot of journalists skipped over is that the “mobile-friendly” label that Google is currently displaying in search results will be removed for everyone on January 10, 2017.

Google implemented the mobile-friendly label two years ago to help users find pages that were mobile optimized.

Since over 85% of all pages in mobile search results now meet the criteria, they will be removing the label for everyone. Here’s the official statement:

To keep search results uncluttered, we’ll be removing the label, although the mobile-friendly criteria will continue to be a ranking signal.

So after this update in January, you’ll need to use this mobile friendly tool by Google to see if your website passes the mobile friendly test.

6. One of the many ranking factors

Google uses hundreds of signals to determine the ranking of a page. This is just one of the many factors, and it is not a strong one.

Here’s what Google ended their announcement with:

Remember, this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

My Personal Thoughts on this New Rule

I have had many conversations with customers and friends (over email, Skype, and in person at conferences) over the last few weeks.

Since we’re humbly considered thought leaders in our industry, everyone wanted to know what I thought about this new “mobile-friendly” rule.

I personally think this is a great rule because it aligns with our core values and further solidifies our position as a leading behavior automation platform on the web.

Google is doing this to regulate and punish “spammers” who use aggressive overlays and interstitials that are terrible for user-experience.

One of the reasons why I built OptinMonster was to solve exactly that problem.

I personally dislike the idea of aggressive zero-second popups because those are annoying for users. That’s why OptinMonster from day one came with well-timed popups including our signature Exit Intent® technology.

Since then, we have added dozens of behavior automation triggers to help you convert targeted visitors into subscribers while offering a great user experience.

I also didn’t like the idea of having traditional desktop popups load on mobile because of limited screen space. That’s why OptinMonster popups from day one never loaded on mobile. You have always had to create a separate mobile-specific popup because my #1 priority is to deliver the best user experience.

This is precisely the reason why at OptinMonster we offer not one but six different campaign types including lightbox, sidebar, floating bar, inline forms, slide-ins, and fullscreen.

OptinMonster is the only platform that offers powerful personalization features like OnSite Retargeting, OnSite Follow up Campaigns, Dynamic Text Replacement and more.

Combine that with our powerful rules engine logic and multiple campaign views (Yes / No view, Optin view, and Success view) and you have the most powerful conversion optimization tool in the market at your disposal.

So honestly speaking, I’m really glad that Google came out with this announcement. It will force other spammy popup solutions to go out of business (or improve their products).

To summarize my thoughts above, below are some actionable tips and insights on how OptinMonster helps you stay compliant.

How OptinMonster Helps You Stay Compliant with Mobile Friendly Rules?

Here at OptinMonster, our top priority is to help you convert visitors into subscribers while delivering the best user experience.

Below are the ways OptinMonster helps you stay compliant with this new Google mobile friendly rule.

1. Popups are desktop only by Default

OptinMonster popups are desktop only by default. If you never created a separate mobile popup, then you’re already compliant.

2. Device Specific Display Rules

If you’re using a full screen welcome gate, then we recommend that you use the device specific rule to limit it to desktop only.

Device Specific Rules for OptinMonster

If you want to wait, then you can do this after the holiday season because changes aren’t going live until January 10, 2017.

3. Floating Bars are Mobile Optimized

Our Floating bars are optimized for mobile and qualify under the “reasonable” screen space rule.

If you must use a 0 second optin, then use a floating bar instead.

We have several templates available, and you can use Canvas to create your own.

Floating Bars

Here’s an example of OptinMonster floating bar running live on our integration partner, ActiveCampaign.

Active Campaign Floating Bar

Tip: I would recommend creating a custom offer for mobile users only. Use the device rules to display your custom floating bar for mobile users only.

When you do this, you’re conscious about the best formatting which results in higher conversions.

4. Use our Smart Display Rule Triggers

Nobody likes a zero second aggressive popup. This is why we built so many smart triggers. Please use them 🙂

Below are some ideas:

Scroll Based Trigger – Show the popup or fullscreen overlay only when the user has scrolled 80% of the page.

OptinMonster Scroll Trigger

Remember Google’s goal is to make sure the visitor sees the content that they were promised in search results (RIGHT AWAY) without scrolling or anything blocking their view.

With the scroll trigger, you are showing them the popup after they’re done reading the content.

Referrer Detection – Show the mobile popup or fullscreen overlay to everyone except for people visiting from Google.

OptinMonster Referrer Detection

Second Page View – Show the mobile popup or fullscreen overlay only when the user has viewed more than one page.

OptinMonster Number of Pages Viewed

This will help your conversion rates because a person who views more than one page has clearly expressed interest in what you’re offering.

Use MonsterLinks™ – MonsterLinks™ are triggered by the user when they click an image or button.

OpitnMonster MonsterLinks Rule

MonsterLinks™ are not affected by Google’s rule because they are 2-step optins (requiring users to click).

I highly recommend that you use these with content upgrades (both on desktop and mobile) because you’ll see 5X higher conversions.

Marketing Campaigns Rule – Show the mobile popup or full screen overlay only when the user is coming from a specific marketing campaign.

OptinMonster URL Parameter Display Rule

I know a lot of you use UTM link tracking to track specific marketing campaigns that you have going on (whether it’s email marketing, Facebook ads, etc).

This rule allows you to show custom popups only to these users which as you can expect will automatically result in higher conversions.

What’s Next?

If you’re using an aggressive popup technique on mobile, then please implement the tips that I suggested above before January 10, 2017.

