Google’s New Anti-Popup Policy & What You Can Do To Keep Building Your List On Mobile


Google's new “anti-popup” policy for mobile devices live as of 2017.

Does this spell the end of popups on mobile? What does that mean for your list building efforts?

The truth is that Google's new search engine optimization algorithm is designed to improve user experience, and there may be a way for you to deliver that AND keep building an engaged list, too.

Polite vs. Impolite Popups

In Google's latest announcement (read it in full here), you'll notice that they're making a big distinction between two types of popups: intrusive and non-intrusive.

Or in other words, they're drawing a line between polite and impolite popups.

This is something that we've always emphasized with our PopupAlly plugin.

(In Google's article they use the term “interstitial” to refer to a popup… just FYI.)

Here's the basic difference:

A Rude “Intrusive” Popup Is…

Any popup that makes your website content “less accessible” by a visitor, typically by taking up the majority of a screen on any mobile device.

You know, the really annoying ones that block your view of the content until you X out of them.

A Polite “Nonintrusive” Popup Is…

Any popup that does not cause undue interruption to a website visitor, and one that is easily dismissed.

Some examples would be:

  • A popup that appears for a necessary, legal reason, such as when liquor sites must ask visitors their age (underage visitors are not able to visit these sites)
  • A popup that appears to notify visitors of the website's cookie policy
  • A popup used for other reasons (marketing, lead generation, etc.) that takes up a reasonable amount of space on a mobile device…such as a banner at the top, taking up about 25% of the screen.

Why Google Is Taking This Stand

Google's mission – it's raison d'être – is to improve the online experience for all searchers.

They've been focusing on making the web more accessible to mobile viewers for a while, so this upcoming change should come as no surprise.

Note: Google's announcement is full of great information on this change, that took effect January 2017. Read it in full here.

If your popups aren't mobile-friendly right now, there's no need to panic… we've got some suggestions!

Here are a few things you can do to make a change:

4 Tips To Make Your Popups More Polite

Being polite is part of our philosophy here at AccessAlly. Because of that, we wanted to share a few tips to help you make your popups more polite:

1. Design With Mobile In Mind

With PopupAlly Pro you can design smaller, mobile-friendly popups – or disable popups entirely on mobile devices. This will allow you to keep benefitting from your opt-in boxes on desktop.

Mobile Specific Popups

2. Use The Right Kind of Popup

Using exit intent and scroll activated popups won't cause a huge interruption in your visitors' experience. (Which is really what Google is trying to fix: the user experience when someone lands on your website for the first time.)

3. Embedded opt-ins Can Be Powerful

You can also create embedded opt-ins like the “hello bar” that sticks to the top or bottom of a page using PopupAlly Pro, which doesn’t block a visitor from reading and enjoying your site.

Hello Bar For Mobile

4. Put Your Focus in the right place: On Your Visitors

All in all – this change from Google is going to make the web even more polite and easy to navigate, which is something that absolutely lines up with PopupAlly Pro’s and AccessAlly’s mission.

You’re in good hands with us!

Click to get PopupAlly Pro


  1. Elle on August 24, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Hi Natalie,

    I am a Pop up Ally customer. This has increased my sign up rate by 200% so this news came as a shock to me as a publisher.

    If you turn off pop up’s just for cell phones, but keep them for desktop computers – are we stil likely to be penalized? Or does it just apply to cell phones?

    The issue can sometimes be that Google says one thing, and does another.

    • ambitionally on August 28, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      Great question Elle! The good news is that you don’t have to completely turn off popups on mobile, if you make them show up when people scroll to the end of the page, it’s going to comply with Google’s policy. They really just don’t want people to be blocked from accessing the content by a popup right when they land on the page.

  2. […] Finally, Pop Up Ally Pro, the great WordPress plugin, understands the need to meet your customer’s goals and gives you the opportunity to disable popups or otherwise change them for mobile screens that will be negatively affected by the intrusiveness of a popup. […]

  3. Arash Mazinani on September 10, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Kudos for writing this as I’ve been trying to do a bit of research since I heard about the announcement. Especially around pop ups. So it’s nice to see an article from an actual pop up creator!

    • ambitionally on September 12, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Thanks so much Arash, that means a lot, and happy this was helpful!

  4. Amethyst on September 12, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    My hope is that they will penalize sites that don’t let you even see the info. Like Forbes ridiculous, “your content will load” countdown. I didn’t click on a website to read a kitchy inspirational quote and sit there and watch a countdown. ;-)

    Now if they could only do away with the sites that won’t let you see ANYTHING until you log in. I don’t mean membership sites, but things like retail stores where you can’t even browse the items without giving up your info, some blood, and your firstborn child.

    • ambitionally on September 12, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      Oh yeah those definitely get on my nerves, too! I think the “content gates” like the one you describe are really annoying, and they currently improve the SEO rank because it makes people stay on the site longer… I’m glad Google is taking a stand for users like us!

  5. Heather Porter on September 14, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks for playing the interpreter. “Interstitial” – nice one Google! I am happy to hear exit intent will be OK because I rave about your plugin and specifically that feature. I have seen that 50% of leads come in from that alone not only on my site but my clients. Thanks for your continued resources.

    • ambitionally on September 14, 2016 at 10:22 pm

      I’m so glad this was helpful Heather! And that you’re seeing such great results with PopupAlly too. :) Thanks for sharing!

  6. Jennifer on September 15, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I am a Pop up Ally Pro customer. Do you think we’ll get penalized if I we use the exit intent pop-up for the cell phone? I couldn’t tell from your blog how big the pop up window needs to be for the cell phone. I’m using the default settings the plugin provides.

    • ambitionally on September 15, 2016 at 4:55 pm

      Hi Jennifer! I just took a look at your website on a smaller screen, and your popup fits in the window – no problem! I don’t think you’ll have any issues here. :)