Google announced that beginning on January 10, 2017, they will be impacting your mobile search result ranking if your mobile site has what they deem to be an “intrusive interstitial.”
What does this mean for email marketers?
For a lot of email marketers, this means that to keep your mobile search rankings from being impacted, you may need to make updates to your current email popover on mobile devices. There are three examples that Google has provided to illustrate what they will consider intrusive after January 10, 2017.
If your mobile site is currently utilizing an email acquisition form that looks like one of these examples, you will want to begin exploring your options for getting your form updated by the beginning of next year.
3 strategies in compliance with Google’s new policy
1. Resize your popover: Google provided marketers with three examples of interstitials that will not impact your rankings, “if used responsibly.” The first example pertains to acceptance of cookie usage on site, and the second is for age verification. The third example is the only one that applies to email marketers.
If your current popover is full-screen, update your form to a size that “uses a reasonable amount of screen space.”
While Google didn’t provide us with exact specifications for what they consider a reasonable size, we can assume based on their example that if your form covers less than one-quarter of the screen, you should be safe.
2. Move email acquisition on the site: Rather than a popover, some brands have made email acquisition a part of their mobile homepage or footer. For example, some brands have placed their email acquisition form just under a promotional banner on the homepage. This provides the visitor with the ability to minimize the form, and then the option to close the form altogether should they not be interested in signing up.
Another approach involves incorporating an email acquisition form into the mobile footer. This form should be present on every page of the mobile site that utilizes this footer, so users can opt-in to your email list no matter which page they land on.
3. Remove the form altogether from mobile: If it’s getting close to crunch time and you can’t update your popover size, your homepage, or your footer to include email acquisition, then you should consider removing the popover altogether. This approach, while not the recommended approach from an email acquisition perspective, will ensure that you don’t lose your mobile rankings. Now is the time to start planning for these updates, so you don’t see a slump in email acquisition through the holidays.
What’s the risk to my organic traffic if I do nothing?
All things considered, this update is no reason to panic. We’ve seen many updates from Google in the past that are designed to change web-development behavior, for the benefit of all.
It’s important to keep in mind that Google’s algorithm considers hundreds of factors that influence how websites rank in mobile search results. The strongest signals that impact performance are still related to content quality and measures of authority and expertise in the form of backlinks, brand mentions, and reviews. This means that if you’re currently ranking in position 1 in mobile search results, but your site uses intrusive interstitials, it is unlikely that your site will fall off the face of Google. However, competitors hungry for your coveted #1 ranking who do make these changes stand a greater chance of displacing you and claiming a larger share of the available demand in your industry.
While it is unlikely an established site will lose all mobile traffic, there is a risk here that could equate to anywhere from 5-40% of your clicks from organic search results if you already have a strong mobile presence and do nothing.
All else the same, Google will show preference to sites that make these recommended changes, and we’ve found it’s typically best to stay on their good side.
Do my Email Service Providers know about this update?
We reached out to several ESPs that allow their clients to run interstitials for email acquisition directly through the ESP. The ESPs we spoke with all told us that they are currently in the process of looking into solutions for their clients. If you are currently utilizing your ESP’s functionality to manage your popover, be sure to work with them directly to implement a solution. For those that execute your acquisition popover through your eCommerce Software Platform, we recommend discussing the three options above with them, as well as asking if they have any other recommendations for compliance.