Making Pop-Ups Work for You…And Your Customer

If the goal of pop-ups is to help business owners acquire more leads, why are some of them annoying to the point of scaring visitors away? The answer is: few of them are implemented and placed strategically.

You’ll come across pop-ups in pretty much any website you visit. Deep down, you just know you’ll be offered something in exchange for your email address at some point. Trouble is, you’ll rarely want to take what’s being offered. Most of the time, you won’t be ready to receive it. It’ll either be too early, or you won’t be a member of the target audience in the first place.

The failure to make pop-ups work goes beyond the loss of potential leads. It presents other pitfalls, including: 

  • Increased bounce rates. If a visitor’s browsing experience is interrupted as they first land on your website, they might leave right away. If several visitors leave your site a few seconds upon entering, this won’t look good for your bounce rates.
  • A bad impact on your marketing strategy. Although high bounce rates won’t directly impact a page’s ranking on search engines, they can impact your overall strategy. You may be creating content prospects aren’t consuming, in the first place.
  • Less people going down the sales funnel. If you can’t coach your visitors past the top-of-funnel stage into nurturing them in the middle-of-funnel stage, you’ll see a drop in sign-ups and sales. That happens because you’re unable to use nurturing sequences to drive them to become customers.

All that said, pop-ups still are the most effective way to get leads to sign up to your email list. But how? How do you know if you’re using the right pop-up for your specific situation without scaring away potential customers?

The best pop-ups are those that match a specific visitor’s intent. Depending on how much time they’ve spent on a page, the number of pages they’ve visited, and where they’ve clicked. You can make pop-ups work to your advantage by selecting the right type based on your visitors’ activity.

On the flip side, the biggest mistake a business owner can make is to set up a pop-up for the sake of it. As with any effective marketing tool, there are several ways its implementation can go wrong – but there are also a number of ways it can go well.

Here are the different types of pop-ups, when they should be used, and why they work.

Timed Pop-Ups

If a person spends a certain amount of time on your page, what does that tell you?

Unless they’re idly lingering around, we can hypothesise that they’re trying to learn more about what they’re reading. They’re interested in what they see – otherwise, they’d have already left.

Timed pop-ups will only appear on someone’s screen after a set number of seconds. You may set yours to appear after 10-20 seconds, depending on how much time the average visitor usually spends on the page you’re working on. Thankfully, Google Analytics will help you decide that.

Scroll Pop-Ups

This activity-based pop-up will be displayed when a visitor to your page scrolls through a certain percentage of the page. It works because the user in question has shown that they’re engaging with your website by having scrolled, say, 50% or more of the page.

However, scrolling down a page doesn’t always mean someone is reading the page word-by-word. Some of us scroll because we’re scanners, which could result in scrolling down too fast and receiving a pop-up at a suboptimal time. This is food for thought when it comes time to test out different pop-up types.

Page-Based Pop-Ups

This is an effective type that shows up when a visitor has gone through a specific number of pages.

Instead of coming across a pop-up on their very first visit (in which you typically won’t know their clear intentions), you’ll give them a chance to navigate your website, first. Their browsing activity will tell you which pages they’re landing on and whether they’re ready for an offer.

As an example, someone who has landed on the homepage, ventured to the “About” page, and proceeded to visit a pricing page is clearly interested in the product/service being offered. Their activity is showing you that. A good strategy, in this case, would be to include a timed and page-based pop-up on the pricing page. Yes, you can combine both!

This way, if they’re spending enough time on the pricing page, that means they’re likely in a consideration stage. A pop-up could give them a convenient nudge.

On-Click Pop-Ups

For this type, visitors will only be hit with an offer after they’ve clicked something to learn more.

There’s little margin for error here – if someone has taken a click action, they’ve deliberately chosen to request more information. In this case, a pop-up is expected and, above all, called for. They may be requesting a demo or a free trial, for which you’ll need to grab their email address. They know it, and they’re expecting it.

Exit-Intent Pop-Ups (Be Careful With This One!)

Exit-intent pop-ups appear when your visitor “intends” to leave a page. That means a pop-up will launch when someone moves the cursor towards the small “X” to close the window on the upper right corner of the page, or when the cursor moves toward the back arrow, to return to a previous page.

The thing is: a lot of the time, the movement of a cursor is sensitive. Most of us often don’t intend to leave a page just yet, but a swift unwanted movement shows us what we may not be ready to see.

If possible, use this type of pop-up for limited-time promotions and winback messages only. Otherwise, they can still be a source of annoyance to your visitors.

Pay Attention to the Frequency of Your Pop-Ups

Here’s where cookies come in handy. Ideally, when a cookie is first dropped during a user’s initial visit, they’ll see your pop-up just once during their journey. Once they’ve closed it, they won’t see it anymore – at least for a set period of time.

Repeat visitors shouldn’t be getting the same pop-up over and over again. They’ve already seen what they needed to see, and reliving that experience might annoy them. That’s why you should set a limit to the number of times they see a pop-up by using cookies.

Finally, Place Your Pop-Ups Strategically

In all honesty, no one needs to see a pop-up that takes up an entire page. In fact, pop ups don’t necessarily need to be at the centre of a page, either.

If you value your users’ browsing experience, you’ll do your best not to interfere with their scrolling by placing your pop-ups either on top or bottom corners of your page, or slide-in options on the right or left corners.

Needless to say, make it easy for them to close the pop-up or opt out of it. Not everyone will opt in, and that’s okay – those who don’t usually aren’t your ideal prospects.

Wrapping Up

Pop-ups have one purpose: to show effective messages to engaged users, at the right time. You’ll benefit from testing different versions, until you arrive at one that’s comfortable and timely for your specific visitors.

If they’re annoying the people coming to your site, however, it’s your job to take a step back and consider a different pop-up to display your lead magnet. Don’t risk losing yet another potential customer with badly-placed pop-ups!

Duncan Isaksen-Loxton

Educated as a web developer, with over 20 years of internet based work and experience, Duncan is a Google Workspace Certified Collaboration Engineer and a WordPress expert.
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