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I have a site (based on dynamic content by JS) and I want to trigger a first time popup to users in order to make them register to the newsletter (it will be cookies based).

Is there a way to do that without cloaking/manipulating user-agent for bots? I don't want the search engine bots to see that popup all the time (because they don't accept cookies) - it will harm the SEO.

Does verifying if agent is accepting cookies and based on that show/don't show the popup is consider cloaking? Or is that a wise way to handle the scenario?

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    Google does check for cloaking using a browser agent from outside of its network. It would just be a matter of time before the cloak would be found. As well, these pop-ups will be penalized soon so do not bother. Some are now. Google feels that these pop-ups are bad user experience (UX) and I agree. I get one, I leave immediately. No exceptions. People hate them fairly universally. Rule one in marketing: Do not p1$$-0ff your customer! Cheers!! – closetnoc Oct 30 '16 at 2:15
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    Adding to @closetnoc's "bad user experience" comment... it does seem silly to generate a "signup to our newsletter" popup the very first time a new user visits the website. A new user probably doesn't know anything about your website, so why would they want to signup to a newsletter right off the bat? If you display a popup at all it should be after a certain amount of time/page views and that naturally gets around the SEO issues as well. – MrWhite Oct 30 '16 at 15:16
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    @w3dk OMG!! Do you know how many times a newsletter sign-up pop-up comes up immediately, after a mouse move, after a few seconds, before I have even had the chance to see anything at all? I stick a HUGE finger in the air. I do not like them at all. However, if after a few pages, then it is less annoying. To cover the entire screen, pop-up in the center of the screen, to interrupt my flow, that is very bad UX. Forcing me to click on stuff is bad UX. For these, I will leave. However, those that seem to rise up from a corner and does not require anything from me, then that is far less annoying. – closetnoc Oct 30 '16 at 15:22
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It's not possible without some form of batman and robin cloak

There is absolutely no way without some form of cloak to prevent Google seeing that pop-up. Google expects you to treat Googlebot as new visitor every time. Just because Google doesn't store a cookie doesn't mean you should treat them as a returnee.

Google has to consider both new visitors and the returned

Google has to factor new visitors since the majority of your visitors coming from Google will be 'new' visitors, why should they care about returnees that may not even use Google to view your site.

Visiting your favourite site to find some obscure content is a like putting on your favourite t-shirt only to find out its still damp

Purposely obscure content dampens users experience and one of the reasons why preventing Google seeing that is definitely cloaking, regardless if its once, or a hundred times, Google has new visitors to factor. However it should be noted that Google has not officially said that such overlays, modals and popups will result in lower rankings on the desktop environment, this does not however insist that they don't already have some form of unconfirmed algorithm, or add it later.

Mobile Only: Google has stated that in 2017 it will rank such sites lower

SOURCE

Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller. To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.

Your two choices are:

  1. Cloak it using user agent, hostname or IP
  2. Remove it for both users and search engines
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    Just to add, Googlebot reports navigator.cookieEnabled as true, even though it won't pass the cookie back on subsequent page views, so you couldn't use that either. – MrWhite Oct 30 '16 at 14:50
  • @Simon-hayter, thank you for the comprehensive answer! – Shushi Nov 2 '16 at 10:02
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I would trigger the popup based on a user scrolling down the page, not on the immediate arrival, or on a second pageview or similar event that signifies engagement.

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