Why mobile popups are still part of the game

2017 has been a tough year for mobile popups.

In January, Google started penalizing websites using mobile popups that prevent users from accessing content. Later, the Coalition for Better Ads, a group of trade associations and companies involved in online media (including Google and Facebook), listed mobile popups as one of the ad formats to avoid.

Many interpreted these moves as the end of mobile popups.

It looks like they were wrong. Mobile popups are now smarter and more efficient than ever. Let’s see how you can use them to grow your email list.

Why mobile popups?

It could look weird to focus on mobile popups. Why do they matter so much?

Well, in a world where mobile is everywhere, it makes sense for marketers to do everything they can to leverage their mobile.

Not convinced? Look at the following stats:

Globally mobile traffic represents more than half of the web traffic according to a recent WeAreSocial study.


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Source: WeAreSocial, Digital in 2017 Global Overview

Earlier this year, a Monetate study confirmed these stats also concerned ecommerce websites. Combined, mobile and tablets now represent 57.80% of ecommerce websites’ traffic.

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The same study highlighted an interesting element: the conversion rate is still 11% lower on smartphones.

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So in short, marketers are in a situation where mobile represents a lot of traffic and the conversion rate is lower on mobile. That’s why mobile popups are so popular. They help marketers make the most of this growing traffic and help them retarget mobile visitors later when they don’t convert immediately.

Did Google kill mobile popups?

In August 2016, Google announced it would roll out a new algorithm penalizing popups which degraded the experience of mobile visitors.

Their announcement said webmasters should avoid:

  1. “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.
  2. Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  3. 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.”

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They later stated that these changes applied only to visitors coming from Google and concerned the landing page only. Popups triggered on scroll are also discouraged..

So it’s a done deal, right? Mobile popups are over…

Mobile popups are back

Not quite!

Some kinds of popups are still acceptable. Google confirmed that some formats are OK:

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This one was labeled as “An example of a banner that uses a reasonable amount of screen space”. If we consider the standards shared by the Coalition for better ads, it should take less than 30 percent of the screen height and be easy to close.

Some major retailers and media applied this technique to continue building their email list while staying safe on the SEO side.

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A mobile popup on Fast Company

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A mobile popup on Timberland’s e-shop

Why do you think they still display email popups on mobile? Because they work!
One of our customers, a major Australian shoe retailer activated a mobile popup. 59 percent of their emails are now collected on mobile. Worth trying don’t you think?

Using smaller popups is one way to do it. There are more. Let’s review them.

How to get your mobile email popups right

First technique: display the popup on the second page

If you still want to display full-size popups, you can. But there are conditions.

You should either avoid displaying them to people coming from search engines (full disclosure, we took that tip from Rand Fishkin) OR you should display them on the second page viewed by the visitor.

This is what Ralph Lauren does for example:

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Second technique: Turn your popup into a top bar

This is what Skechers did. They replaced their “Free Shipping” popup by a bar.

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Guess what happens when you click that bar?

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You got it right, they display a popup.

Third Technique: Embed your pop-p into the page

“They don’t want our popup? We’re going to turn it into an embedded form.” This is probably what the marketing team at New Balance thought. The result is non-intrusive, highly visible and 100% compliant with Google guidelines.

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Fourth Technique: use a call-to-action to trigger the popup

We call it a tab. It’s a call-to-action which triggers the popup when clicked. Here’s an example on Basic Outfitters.

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The tab

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The popup


It’s difficult to recommend a specific technique. The results will depend on your website, your offer and your industry. AB testing your popups can help you pick the right strategy for your site.

What’s important to remember though is that in a world where more than half of the Internet traffic is mobile, mobile email popups should be a key component of your marketing strategy.

If you don’t have any, you’re just missing out.

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