Pop-Ups Be Gone: The Solution to Google’s Interstitials Update in 2017

By Nadya Khoja, Dec 09, 2016

pop-ups be gone

We’ve all heard the news that Google will be updating its mobile-friendly search algorithm early next year. What this update will do is penalize sites that display “intrusive interstitials” or in human language – sites that display pop-up boxes that make it more difficult for smartphone searchers to access content.

What’s the goal here?

Well, Google wants to ensure that mobile searchers can easily access the content they expect to see when they land on a given page.

For many marketers, this is very unfortunate news. The reason being that pop-up forms on a site are one of the most effective means of generating leads.

The thing is, marketers know that pop-ups are annoying as hell, yet they persist to use them. They rave that pop-ups can lead to a 1000% increase in conversions, and massive lists of email subscribers.

You know why they are subscribing? Because they don’t realize they have another choice.

But here’s what people really think about pop-ups on websites:

reddit hate popups

Not the best feedback, is it?

Here’s a deeper look at a real person’s actual opinion of marketers using pop-up ads:

reddit hate popup2

Not great. Not great at all.

Let’s face it, marketers, we need a better solution. We can’t go on like this. People don’t like us very much as it is. There needs to be a better alternative.

The truth is, leads that you get from email pop-ups are way less engaged than people who choose to subscribe to your site.

Lucky for you, I’m going to show you some better alternatives to using pop-ups that will still help you generate tons of leads, without pissing off the majority of people that visit your site.

1) Instead of pop-ups, create valuable gated content

If you absolutely need to gate your content, why not try creating high-level content upgrades instead of blocking everything on your page.

Brian Dean and Neil Patel do this frequently with their blog posts by embedding a content upgrade right into their blog posts.

embedded cta

You know what’s great about this?

Only people that actually want the content, are going to give you their email address and download the upgrade.

You know what that means?

They’re probably going to be a way more engaged lead that could potentially buy your product.

2) Use NudgeSumo to replace pop-ups

What if you could remain front of mind to your audience, without annoying them like an 8 year-old boy with a school crush?

Use a Nudge.

Wtf is that, you ask?

wtf gma

It’s this thing:

nudgesumo demo

What thing?

This thing!

nudge sumo in action

How Does it Work?

The way it works is:

  • Unobtrusive Call-To-Actions: You, the writer of this piece of content adds a call to action to the post.
  • Indicate Exact Value: Then, you indicate what the value of that CTA is. In this case, there is a content upgrade in the form of a PDF that the reader can download it if they choose to.

But the value is not only in getting a lead. NudgeSumo allows you to develop a relationship with the writer as well.

Here’s an example:

nudge in action2

Let’s say you highlight a sentence in your article. In the example below, the writer states that “Siri is dumb”. You can incorporate a Nudge that interacts with the reader, asking for their opinion and qualifying the lead before getting them to submit any information to you.

If the reader selects “yes”, you can ask them if they would be interested in reading a follow-up article, or a piece of content related to the inquiry in question, like such:

nudgesumo 2

You can even ask them to help you in other ways, for instance asking them to share the article for you if they enjoyed it:

nudgesumo shares

Not only does this help you increase the reach of your content and get a new lead, but you allow the reader to engage directly with you, in turn giving them a sense of purpose and making them feel valued.

Furthermore, you generate a very targeted list of contacts linked to a very specific piece of content.

To see an example of NudgeSumo in action, check out this article about getting more blog traffic.


3) Include subscribe forms directly in your content

Lastly, instead of bombarding your site’s visitors with every pop-up trick in the book, why not embed a subscribe form directly into your content? This is yet another alternative for how to grow subscribers without pop-ups.

Not only will this help you from getting penalized by Google, but once again you can ensure that the people subscribing are subscribing by their own accord, and not because they feel pressured due to an in-your-face cock block.

Sorry for being real.

Here’s an example of this method in action:

embed form

You know how many leads this embedded form got in the span of three months? It got 490 emails from this one page.

You know how many leads the imposing pop-up running on all blog pages got during that same time period? It got 850 leads.

Sure the pop-up leads number was higher, but guess what the difference in open and click rates was during an email campaign that went out to each group?

open rates

Sorry to say that pop-ups lost this battle. Despite having way more signups, the overall engagement was much lower than the overall engagement from those who subscribed through the form.

Want to know what the lead generation and engagement was for an article that incorporated both embedded forms and NudgeSumo? On a specific page, the Nudge generated 768 leads.

The engagement rates were:

nudgesumo open rates

HOLY SH*T, right?

I must disclaim, however, that the NudgeSumo segment received an article that was a follow-up from the previous post they read, and not an entirely new article. That being said, because of the extremely targeted and qualified group of leads that was procured from using the tool, it was very easy to identify which content they would in fact want more of.

Of course, a lot of different factors come into play with the above engagement rates such as:

  • Quality of the content
  • Subject matter of the content
  • Time of day that emails are sent
  • Time of year that emails are sent
  • User personas of the segment

And much more. Needless to say, pop-ups produced much lower engagement overall, and many of the leads that came from that pop-up were in fact unqualified.

Next Steps

The year 2017 is just around the corner, and it’s about time you start thinking about removing interstitials from your website altogether. The truth is, they will just harm you in the long-run. There was a point when pop-ups were “new” and your site’s visitors were not entirely accustomed to how annoying they are, so there was substantial buy-in.

But now, people just get pissed off.

If you want more people to buy your product and advocate for your brand, you need to ensure that they are happy. Pop-ups do not make people happy, nor will they help your performance on Google.

If you want to get early access to NudgeSumo, you can request an invite here:


About Nadya Khoja

Nadya Khoja is a Visual Content and Digital Marketing Specialist. She is part of the team at Venngage, an online infographic maker. Nadya has a B.A. with Specialized Honours in Devised Theatre and a Master's Degree in Digital Media with a focus on Audience Engagement and Immersive Experiences. When she has time, Nadya directs, produces and sound designs for experimental and interactive performances.