pop-ups1 • 237 Marketing + Web

It didn’t get a lot of fanfare when the plan was announced in August, but on Jan. 10 of this year, Google altered its algorithm so that sites that use certain types of popup windows could be penalized on search result rankings. This is not to say that sites with strong content and regularly updated information will drop to page 10 if they employ a popup. It just means that sites with intrusive popup windows may not rank as highly.

Although Google’s change is important, there is a bigger issue at hand. Popup windows, whether they are used as advertising, email capture tools or for age verification, carry their own set of caveats. They have been popular for decades, but their efficacy could be jeopardized by aggressive usage.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of using popup windows on a website, and then we’ll offer a few best practices for avoiding Google’s penalties — and the wrath of site visitors.

Popup Window Pros

They work.

When it comes to accomplishing a goal, popups are effective. Studies have shown they can improve sales conversions or result in increased email capture rates, depending on how they’re deployed. Of course, the content in the popup window is vital to its success as well, so that requires thoughtful implementation.

They are useful.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to popups. They can be at the top of the page, the bottom of the page, on either side or cover that entire screen. They can be used for a variety of purposes, from surveys to newsletter signups to product sales. Email capture and sales are the two most common reasons 237 Marketing + Web clients include popup windows on their sites.

They can be customized.

Not only can the placement or message in the popup be modified, but the actual logistics also can vary. For example, site admins can limit the number of times the windows appear per site visit. Or, they can be strategic about when the windows appear, such as waiting until visitors indicate they are planning to leave the site.

Popup Window Cons

People dislike them.

Survey after survey has shown that the vast majority of online users find popup windows annoying. But some people still click on them, as mentioned above.

Blocking tools are nearly universal.

Every major web browser includes built-in blockers that prevent most windows from popping up. There are some exceptions to this, but the majority may not even appear to site visitors’ eyes.

Customer experience suffers.

Successful websites assign a lot of importance to customer experience, and if their sites use intrusive popups, satisfaction ratings are bound to go down. Windows that serve a non-sales purpose generally are better tolerated than those that promote products or services.

Best Practices

If popups are effective for your website and you want to continue using them, it is easier to stay on Google’s good side if you follow these guidelines:

Watch the format.

Only popups that block content or are deemed intrusive will be negatively affected by the new algorithm parameters. Windows that only cover a part of the screen and do not block out content should be safe. You can read more about the specifics of what Google is looking for in this post.

Make them delayed.

Depending on your goals from the popups you use, it’s best to time them so that they don’t appear until a visitor is on the site of at least 30 seconds. Sites with popups that appear immediately are subject to a high bounce rate.

Use them selectively.

Try to make your popups helpful. They can offer product ideas based on previous purchases, or they can give visitors an opportunity to get more information on a particular topic. Some sites include popup chat windows for expedient customer service.

Don’t block content.

Blocking content is the best way to become a target for Google. Popups must not hinder site visitors’ ability to get the information they need quickly. This is especially important on mobile devices.

There is no reason you have to abandon popup windows if they are a helpful tool on your website. However, if you worry they might be poorly placed or too intrusive, we can help you adjust them. That way, your search engines rankings won’t suffer, and your customers will be happier.