How to Effectively and Un-Annoyingly Use Pop Ups On Your Website

We all hate pop-ups, right? Well, technically yes. In most studies, 90-95% of respondents claim to hate pop-ups. So, if this is true, why are they still used all over the internet? The honest truth of the matter is that they are used because, as much as people hate them, they respond to them. Many website owners have seen an increase in sales as much as 40% after adding pop-ups. However, you need to be careful and use un-annoying tactics when integrating pop-ups in your site.

As always, be sure to test your popup, as these are general guidelines and may not be the best for your traffic. Consult our Opt-in Email Newsletter Popup Best Practices for more inspiration on what to test.

Only Have Sales or Email Capture Pop-Ups Show for Visitors Once

If you want visitors to return to your site often, make sure they are not constantly seeing your pop-up. If they don’t give you their email address right away, it’s not likely they will want to the fifteenth time they come to your site. Especially not through a pop-up. So, put a cookie on the site to track visitors and only show the pop-up to new visitors.

Consider Delayed Pop-Ups

Image via Flickr by zimpenfish

Not all pop-ups are necessary as soon as a page loads. Consider a delayed pop-up for your site. There are a variety of options for this, including pop-ups that only show on scroll, on click, or after a certain amount of time on the site.

Use Small Pop-Ups

Imagine this – you are on a website, reading along, and all of a sudden something blocks what you were reading. It’s a little jarring, isn’t it? Though it is likely to get a visitor’s attention, it is also very annoying. However, if you use smaller pop-ups, they are less likely to be ignored than those that grab the attention in an irritating way.

Pop-Ups can be Used for More Than Email Capture and Sales

Image via Flickr by Rob Enslin

Did you know that you can use a pop-up for more than simply getting email addresses or trying to sell something? Many websites now use prompted customer support chats. A pop-up will ask the visitors if they would like to speak with a customer service representative. If they click “Yes,” it will connect automatically with the website chat. This is a great way to make sure that visitors get great service. Comments, information for the customer, and more can be put in pop-ups.

Respect When a Visitor Says No

More and more websites today are not respecting their visitors when they simply don’t want to deal with the pop-ups. If visitors to your site click to close, they do not want to see the pop-up. They do not want to enter their email addresses there. Accept this. Do not then have another pop-up that asks if they are sure. This is one of the most irritating trends in website pop-ups. If your goal is to be un-annoying, stay as far away from this trend as possible.

Even though we all profess to hate pop-ups, they are working. Each type of pop-up, however, works in different situations. It is important to do testing on your site to find out if your pop ups work and if so, what options are best for you.

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By Jon Correll

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7 thoughts on “How to Effectively and Un-Annoyingly Use Pop Ups On Your Website

  1. Sean Mysel says:


    I think it’s like the “first date” analogy you used on another post. You wouldn’t walk up to a woman in a bar or coffee shop and propose right off the bat.

    Definitely need to get the viewer to engage with your content first, spend some time getting to know you and what you’re about and then ask for the email address.

    Best way to find out of course is to test, test, and test some more.

    Great article!

    1. Sean – Glad you enjoyed it!

      Your advice “test, test, and test some more” couldn’t be more spot on – wise words! You never know until you try it 🙂

  2. Sean Mysel says:

    Now here’s an interesting scenario I’m getting a friend to test:

    one pop up: one that comes up instantly and one that’s delayed one minute.

    Instant converts at 4%
    Delayed converts at 1%

    Which one converts better going from subscribers in this case coming into the store for a jewelry sale?

  3. Trust me, these popups never work. Ever. No exceptions. “But what about if…?”. Shut up, you’re only embarrassing yourself. I know all about it: I’m a web developer that’s seen more businesses than I can count fail spectacularly by attempting the misguided tactics advocated in this article. Allow me to tell you what will *really* happen if you use popups. However “small” they may be, and however much of a delay you implement before they appear…

    The visitors that aren’t savvy enough to use NoScript to disable popups definitely will be sophisticated enough to give you a fake email address just to make your annoying popup go away. And then some marketing ‘guru’ with sculpted facial hair and brightly-coloured glasses frames whom you secretly find irritating and insincere will charge you an arm and a leg for pointing out that you now have a database full of such fake addresses. They will use this fact to conclude that the popups they advised you to use have therefore “worked”, often using pretentious technical-sounding terms like “conversion statistics”, and will charge you a lot of money. Their definition of the word “worked” will not include you making any actual money, mind you, but you will nonetheless be able to claim as a ‘customer’ for your newsletter. Next, after several successive quarters of bounced emails and meetings with increasingly-annoyed angel investors, you’ll be forced to sell whatever it is that you sell via some third party site like Amazon. Because, guess what?, Amazon doesn’t annoy *its* visitors with popups. And also respects their advertising preferences.

    So, for the love of God, please stop (or better yet, don’t start) using misguided 90s tactics like popups to try and win customers. It doesn’t work. Believe me.

    1. Hi Rachel – What you describe could be a likely scenario. We urge everyone to test all marketing practices to ensure they’re really effective instead of blindly adding elements to their site. Thanks for the input!

    2. 1. Anyone who says “trust me” (and particularly if they say it twice in the same dailogue) is suspect from the start.

      2. “I know all about it: I’m a web developer” is not a valid argument that proves you are right and neither is your anecdotal evidence.

      3. I am being mildly rude because you chose to be rude in your fifth sentence.

      4. Pop-up marketing has changed a lot since the ’90s. There is a reason it’s used – it does work. Not always, but certainly not “never”. If you are so stupid as to say something like this “never” works then you don’t deserve to give yourself a title that suggests you know what you’re doing online.

      5. Because popups have changed, setting NOSCRIPT etc. doesn’t tend to work. We’re not talking about those lame browser-generated JavaScript alert boxes any more, we’re talking jQuery and so on, which tends to mean that if this is blocked much of the web site itself stops working properly.

      Just because YOU may NEVER have signed up legitimately in one of these popups it doesn’t mean they don’t work. I know I have signed up for newsletters that were presented this way. I know that I have engaged more with websites that have used subtle “pop-ups” (more accurately, sliders, and the like) to show me more relevant content. Your arrogant dismissal of this technique, and your attempt to back it up with spurious anecdotal ‘evidence’ with absolutely no facts makes your whole argument null.

  4. Oh. and you’re arrogant and knowledgable enough to suggest that Harvard Business School knows nothing about marketing? What planet are you on?

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