Google has killed Email Marketing ⦠Again | DMA

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Google has killed Email Marketing ⦠Again


That's it. We're doomed! Email is dead...again.

Google is going to penalise pages with a pop-up, pop-over or (as they called it) an interstitial on mobile devices. If the popular and marketing press are to be believed, this will kill a popular and very successful data capture tactic. This recent announcement and the subsequent coverage resulted in a flurry of queries from clients about what we thought. Luckily dotmailer is in the perfect position to have an opinion on this as we both came from a website design and build background as well as having a very successful search business before deciding to focus only on email.

First let me be clear, this is not the end of the world. Like so many announcements from so many companies this will neither kill email marketing nor will it diminish marketers’ ability to capture good email addresses. When I was still living in the US we would call this a "chicken little moment." Chicken Little is the protagonist in a popular children's story who while walking in the woods gets hit in the head with an acorn and not only decides that the sky is in fact falling, but also runs around telling everybody in the village with the expected result. We knew when we read the story that the sky was not falling and we should know now this is neither the end of the world nor the end of the pop-up.

In Google's announcement they point out that an interstitial that takes up the whole screen delivers a bad user experience for the mobile web visitor, which in fact it does. Most mobile searches are done in response to a specific contextual need or experience. If I am late for a meeting and while on your site to get your address, I have to deal with an interstitial, I am just going to get frustrated, very frustrated. They also point out that "this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking." If you are doing everything else right, this new signal will not kill your rankings. If your site optimisation is not up to scratch however, this could be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back.

Instead of just praising Google however, let's look at this from a more strategic stand point and go back to my example of looking for your address, or take it one step further to a visitor searching for a specific product on your ecommerce site or case study on your B2B site. In each of these and many more cases, they have arrived at your site with a specific aim in mind. Is putting a pop-up in these places really the best way to deliver a good user experience regardless of the device? I would argue the answer is an emphatic 'No! this is not a good user experience' All you are doing in these situations is putting up barriers between me and my objective – barriers that serve no other purpose but your own, especially when you could probably gather the email address as a natural part of this interaction anyway. Add to that the contextual need to get to the information as quickly and easily as possible that comes with a search from a mobile device and you have two very strong arguments for treating pop-ups differently on certain pages.

So what should you do to prepare for the rollout of this flag in early January?

First, stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about your visitor. Look at every page on your website and think about the how and more importantly the why a person might arrive there. This may seem daunting but as you start through the process you will quickly find certain types of pages that can be grouped together and therefore use the same rule set for pop-ups.

Think about having a different set of pop-up rules for mobile devices. You could block all pop-ups for mobile visitors or take Google's advice and make them take up less screen real estate. Alternatively, display the pop-up at exit instead of entry or on a time delay.

You should also be analysing the data you collect with your pop-up. Yes, they work really well but are you capturing the data source as well as the email address? Do the people who gave you an email address through the pop-up behave differently than the rest of your list? First, are they giving you a real email address or are they just trying to get rid of the intrusion? Next look at their email engagement stats do they open and click as often as the rest of the list? Lastly, look at their conversion rate; they are on your list but are they taking the actions that you want?

You cannot blame Google for adding the mobile pop-up flag into their search ranking algorithm. Pop-ups are a pain for web visitors and on a mobile device it is more likely to be a pop-over rather than a pop-up because of the smaller screen size. That said, this is not the end of the pop-up and it is certainly not a death knell for email. We are just going to have to be a bit smarter and a bit more sophisticated in our approach.

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