News and insights • Posted on 20 June 2016

Why Pop Ups aren't the worst thing in the world...


Before you say it, I know. We all hate pop ups. They’re those annoying advert type things that appear out of nowhere, without your permission, when you’re browsing a website. They’re obtrusive, they interrupt your browsing experience, they’re in your face, and in your mind they never provide ANY value. Ever. Why then, have they been proven to convert?

There are a ton of examples of pop ups that increase email sign ups, such as this one on SkinnyMe Tea, where the pop ups increased email opt-ins by a whopping 758%. More impressively, it also grew their sales conversion rate by 1%.

There are more examples, too. Copyblogger, and CrazyEgg all go on to explain how pop ups have been proven to drive subscriber numbers.

“Okay,” I hear you say, “I’m interested, tell me more.”

Of course, as with anything in digital marketing, there are some things you should know before slapping pop ups all over your site. It’s difficult to overcome the perceptions I’ve mentioned above, and to some degree, they’re probably right, too. Pop ups are annoying, but normally only when they’ve been implemented poorly. How often have you landed on a site, only to be immediately greeted by a pop up which seems nigh on impossible to close down? I’m pretty sure you found yourself desperately clicking the back button to get away.

Obviously, we don’t want that to happen. We want people to stay on our site and, hopefully, sign up to our email list so we can send them more cool stuff they’ll enjoy. Therefore when implementing pop ups, there are some things you should consider:


Timing is everything. As I’ve mentioned, pop ups that appear immediately will almost always get closed down, and it makes sense. The user has literally just landed on your page. They might not know who you are, they might not know if your content is any good. They might not even know if you seem trustworthy – so why would they hand over their personal details?

This is where we can consult Google Analytics. In GA we can see, on average, how long users are spending on various pages on our site. Be it 30 seconds or 4 minutes, we can use this information to our advantage. If you want to use a pop up, try to make it appear 10 or so seconds before the average user will leave that page. So if the average time on page is 1 minute 30 seconds, we want our pop up to appear in 1 minute 20 seconds.

This means users are getting the chance to read our content, and then make an informed judgement on whether it’s worth handing over their email address for more. If not, they were leaving anyway in another 10 seconds.

Make it specific

Think about all the different services your company might offer or all the different topics you are talking about on your blog. Then think of how unappealing a generic call to action might be. The user doesn’t feel compelled to sign up, because it’s not relevant to what they’re reading about.

Your product/ services pages could all have separate popups relating to that subject. This will really help drive quality subscribers to your list who really engage with the content you’re going to send them. You can even split the lists out to make sure they receive relevant content.

Talk like a real human

Copy can make or break your pop up. If there’s one thing that people like, it’s being spoken to like a real person. That’s why customer service works so well on Twitter, and it can work for you too. Use the copy on your pop up to your advantage by being polite, and speaking to the person like you would in the flesh:

“Hey, do you mind if we send you an email?

We hope you’re enjoying name of content and we wondered if you’d like to receive more of the same thing? If you’d rather not, just click the X in the top right of this box and you won’t see it again.”

Another great point is to make it clear what the person will be receiving. Are they going to receive emails with more of the same type of informational content? Are they going to be receiving offers? Company news? Let people know, and they won’t feel surprised when the email lands in their inbox.

Give them an incentive

One way to get visitors on board with pop ups is to offer them something genuinely valuable. This could be a great offer, but it could also be some cool content they’ll find really useful, that also builds on what they’re already reading. Again, this can post specific (if it’s a blog) or page specific.

So as an example, you could be writing about the ‘best healthy foods that taste amazing’ as part of your nutrition site (or, for example, someone like Graze). You would then look at how long people are looking at that article for, and 10 seconds before they leave (on average) you could offer them the chance to download a free 20-page recipe book which uses all of the ingredients mentioned in the article.

If we are looking at the Graze example, you could offer a ‘Graze Hacks’ eBook where you give them a book of free recipes that use the stuff you find in your Graze box.

It’s interesting to the person reading that article (because it’s relevant), it’s useful to them and, more importantly, it adds real value to their experience. You could even use an exit intent pop up to capture even more people.

Cookie it!

So you’ve got a user to visit your site, you’ve used your pop up with really relevant content to capture their data, and they’ve left your site feeling happy they’ll be receiving more of the same stuff. Then you email them, they come back to your site and bam! They’re hit with another pop up with the same call to action. Nightmare.

Make sure that you use cookies that prevent the pop up appearing for a number of days (30, 60, or depending on how often you think people will visit your site). This will stop the same pop ups appearing for users, and stop them getting really annoyed!

So, now you have 5 tips for utilising pop ups on your website without annoying users, but still reaping the benefits. It’s worth considering your target market and whether they’ll really appreciate pop ups, or whether they fit with your brand and image you’re going for. There are also plenty of other ways of capturing data, which we’ll explore in the near future.

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Written by Andy McCaul

Co-founder and digital marketing guru Andy ensures all projects are shipshape, and that we generate the best return on investment for clients.

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