As consumers and marketers we’ve all come across popups, either when faced with them during our own customer journeys, or using them to capture data on the websites we manage.

These sometimes unexpected, often unwelcome overlays might ask you to subscribe or download a whitepaper, and in doing so can disrupt your enjoyment of an article and end up startling or even irritating you.

And yet the question persists; should we use pop ups, or are they better popped in the waste paper basket of marketing, never to be popped up again?

An Introduction to Pop-Ups

Even the most hardened marketers can become painfully aware of the displeasure created by poorly implemented pop-ups. And yet almost every site uses them. Why? Because they are a fantastically effective way of attracting attention.

But do these attention seeking tools come at the expense of user experience? Some marketers, for instance, overdo it by having different pop-ups enabled on the same page, ultimately killing the user experience.

Though it’s not all doom and gloom; research shows that the average pop up gets a 3.09% conversion rate, with the top 10% of pop ups getting an impressive 9.3% click through rate. This would suggest that, when properly implemented, pop-ups can boost, and not hinder, your marketing efforts.

But how do you know whether pop-ups are right for you? And, assuming they are, how should you use them for the betterment of user experience on your website?

The Benefits of Pop-Ups

These are the most prominent benefits of using pop ups:

  • Catch visitors’ attention and remind them of important/urgent information. This way the pop-ups force every visitor to make a yes or no decision to subscribe to your list.
  • Keep a visitor on the page longer and discourage them from exiting.
  • Engage visitors and encourage interaction, interrupting ‘attention blindness’ of visitors.
  • Are effective in gathering small amounts of information that can be used as a stepping stone to conversion.
  • Proven to increase conversions through a psychological phenomenon known as ‘pattern interrupt’. People don’t generally think when performing simple actions, like walking or reading an article, because it happens according to a set pattern. Pop-ups interrupt your pattern.
  • Easily A/B tested for increased conversions.
  • Work on autopilot, it’s a set and forget process.

The Disadvantages of Pop-Ups

If pop ups are so useful for driving great conversion results, then why does everyone hate them? Here are the top disadvantages of using them:

1. Pop Ups are Annoying

The overlays are considered to be irritating by many website visitors. Some users will be so annoyed by them that they will immediately exit the site once the pop up appears. This leads to poor user experience. Pop-ups that display as soon as a visitor lands are a particular irritation. Pop-ups are most annoying for your repeat visitors, but this can be fixed by introducing cookie-based triggers.

2. Pop-Ups Can Damage Brand Credibility

Exit-intent layouts are especially needy. Exit-intent pop-ups are triggered when the user is navigating away from the web page. Imagine the user is doing product research and has a few tabs open. They’ll want to come back to the page later, but the program won’t understand that and will trigger the pop-up. However, this can be mitigated by loading the pop-up after X number of pageviews.

3. Pop-Ups Can Bring Lower Engagement

We all know that overlays are a proven method of growing your subscriber list. Though research shows that subscribers gained from pop ups showed lower engagement when compared to people subscribed from website.

So, how can we minimise the negatives associated with pop-ups? Here are some best practices you can adopt while implementing your own pop-ups:

7 Best Practices for Pop-Ups

1. Understand Which Pop Ups are No-Goes

Don’t overuse pop-ups - Google may deem them as being intrusive. As a rule of thumb, if your pop-ups are spammy or difficult to dismiss, your mobile page might be devalued. And because Google’s indexing is now mobile oriented, this may hurt your position in the SERPs more than you realise.

In order to avoid Google’s penalty, there are tools such as Getsitecontrol that allow you to use “non-intrusive mobile overlays”. This way, only half of your pop-up will show up on mobile, giving the user the option to exit it or click on it to pop out completely and complete the action required.

2. Set a Goal Before You Set a Pop-Up

Pop-ups that make your content less accessible, such as content-covering overlays should be avoided. Also, make sure not to use entry pop-ups, exit-intent layouts and other pop-ups simultaneously as it could devalue your mobile pagel.

In order to avoid pop-up overuse, define a clear objective and stick to it. Whether you want to collect leads or drive visitors to the site, try to focus your pop ups on one target at the time.

3. Switch to Timed Pop-Ups

If you really want to use pop-ups, you can design them to be as unobtrusive as possible. One of the biggest things that you can change is the timing of the pop-up. For example, you can limit how long pop-ups are displayed for - for instance, a pop up that automatically closes after three seconds of user interaction or after the user has finished reading your blog. Any option is better than having a pop-up that never closes on its own.

Of course, the challenge with these types of overlays is that timed pop-ups are only as effective as your content. If your content isn’t compelling enough to keep users on-site, clicking through your pages and reading your content, then consider investing in your content marketing instead.

You also have to test and find the optimum period before you release your pop-up. You may find suggestions about timing intervals that worked for others, but your context and audience differ from others.

4. Segment Users

Are you showing the same message to new visitors and repeat visitors? Pop-ups are perceived as being the most annoying for repeat users. They may have already subscribed to your list. That’s just one example - there are other times when you have to segment your visitors because of various criteria and personalise the message content accordingly.

5. Offer Value

Give a user something useful while making it relevant to the context of the page they are browsing. If you ask for their information, you should provide in exchange something valuable from them. Things are rarely free, after all.

6. Use Simple Copy

Don’t complicate the users' thinking process by giving them complicated messaging. A brief headline, short description and a clear call-to-action will convey the message more quickly. This will make the decision-making process far shorter.

As part of this, don’t try to ask for too much information - it can reduce the conversion rate. You can start off by collecting email addresses and later ask for additional details such as their name, for instance.

7. A/B Test!

Our recommendation is always to A/B test any major conversion changes you make to your site. Pop-ups are no different. Happily, the effective of most of the above can be A/B tested. Doing so offers a way of improving results and ensuring your changes don’t make your visitors unhappy.

Final Thoughts

While pop-ups are commonly looked down upon by users, these overlays have myriad uses; increase your subscriber base, reducing cart abandonment, and grabbing the attention of your users.

The best way for you to run pop-ups is hugely dependent on a variety of factors relating specifically to your business; user journey, market, your brand and your business objectives. The above is intended merely as a guide, and not an absolute.

If you are considering implementing pop-ups on your website, or improving those that already exist, take some time to consider their purpose. From there, you can make an informed decision about things like messaging, timing and location. And always keen user experience in mind.

And, of course, if you’d like to chat through the pop-ups on your site with an expert, our Conversion Optimisation team is always on hand for an informal discussion. Just get in touch here >>>