Popups – a marketer’s first love for email signups, promotion codes, sale announcements and a bevy of offers. Why? Because they work!

But in January 2017, Google rolled out an algo update penalizing websites using pop-ups that interfere with getting to content, particularly on mobile devices. Despite the long-lead on notifying marketers that this change was coming, we’re still seeing a ton of websites using dirty popups. The net result is lower SERP rankings for sites, lower organic traffic and lower sales volumes.


How do you know if your pop-up is a dirty dog?

  • Large popups that keep users from seeing content
  • Invasive popups that are difficult to close on mobile screens
  • Popups that appear immediately on page load


What kind of popups are ok?

  • Pop-ups that are important to the user experience, like cookie use notifications or age gates
  • Smaller popups (less than 40% of the screen)
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable



What happens if you remove popups for mobile devices?

Start by looking at your average email list growth on a monthly average. Now, how many of those users came from mobile devices?

The Calculation: # mobile list additions / # average list growth = % of potential list growth loss

100 new email users from mobile / 1000 new email users = 10% loss

500 new email users from mobile / 1000 new email users = 50% loss

The bad news: You’re likely going to lose traction in email subscribers and promo conversions if you already have a strong funnel there. This means looking for other ways to call users to action:

  • CTAs within content that activate a modal
  • Adding a special tab to mobile for sale, promos, etc. that visually stands out
  • Triggered popups that happen when a user activates
  • Timed popups that appear after a set amount of time (we recommend 40 seconds or more)

The good news: You’re not going to cut off organic Google traffic. 100% of zero is still zero, so maintaining and growing organic search traffic is far more important than the beloved popup.

Why should you care about this long-term, even if you don’t have a lot of mobile users?

The algorithm update is about more than simply improving the mobile user experience. It’s the start of Google using mobile site indexing to decide where a page should appear in search results, effectively pushing search from mobile first to mobile only.

So get on it! Fix that mobile user experience right now. Then take the time to review, rethink and rework your entire integrated marketing strategy because mobile very well could be the death of you.