Browser pop-ups are not on my list of favourite things. I’ve long regarded them as harbingers of spam and trouble, and even today will be very cautious about my internet browsing should a pop-up surface on navigating to a new page.
And yet, when researching this article, I found something incredibly counterintuitive about this little website gadget. Website pop-ups are capable of converting up to 1,375% more subscribers than a static sidebar information request. Not only that, but they don’t actually have as much of an effect on the bounce rate of websites as you’d initially think. So should we all be using them, regardless of their inconvenience to the buyer?
Annoying, But Effective
If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of ‘what gives?’
It’s hard to picture how something that has the general appeal of mystery meat could be so effective. But bear with us for a second - we’re going to check out why, and how we can build effective and powerful pop-ups.
Pop-Ups Force Website Visitors To Actively Consider Taking Action
Whatever kind of pop-up you might use or encounter on your web travels, all will force you to stop and read them. A pop-up demands attention and response. They’re by nature disruptive, and that’s often been taken to be a bad thing.
The flip-side of this, is that a pop-up will encourage a user to take action on something they’ve been reading. If used correctly, your pop-up can help shift the balance from your reader’s passive stance (consuming information) to an active stance (acting based on that information). If your content is able to spur (or stir) your reader to action, then the content and pop-up can work in tandem to help convert many more readers.
That said, how can we encourage users to take a positive, active stance on the pop-up, rather than immediately dismissing it? It’s a true thing that some calls to action can inspire a response while others can be a massive turnoff - what’s worth considering here is how our readers are likely to respond and how we can speak to them in a way that sparks a positive response.
We found nine things that can make pop-ups better. Here they are.
A clear CTA
Because your pop-up is all about calling the reader to take action, you will want for your CTA button to be visible, and clear in purpose. If the action you’re calling users to take is for them to sign up to your email list, have the button confirm this with text like ‘sign me up to the email list’. Because pop-ups carry a certain amount of stigma from the early-mid 2000s, you’ll need to work hard to win the trust of your readers when you ask them to fill out a pop-up form.
A clear exit
If you’d prefer 40 good leads over 400 poor ones, I’d recommend making your opt-out box visible and accessible for users. This plugs back into the need for established trust we discussed in point 1 - you need to enable disinterested users to opt-out of the pop-up if you want them to trust that you’re genuinely about caring for their needs.
Something of value on offer
What does the user gain from clicking on your pop-up? Has the value of what they stand to gain been properly stated? The most valuable thing you stand to gain from a pop-up CTA is the email address and lead conversion of a user. Make sure the user gets something of value in response - it could be your latest offer, or one relevant to the current piece of content they’re reading through - in either circumstance, you want to provide a benefit to the user interacting with the pop-up.
A delayed pop-up
You’ve probably experienced the entrance pop-up - these are the ones that immediately pop up when you navigate to a given web page. They’re kind of rude in that they demand a response from the user before the user’s had the chance to actually check out the website, and can deter a lot of readers from interacting further. Fortunately, there are a variety of pop-ups you can try that see a little more success.
Timed pop-ups will wait a set amount of time before executing. Scroll-activated pop-ups blink over your screen as you venture further down the page (indicating that you the user are in fact interacting with the content). Exit intent pop-ups don’t flash until the user’s mouse starts moving back up the screen towards the close window/tab buttons, and are the equivalent of the staff member asking a patron if they’ve found everything they needed in your store. Each of these pop-up types have different abilities and qualities, but all allow the user to interact with the website and content for a time, on their own terms, before asking for a response.
Consistent design between the pop-up and the rest of the website
Fitting in with the trust theme established earlier, even small things like having a consistent design theme between your pop-ups and the rest of your website can go far. There’s been a longstanding myth going around that a red button will push more conversions, but in reality it’s the button that stands out and grabs attention that converts users. Don’t forsake your standard website colours for something garish - you’ll make users concerned that the pop-up is spam.
Only asking for personal information that you really need
Reducing the amount of information requested to simply what is needed is a technique that improves the success rate of landing pages, but it’s also something that can be used in your pop-ups to boost their success rate. Since the pop-up is asking for more (interaction now, and on your terms), you’ll see a higher success rate in asking for less (e.g. just an email address, as opposed to a name, email address, and job field).
Targeted pop-up information
Does your business sell to customers who have different needs? I’m guessing the answer is yes. Are these customers generally interested in different products or services? Also, probably a yes. With both of these factors in mind, it’d make sense to have pop-ups that show different information for different users, rather than a generic cover-all that is mediocre and doesn’t interest any of your users. If you’re using smart CTAs in your website to better meet the interests and needs of specific visitors and leads, why not also implement this technology into your pop-ups?
Having powerful and specific marketing offers visible in your pop-ups will improve the level of interaction that your first time and returning users will have with your website, and increase your odds of successful lead conversion.
Test for mobile use
Mobile connects back in with so many of these points of improvement, but I think it does most of all with having a clear and easy to access exit. (Nobody has patience for tiny buttons.) Your pop-ups will need to interact smoothly with your mobile-friendly website if they’re going to succeed in nudging users to convert to leads. Ensure that your images, buttons, and text can relocate and resize easily on a variety of platforms.
The best way to test the success of your newly-crafted pop-ups is by testing them. A/B testing for a period of time will help you see for yourself the clear difference between a website that makes use of pop-ups and one that doesn’t. I mentioned these numbers at the top of the page but it bears checking out simply because of how relevant the information it contains. In a study, social media marketer Dan Zarrella noticed that when pop-ups were removed from his website, his subscription rate dropped. On reactivating the pop-ups, the subscription rate to his website rose again, and the bounce rate of the website barely changed at all. That is to say, pop-ups nearly doubled his subscription rate, while hardly changing the website’s bounce rate.
The best way to build a successful pop-up subscription request is by starting with a good foundation, and then testing it and refining it until you have a set of lead converting assets, ready and waiting for use.
Assertion > Annoying
At the end of the day, you’re looking to convert more leads. Browser pop-ups are a good way to make that happen, even if nearly all of us consider them to be annoying. You can increase the effectiveness of browser pop-ups by instilling trust in your readers by making navigation clear, offering something of value, and aligning the visual look and feel of your pop-up with the rest of your website. You can also improve the response rate of your pop-ups by programming them to respond to user actions. This can look like adding a delay to the pop-up so the user can interact with your website first, but it can also be changing the pop-up entirely to suit the user’s interests or needs.
Pop-ups might have started out in the League Of Annoying And Probably Spammy Website Elements, but with careful use have the ability to work well for your website, winning you leads and subscriptions across a wide variety of available content.