On January 10, 2017, Google is cracking down hard on pop-ups. According to their blog (which, adorably, is still in BlogSpot — gotta love their consistency!), websites with any kind of pop-up that appears on mobile will get dinged. Their language says that sites with those pop-ups “may not rank as highly,” which means that if your site has intrusive pop-ups, your chances of getting to the front page on mobile search just decreased dramatically.
They call these kinds of pop-ups intrusive interstitials:
And they’re intended to help improve the user experience.
What That Means for Bloggers
One of the quickest ways to grow your email list is to have one of those full-screen pop-ups appear on your blog, so your reader gets asked to opt in before they’ve even gotten to see what’s on your site.
This results in a big boost to your email list, but pop-ups are not good for the user experience. It’s hard for me to turn those off because the full-screen disruptors have added more people to my email lists (both here and at Stacking Benjamins) than anything else. Something like 60% of our subscriber base has opted in via these full-screen overlays.
But is that what we want? The point of writing online is to give people what they want before asking for anything in return. These overlays do the opposite: they ask the reader for something before they’ve given the reader a reason to give up their email address.
The truth is, adding full-screen overlays is a ridiculously easy way to get email subscribers. And bloggers, for lack of a better word, are lazy. Well, not lazy, exactly, just more interested in almost anything else other than list building. Writing excellent posts, taking gorgeous photos, relating to people on social media, all trump building a list, and since these “interstitials” (which sounds to me like a space age word) are easy to implement, we slap one on and move on with our lives. The pop-up brings in email addresses, which most of us have a hard time emailing anyway.
It’s time to opt out of immediate pop-ups. Not just on mobile, because Google told us we have to, but in general, because we know, deep down, that a pop-up that demands our readers’ attention before giving any value away is not the way we want to build our subscriber lists.
What I’m Changing on For-Profit Blogging and Stacking Benjamins
As of this writing, I’ve already disabled Thrive Leads on both websites. In fact, I had to set aside time to completely fix things over here, since day one of my 30-day “grow your subscriber list” challenge was to install Thrive Leads. The reason I disabled Thrive Leads is that they don’t have a place where you can toggle “do not show this to mobile viewers,” but the problem goes deeper than that.
Thrive Leads is buggy. You can set it to have a pretty design, and then ask it not to show to people who come to your site often, but it won’t listen. “Only show every ten days, you say? How about every time someone clicks from one post to another? Oh, and you don’t want to show it to people already on your list? TOO BAD!” I had to ask my host to do some serious internet finagling in order to keep it from showing up every time. If it was annoying to me, I knew it was annoying my readers.
I have since changed day one’s topic (both on the blog and via email) to remove the suggestion of buying Thrive leads, and I can honestly say, removing that from the blog makes me feel a lot better.
I completely believed in what I was telling people to do at the time, but the buggy performance coupled with the fact that you have to be some kind of computer scientist to turn off their tools for mobile means that Thrive leads is no longer right for me or my readers.
How to Grow Your Subscriber Base Without a Full-Screen Overlay
Okay, so we’re in agreement: no more instant pop ups when a visitor comes to our site! Even though the blog post said this was something that was only affecting mobile sites, I can see the writing on the wall (or the screen, as it were) coming down the pike for desktop users.
So, let’s get rid of all of them.
Now, how do we grow our email list?
Well, thank goodness there are a multitude of ways.
The Easy Way: Default Forms
ConvertKit has an idea: download their plugin and set a “default” opt in that goes at the bottom of every blog post. That’s the easiest no-need-to-think-about-anything way. Here’s my default opt in on another post:
Unless I specify otherwise, this is the signup form that goes at the bottom of every post. I have several opt ins, so if I’m writing a post about Pinterest, for example, I’ll add the Pinterest Call-to-Action down at the bottom.
The Medium Way: Colored Content Boxes
Add content color boxes to your upcoming posts. These will stand out against your posts and draw people’s attention to them. Add one content box per 500 or so words. Link to something relevant (or the default one if you don’t have something specialized).
The Tedious Way: More Content Boxes
Add those same content color boxes to all previous posts. This is not hard (simply a matter of copying and pasting) but it is tedious, so it might be worth it to you to make this the task you start working with a VA on.
The Hard Way: Create a New Opt in
The last one is by far the most taxing: create a new opt in for each blog post, then link to it (using a color box! And the form in ConvertKit!) multiple times throughout each post.
You can change your mind every time you write a new post: some may be worth creating an opt in, some may not. Just know that you have to tell your readers that they can subscribe to updates via email — they won’t know that automatically.
At any rate, you can grow your email list without having to resort to a pop-up.
At least I hope so. I'll update you in a month to see if our lists are still growing at the same rate.