Popups get a bad rap.
To put it bluntly, people hate them.
There’s almost nothing online that’s more annoying than something getting in your way, interrupting your research, FORCING you to take time out just to close a window. Or worse—signing up for an email list you don’t care about just to keep reading.
Sure, things have gotten better from the all-out popup war that led to browser popup blockers, but just because the popup itself has gotten a little more sophisticated doesn’t mean it’s stopped being an unwelcome party guest.
Even in 2013, 70% of people thought irrelevant popups were really annoying, putting them on the same level as lottery scams.
Why They’re Still Around
But, let’s face it. Popups are still around and they aren’t going away anytime soon.
In fact, the reason they’re still around is because they work—better than almost any other lead generation strategy.
As annoying as the bad ones may be, marketers find popups nearly irreplaceable in increasing blog subscriptions and lead volumes.
In fact, Econsultancy found that an overlay can increase email opt-ins by 400%.
Bad Popup Anatomy: A List 6 Things NOT to Do
The flip side of this, though, is that a 400% increase in opt-ins doesn’t mean those subscribers are as high quality as the ones that actively seek you out.
Fortunately, you can use popups to dramatically increase your subscribers and leads while keeping quality in check.
When you break down the anatomy of a popup, there are good practices and bad practices, so we’ll explore both. But first, a list of anatomical characteristics to avoid:
1. Don’t use bully language
Your visitors aren’t stupid, so don’t treat them that way. You can’t trick them into giving you their email address by using clever wording and trickery. They can read right through it.
2. Avoid being a conversion sell-out
Sometimes, less is more.
It’s entirely possible that 50 quality conversions can increase your bottom line more than 500 generic ones.
Don’t get caught up in the thrill of a 400% increase until you find out that it’s also significantly impacting your bottom line. When you do your A/B testing and data tracking, use the monetary value of each conversion as your deciding data, not just the number of conversions themselves.
3. Don’t use blanket popups
Blanket popups with generic messages don’t serve anyone, and may be irrelevant to your visitor, turning them off from your website and services forever.
For example, if you have a website that sells health supplements and you’ve got a popup pushing your latest weight loss pill, it might get in front of the eyes of a lot of people, but don’t show it to people who want to boost muscle mass.
Instead of blanket popups, customize them based on purchase and browsing history. At the very least, make them page-specific so you know you won’t be too far off the mark.
4. Don’t hide the X
You might be desperate for people to convert, but hiding the X and making it harder for people to get rid of your popup only makes visitors resent you more.
And, the less they resent you, the higher your chances are for a quality conversion.
5. Don’t get in the user’s way
People get online to do their own thing. They don’t want you to boss them around. If you’re going to use a popup that stops users from doing what they want, you need to have a very easy-to-see escape route.
Better yet, use a popup that doesn’t get in their way at all. It’s less irritating and you won’t get the annoying website reputation.
And the email IDs you do collect will be higher quality ones because it’s more of an elected opt-in than a forced one.
6. Don’t go popup crazy
In short, keep your popups in check and use them in moderation. Don’t use one on every single page, and definitely don’t use multiple popups per visit.
Choose a popup that offers the most value for each landing page, and employ it in a tactful manner. (Not right away, but ideally before they’ve already decided to close the window. Make Web World suggests a 30-second delay.)
The Anatomy of Page-Stopping Popups
Today, the most popular popups are light boxes and overlays. They increase opt-ins, but they do interrupt the user experience by forcing them to look at and interact with the popup.
There’s a good side and a bad side to both of these, so you can’t really have a 100% win either way: to use them or not.
Since you know you visitors better than anyone else, you’ve got to decide whether or not the leads you get are worth interrupting your user experience and annoying them a little bit. A short stint of A/B testing should do the trick if you’re unsure. But these pros and cons will help you decide where to start:
Pros of Page-Stopping Popups
- A significant increase in the number of leads and opt-in conversions
- The ability to catch a reader’s eye with special value offers
- Can use customized versions of popups to optimize online sales funnels
Cons of Page-Stopping Popups
- Renders the site useless and forces readers to interact with something against their will
- Lowering the quality of the visitor experience in exchange for lower quality leads
- With too many, people become annoyed with your site and may stop visiting
The Anatomy of Hello Bar
Another, more recent popup option that doesn’t impede so much on the user experience is the Hello Bar.
It’s an app that lets you design custom bars that display across the top or bottom of your page—visible to the visitor while he’s scrolling and reading, but doesn’t force him to interact.
Depending on your goals, you can customize formats to drive traffic to a specific URL, collect email addresses, or promote your social media pages.
Even though it doesn’t get directly in the face of the visitor, it’s helped businesses like DIY Themes gain more than 1,000 extra blog subscribers in one month.
Effective Popup Anatomy: 5 Things You SHOULD Do
Though popups get a bad rap for their ability to irritate Web surfers, their reputation shouldn’t stop you from trying them out.
There are ways you can actually make popups valuable rather than irritating, vastly increasing your leads and subscribers while making sure the leads have sales potential.
To make your popups effective:
- Be as unobtrusive as possible. To be clear this doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding overlay or page-stopping popups, but it does constant data checking if you do. For example, if you have a valuable well-designed overlay popup that gives you better bottom-line conversions than a message bar across the top of your page, use it. However, if the value of both are equal, opt for the message bar.
- Offer real value. Offer users something that will actually help them in return for their email address. Hint: “bi-weekly updates” isn’t nearly as valuable as “7 concrete ways to reduce your ad spend while increasing conversions.”
- Have a nice, minimalistic design. Use clear, direct wording with clear, direct images and design layout so your visitors know exactly what you’re offering them and whether or not they want to take part. Clarity wins over confusion every time.
- Use respectful language. Don’t try to shame your visitors into agreeing with your offer. It will only make them resent you for insulting their intelligence. Instead, when they feel respected, they’ll have respect for you in return.
- Use brand-friendly colors. Bright red and yellow are only acceptable in McDonald’s advertisements. In designing your popups, use your brand colors or colors your brand designer gave you in your color pallet.
What’s Worked for Your Business?
What are your thoughts on different kinds of popups? If you’re a marketer who’s employed popups in your on-page marketing, which types gave you the most improvement in your bottom line?
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