If you are using content marketing as part of your strategy to attract leads for your business you’ll probably also be using a popup on your website to offer content upgrades or subscriptions to your newsletter to collect a visitors email address and help the visitor stay connected to you through your email list.

If you’ve got something of value to offer and the visitor is interested in what you have to say, opting in to your email list is a powerful signal that your website visitor likes what you have to say and wants to hear more.

Millions of websites across the world use popups to collect a visitors email address, and it’s one of the most effective ways to increase your email list opt in rates. If you search the web you’ll find that there are varying degrees of support from people as to whether they are a good thing or not, with many users complaining that they provide a bad experience, especially for popups that cover the entire page.

There is some merit in what users are complaining about regarding popups, especially with so many people accessing websites on a mobile device where popups can provide a difficult user experience if they’re not implemented correctly.

My thoughts are that many of the complaints are not so much about the pop up itself, but the irrelevancy of the content or offer in the popup itself. Website visitors will click the X on the popup mainly because the content they’re offered isn’t relevant to the content they came to your website to read.

Whatever you think of popups, as a business owner and online marketer popups are proven to increase your email list opt in rate. There are many case studies to support this including this one from Aweber that showed one user increased their sign up rate by 1375% by switching to popups as an email opt in method.

Google Popup Penalization SEO Email Marketing Opt In

Now Google have decided that pop ups provide a bad user experience for website users, and from January 2017 they’ll be penalizing your SEO if a Google Bot searches your site and finds a popup on your website that they consider doesn’t enhance a visitors experience.

This could not only be a massive blow to businesses that use content marketing and publishing as part of their lead generation strategy, it’s potentially also going to decimate the massive market for popup software, including the plethora of WordPress plugins, including commercial third party vendors like Pippity, SumoMe and OptinMonster whose business is built around the humble popup.

Many premium WordPress themes such as the popular OptimizePress integrate popups into their core offerings too. Google’s decision to penalize popups is likely to have a major effect on the marketing industry and the businesses that they support.

Joe Pulizzi Founder, The Content Marketing Institute

There are thousands of legitimate content sites that leverage popups to draw in new subscribers. The “pop-up” or “pop-over” is critical to the business model of most media companies. All I can say at this point is that it could have catastrophic effects to traditional and brand publishers

This could have a devastating effect on your rankings in the search engines, so it’s important to know what Google consider a ‘good popup’ and a ‘bad popup’ to avoid getting your search placements knocked down.

Here’s what Google say in their official announcement regarding their SEO penalization of popups

“Here are some examples of techniques that make content less accessible to a user:

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using 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.


By contrast, here are some examples of techniques that, used responsibly, would not be affected by the new signal:

  • Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.

Google Popup Penalization SEO Email Marketing Opt In

So what’s the best course of action for a business that currently has email opt in popups integrated into their website as one of their major lead generation strategies?

Ultimately Google use lots of signals to work out where you should appear on their search indexes, so this is just another indicator for them as to whether what you have to offer on your website is ultimately more useful to the visitor than the other content you’re competing with.

I’d imagine that should you rank exactly the same on relevancy and the other Google ranking factors, that having a less intrusive popup or none at all would win you a higher position in the search results.

Although many case studies show that popups are more effective at converting email signups over inline forms in your content or sidebar, businesses that use web publishing as a key lead generation strategy may have to rethink their email opt in form placements before the end of the year to avoid losing visibility in the search engine result pages.

If you want to avoid losing your current search results and are currently using popups in any way on your website, New Rise Digital offers a free website audit service and can help you determine whether you’re at risk from this new Google algorithm update. Now is the time to prepare, so click here to contact us today for your free website audit.