If you have a friend who’s using a spammy lead-generation solution, then let them know about this post and convince them to use OptinMonster.

Remember, friends don’t let friends use a spammy lead generation solution!

(Yes, we have an affiliate program, so you can even earn some extra $$$ too ;))

But in all seriousness, we’re committed to helping you convert visitors into subscribers while delivering the best user experience.

Our team has already started working on floating bar templates that we will be releasing in the coming weeks to help you further boost your conversions.

As always, I want to thank you for using OptinMonster, and we’re proud to help you build your email list in a “Google Friendly” way.

Cheers,
Syed Balkhi
CEO of OptinMonster

Not using OptinMonster yet? Stop losing subscribers and get started with OptinMonster today.

Syed Balkhi
Syed Balkhi is the co-founder of OptinMonster. He was recognized as the top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by the United Nations. He lives and breathes conversion marketing.

Comments

  1. Daniel Pesis says:

    I’m using a LightBox pop-up and don’t have the option to only show on Desktop Device. Is that option only on Takeovers?

    Would be good to add option for Lightboxes too.

    1. Syed BalkhiSyed Balkhi says:

      Hey Daniel,

      Lightbox popups are disabled on mobile by default. Thats why you don’t need the device rule for that.

      If you want to create a custom mobile popup, then it’s a separate campaign type (like Fullscreen, Slidein, etc) with mobile optimized templates.

  2. Kerwin says:

    Syed,
    Thanks for explaining this in detail as of course I too wondered, but figured you’d say something in time and you did.

    This clears it up a lot as my fellow bloggers had all kinds of thoughts.

    1. Syed BalkhiSyed Balkhi says:

      Always a pleasure Kerwin. Thanks for your support.

  3. Ken Jensen says:

    Clarity, sanity, useful instruction. Wish some other sites did this as well as you just did!

    1. Syed BalkhiSyed Balkhi says:

      Thanks Ken – yes I too wish that some of these “journalist” do proper research before writing 🙂

  4. Jason Fladlien says:

    Great write up Syed – this is an excellent article and you reminded me of some of the useful features of Optin Monster that I had forgot about. Thanks for keeping us informed!

    1. Syed BalkhiSyed Balkhi says:

      Thanks Jason — yup it’s just amazing how much more powerful OptinMonster has become since we first started 🙂

  5. Anupama says:

    thanks for elaborating all the features. optinmonster when used intelligently, will no doubt be helpful to site visitors, rather than irritate them. 🙂

    1. Syed BalkhiSyed Balkhi says:

      Yup nailed it 🙂

  6. Victor says:

    Very clear and helpful. Thank Syed for this awesome tips and info regarding to this new Google update!

    1. Syed BalkhiSyed Balkhi says:

      My pleasure Victor – thanks for your support 🙂

  7. Brandon says:

    Hey thanks for this article! I assumed optinmonster wouldn’t be affected because I have always found it easy-to-close and never intrusive. Unlike some big website popups, like Yahoo’s who has the smallest X bar we’ve ever seen.

    Anyway thanks for this, I was still wondering about OptinMonster but now that’s all clear. Thanks for this & keeping us this wonderful plugin. Been using it for a few years now, or at least it feels like it.

    Keep up the stellar product.

    1. Syed BalkhiSyed Balkhi says:

      That’s correct Brandon. OptinMonster users won’t be affected as long as they implement the techniques that I mentioned above.

      Appreciate your support 🙂

  8. Keri Vandongen says:

    Very helpful, Syed!
    I’ll be moving my blogs over to my Homepage soon.
    Your insights and accurate info will come in handy.
    Thank you as well for not having popups appear or scrolling through a mess of ads -trying to read your blogs.
    I look forward to viewing screenshots of new and improved websites. Big change from the ‘top of the fold’ models.
    ~Keri

    1. Syed BalkhiSyed Balkhi says:

      My pleasure Keri – glad you found it helpful 🙂

  9. Joel says:

    Hi Syed,

    Thanks for this explanation. Do you have any updates to your templates since the January 10 Google update has come into effect?

    Thanks very much!

    1. Mary FernandezMary Fernandez says:

      Hey Joel,

      We are working on some awesome new templates as we speak, so stay tuned for those real soon!

      Mary

  10. Drew says:

    Is this only for organic Google?

    Would it be alright if I set the pop up for my Adwords campaigns?

    Thanks

    1. Mary FernandezMary Fernandez says:

      For desktop AdWords campaigns, lightbox popups are OK. Just make sure you follow Google’s advertising policies here. Hope that answers your question, Drew!

  11. James W says:

    Are the mobile light boxes (e.g. Agile, Gourmet) compliant with Google’s new rules? I have them set to show after 60 seconds on the website.

    The article explains that floating bars are permitted, but it doesn’t explain whether the light boxes on your website are allowed.

    1. Mary FernandezMary Fernandez says:

      Hi James,

      For the mobile lightboxes, you can either set them to appear on scroll or on second page view. Alternatively, you can set them to appear after 60 seconds only when the referrer URL does not contain “google.com”.

      Hope that answers your question!

      Mary

      1. James W says:

        Hi Mary. Thanks, but you haven’t really explained whether the mobile lightboxes are compliant with Google’s new rules.

        Are you saying that to make them compliant, you have to do either of these 2 things?
        1. have them show on the second page view, or
        2. switch them off for traffic referred from Google

        1. Mary FernandezMary Fernandez says:

          That is correct, or you can also set them to appear on scroll and that will be compliant as well.

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