Popups: Love Them or Hate Them, They Can Supercharge Your Conversions

Ask anyone what they think about popups, and you are rarely going to receive words of praise in response. In fact, popups have long been one of the most hated features of the internet.

You might even hate them yourself.

But there are right ways to use them that can make them an incredibly useful weapon in your CRO arsenal.

Here’s how you can take advantage of popups to get better conversions—without making your prospects hate you.

Why Do Popups Work So Well?

There is no doubt about it: Popups can be incredibly effective when used properly.

ConversionXL published an article on this a while ago looking into popups in detail, and it came to the conclusion that, despite many people still finding them annoying, when it comes to popup conversions, the numbers speak for themselves.  It discusses the concept of the “pattern interrupt,” a powerful persuasion technique where you interrupt your visitors with an unexpected event that gets their attention. This can encourage them to act, and it is the reason why popups are still being used after so many years.  But they don’t come without their risks…

The Danger with Popups

Whenever I suggest experimenting with popups, our clients often seem unsure. And that’s easy to understand. Popups have the power to annoy, especially if you don’t get them right.  One thing you should be especially careful of is popups that appear as soon as the visitor arrives on your website before they have had time to take in the value of your content. That does not mean this is not still effective, but it may increase the risk factor when it comes to annoying your visitors.

Another area you should be careful with is the language you use. This Copyhackers article pays close attention to the language used on the CTA, and it focuses on the latest trend of using guilt-inducing copy to make people feel bad about clicking the “No” option.  You’ve probably seen this a lot lately. They usually go something along the lines of: “No, I don’t want to become a successful entrepreneur,” rather than a simple “No thanks.”

However, you can still use the same principle without trying to make your prospects feel bad. In Copyhackers’ own popup, they give you the option to sign up to receive a free ebook, and the “No” option reads: “No, my copy is already stellar.”

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As well as the timing of the popup and the language used, also, be wary of the number of popups you show to the same visitor. Show them too many, and you could end up sending them away.

Types of Popups You Can Try Out

One of the most popular types of popups is an exit-intent popup, also called exit overlays. These are popups that are set to display when the visitor signals that they are likely to leave the page (often by moving the mouse to the top of the screen).

Unbounce likes exit overlays, and in this article, it talks about how to use them as part of your landing pages (it describes them as a “sidekick” to landing pages).

It highlights some examples of a few successful popups, including one from YourMechanic, which it claims has converted 7.16% of abandoning users. The reason for its success is that it uses urgency to create a more compelling offer. While landing pages often use urgency, the exit overlay is an opportunity to ramp it up to the next level.

In the ConversionXL article linked to above, the example of WP Beginner is given for exit overlays. The article claims that the site was already getting up to 80 subscribers a day, but when it designed an exit popup on single posts, it saw a 600% increase in sign-ups.

Such figures cannot be ignored—and they suggest that it merits some experimentation. Here’s one being used by CrazyEgg to encourage visitors to try out its heat mapping tool, and if it’s good enough for them…

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Another type of popup is that which is triggered by scrolling down the page. This is perhaps the most common, and it displays once the visitor has scrolled down a defined amount of the page. These can be effective because the visitor has read the content and seen how good it is before they are asked to convert.

A similar option is a popup that is set to display after a set amount of time spent on the site. You could start off by guessing a time, but an even better option is to check the average amount of time your users spend on your site, and then set the popup to appear just before this.

Use Popups for More than Just Conversions

Encouraging visitors to sign up to your email list may be one of the most widespread uses for popups—but they can also be used for a wide range of goals:

  • Provide tips and information about your site to encourage visitors to see you as more credible.
  • Highlight special offers that are only available that day, or recommend particular products.
  • Gather feedback from visitors to gain valuable insights and show that you care about their opinions.
  • Remind visitors about items in their carts when they are about to leave. Many people add items then forget about them, and this can be a great way to encourage them to make the purchase.
  • Encourage visitors to follow you on social media.

Key Elements of a Successful Popup

We’ve already looked at avoiding the temptation to make your visitors feel bad about not converting, and there are a number of other things to consider when creating an effective popup.  When it comes to the copy, the basic principles still apply (using a headline that contains a benefit, using compelling button copy), so stick to the basics just as you would in any landing page or ad.

You also need to create an attractive popup that stands out. There are many tools for creating popups, some of which are free like SumoMe, and some of which you have to pay for. All of these make it easy to create popups, but make sure you pay attention to the color, font, and images that you use.

Another thing to consider is using different popups for different types of visitors. For example, you could set up different popups to display based on where the visitor has come from, their location, and whether they are a first-time visitor or an existing customer.

Click Popups: Another Powerful Option

Another popup option that is well worth experimenting with is the click popup. These are popups that the visitor only sees when they click on an element of the page, and they can be even more effective because they are not so intrusive. Click popups are opened by choice rather than forced upon the visitor, and this can encourage them to engage more.

This Wishpond blog post made some interesting points about click popups. In the post, it claims that their popups doubled lead generation from the blog, leading to 832 subscribers in a period of four-and-a-half months.  Wishpond uses them instead of landing pages for content upgrades, and it has seen a much higher conversion rate (54.84% compared to 27.47% for landing pages).  It also suggests other ways to use them in addition to content upgrades, including adding them to the bios in the articles so that visitors can sign up to receive blogs by specific authors, and adding them to pictures of products in e-commerce stores to provide extra info and encourage visitors to add the product to their carts.

Experiment with Popups

Popups may not be popular, but that is no reason not to, at least, test them out. Consider the options available and brainstorm some ways that you and your marketing team could make use of them on your website.

Then test them out for a period of time and see if you can increase your conversions (or gather feedback, share info, etc). If you see good results, it may be time to change your opinion of these powerful conversion optimization tools.