On August 23rd, 2016 Doantam Phan from Google announced on the Google Webmasters blog that Google will make an update this coming January that will do two things:
- Remove the “Mobile-friendly” tag from search results since 85% of sites are now mobile-friendly. No big deal.
- “To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.” HUGE FREAK’IN DEAL
For those of you that have sites that get a significant amount of organic search traffic keep reading (cough, if this isn’t you, you either don’t have a site or you’re doing something horribly wrong with your content).
Short version for the A.D.D. audience reading: If you have pop-ups on your mobile site, your site rank is about to die on January 10, 2017. Remove all pop-ups on your mobile sites. Look a squirrel!
Longer version for nerds like me, techno-files, executives that need to be “in the know” in case they’re challenged by a nerd or a higher executive, and for our own SEO benefit
What the heck is an “interstitial” you may be wondering (if you’ve read this far). It’s a fancy term for “pop-up ad” that nerds like to use in the tech biz. It technically means “forming or occupying an intervening space, especially a very small one.”
What’s important to know however is what Google is doing to penalize these pop-up ads on mobile websites. Below are 4 tips to make sure you’re Google-mobile compliant with your pop-ups.
1. This only applies to mobile sites…not desktop.
Go nutz with your crazy coupons and “Mega Super Sale” attention-getters on your desktop site but make sure your mobile site is as friendly as Santa on Christmas with cookies and a glass of milk.
2. Know the difference between a valid and invalid pop-up.
Not all pop-ups are created equal. The biggest knowledge gap we see is the understanding of what Google is getting after in regards to “punishing” mobile websites.
Google is essentially protecting mobile content users from overly aggressive publishers, not necessarily all pop-ups and they are almost exclusively targeting mobile. Basically if you’re running a mobile site that likes to hold content hostage to an advertisement because you want to spike your advertising revenue or coupon conversion rates you’re going to get smacked. It comes down to access to content.
The examples of intrusive pop-ups that get you in trouble are to the right. Basically if you force the user to click something before they can access your content, even if it pops up in a time-delayed manner is a Google no-no. Don’t do it.
That said, there are a few exceptions. To the right are some pop-ups that are valid. These are generally security/verification pop-ups for legal reasons. The only other exception is a pop-up for an app download or a banner roughly the same size (see third image) that doesn’t significantly block the content.
3. Be careful on what you integrate with. Ensure your third party apps comply.
While your site may be up to snuff, your third party plug-ins and apps may not be and that can still get you into trouble. In fact, the main reason for this step is to combat against those annoying ad-driven publishing sites that pop-up ads when you’re clicking through to an article from your Facebook. Ever seen those? Those pop-ups are often powered by a third-party advertising network that the publisher plugged in so they can get paid for publishing the content. Unfortunately for the consumer, they’re super annoying. That’s why Google is making this change. Go Google! Here’s an example of how we’ve adapted our system that integrates with client websites
At Crossroads we are known for our proactive invites that drive conversion. For desktop users we deploy our proactive invites in a pop-out manner. However, unlike most annoying ones our system is configured to reach out when we identify a need to help – like when a customer is shopping for a specific product.
That said we have adapted our system to stay hidden for mobile users and deploy a notification icon on the chat-tab in the event we have a proactive invite for the user. Behaviorally we mirror the same notification as a mobile app with a red number indicating an update that cognitively ushers the user to engage with the tab, expand it to view the message, and engage in a chat conversation. It’s seamless and simple yet drives 30% more conversion from mobile.
The lesson here is that as a third party app were prepared to answer our clients when they have the valid concern of mobile ranking. Make it a point to review your third-party apps to make sure they’re compliant before January
4. When in doubt…side with the mobile user experience and test, test, and re-test.
In general it’s good practice to keep your mobile site compliant and mobile friendly. When in doubt, make it easier for your mobile users to get to content and perform routine actions on your site. Given the massive shift from desktop to mobile this isn’t going to be a short-term issue. We need to start inspecting our mobile sites. Put it on your calendar as a recurring monthly meeting to browse your own company’s website from your phone. Then make notes on what was difficult: font too small, pop-ups, links that force another browser card on the same site, etc. The better you can get at the user experience the better you’ll rank and the more user engagement you’ll drive.
If you need assistance with a process to systematically check your site for mobile user improvements email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with us. Thanks for taking time to read this blog!