Google and Bing’s Policy on Exit Pop-Ups & Exit Overlays

by Angus Lynch on September 29, 2014
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We’re often asked whether Google allows marketing overlays on webpages with incoming pay-per-click (PPC) traffic with Google Adwords.

And since Google is notorious for disabling advertisers who aren’t fully compliant, it’s an important question.

A quick explanation of Google’s policy

  1. Google does allow modal overlays that open within the same window the user was browsing.
  1. Google does not allow pop-ups that open in a separate window from what the user was browsing.

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Here’s a screenshot of the policy from the Google Adwords Terms of Service:

google-exit-ovleray-policy
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Google describes marketing overlays (such as a Rooster Exit Overlay) as interstitial ads.

The confusion around exit overlays lies within the lexicon. Often, marketing overlays are incorrectly referred to as pop-ups—we even do this sometimes for context—but there’s a big difference. Pop-ups open in a new browser window and impede navigation, while overlays populate within the existing window and don’t impede navigation.

And since the vast majority of marketing overlays don’t prevent users from entering or exiting sites—or interfere with the user experience during browsing—Google allows them for Adwords campaigns.

Why Google Allows Marketing Overlays

Google is philosophically against any advertising practice that doesn’t add value to the user experience. This includes anything that would stop users from performing their desired action.

This is an important point of distinction between pop-ups and marketing overlays.

Modal overlays (which include Rooster Exit Overlays) are a common method of displaying additional information to users, allowing users to regionally self-segment (telecommunication and cable companies often use this approach), or displaying signup processes.

grouponGroupon using an overlay

They’re also used to notify users if their sessions have timed out, or if they have forgotten items in their shopping cart, as per the example below:

cart

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So many sites use overlays and lightboxes for various reasons (content, photos, signup, selection processes) that it would be akin to banning the use flash or navigational elements.

In the case of marketing overlays, they are used to display content related to promotions, technical information, and other content related to the user experience.

Rooster Exit Overlays don’t interrupt navigation or stop users from completing their desired task. Visitors are not inhibited from pressing the ‘Back’ button or the ‘X,’ and can close the overlay by clicking anywhere in the browser.

Many notable and respected web marketers use exit overlays to provide additional content or capture signup information. This includes Neil Patel, who is known as one of the web’s original SEO/traffic generation consultants (and who would never risk his relationship with Google).

neiloverlay
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Bing’s policy on marketing overlays

Like Google, Bing allows marketing overlays on pages linked to in their PPC advertising network, but don’t allow traditional advertising pop-ups that open in new windows.

Here’s a screenshot from Bing Ads’ Terms of Service:

bingpolicy

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Bing’s policy explicitly states that the “Back button must be functional and allow users to return to the previous page.” Since Rooster Exit Overlays do not affect navigational function, they are permitted on the network.

The difference between marketing overlays and pop-ups

Google’s ban on pop-ups stems from how they were used in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.

At that time, many websites were filled with annoying pop-ups from unscrupulous third-party advertisers, most of whom had no concern for the on-site experience.

old popup

Remember these annoying X10 pop-under ads? At one point they reached 32% of web users, and accounted for 89% of bandwidth used by broadband users in 2001. No wonder browser adblocking toolswas the hottest tool on the web.

Today, advertising pop-ups are much less common.

This is mostly because browsers have become more sophisticated, and prevent new windows from opening (unless opened by the user).

Marketing overlays do not open in new windows, and are not controlled by third-party operators. They’re executed by site owners who must give strong consideration to user experience, audience loyalty, and long-term brand viability.

2004vs2014

Summing up…

  1. Google is against any advertising practice that doesn’t add value to the user experience, and this policy affects their Adwords Terms of Service
  1. Under these Terms of Service, webpages with pop-ups that open in a separate window are not permitted for use with Adwords campaigns.
  1. Under these same Terms of Service, modal overlays (marketing overlays) are permitted for use.

Bottom line: If you’re providing value, your users will love it, and Google and Bing will allow it.

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