The Controversy over Pop-Ups, and Why I Love Them

The Controversy over Pop-Ups, and Why I Love Them

Pop-ups. Even the words send a chill down your spine.

You associate them with the slicked-back hair, 80's tie guy with the Wolf of Wall Street coke addiction and the neverending desire to sell, sell sell!

No self-respecting blogger or internet-marketer would willingly dive into the muck and mire of pop-ups, would they?

If you'd asked me two months ago I would've been right there with you, slamming these annoying windows that interrupt my desire to read, move between tabs, or, heaven forbid, leave a website.

Unfortunately, I've switched teams.

This article will dive into using pop-ups on your blog. I'll show you why I've been converted and give you four ways that you can find success using pop-ups without making your readers hate you.

A Brief Introduction to Pop-ups

First of all, pop-ups have been around forever. They have, up until now, been almost exclusively the purview of websites pushing diet pills that promise to help you "Drop 50 pounds with no exercise! Eat what you want!"

That's changing, however. Pop-ups (led by many blogger influencers around the web) are fast-becoming a legitimate avenue for generating email subscribers.

Perhaps you've noticed:

Pop ups are automatic windows that come in many forms.

Basically a pop-up is an automatic window that "pops-up" on your screen when it's triggered.

The five primary triggers are:

  • Exit: Pop-up software tracks your cursor velocity and direction, calculating (with astounding accuracy) when you're planning on opening a new tab, hitting the back button, or close the window.
  • Entry: The pop-up shows as soon as your visitor arrives (a dangerous maneuver). I ilke entry pop-ups only when you're promoting a time exclusive deal - something like "Sale ends midnight tonight! Get 50% off your next purchase!" This is one of the only justifiable reasons for shoving a pop-up in your visitor's face as soon as they arrive.
  • Timed: The counter starts when you arrive on the page, and the pop-up shows when you've reached a predetermined amount of seconds (generally between 30 and 180).
  • Scroll: Excellent for blog pop-ups, the pop-up will only show if a reader has travelled a predetermined way down the page (I like 70% personally, as it indicates a reader is invested in the content, but is more likely to show before they leave - as many bounce before reaching the conclusion).
  • Click: Click pop-ups appear based on someone clicking a specified link. Click pop-ups are awesome to circumvent the whole "lead generating landing page" scenario, meaning interested readers will be able submit lead information and download your email-gated content without travelling to a separate page.

Pop-Up Types

They're used most successfully to generate email subscribers. I recommend you use them in conjunction with a lead generation campaign and email-gated content.

A Brief Introduction to Why I'm a Born-Again Pop-up Advocate

Wishpond [affiliate link] has created a bunch of new tools in the past year or so: an online advertising platform, landing page templates, retargeting software, even CRM and email automation tools. With our landing pages, we also made (almost as an afterthought) a pop-up tool for those that wanted it.

On the 16th of July, 2014 (about three weeks ago) our content team decided to throw an exit pop-up onto our blog to see what would happen. Initially we went with something quite calm: promoting my most recent ebook with a simple "Get the advanced guide to landing page optimization!"

We were pleased with the success, actually, but even more pleased after we ran an A/B test with some more exciting design elements and new copy, reading "7 Advanced Tricks to Optimize Landing Page Conversion (That Can Be Implemented in Less than 40 Seconds!"

The pop-up is currently converting at 1.7%, which is about equal to a sidebar advertisement on Google search.

Given that our blog sees about 28,000 visitors a week, we've generated more than a thousand email subscribers in less than three weeks.

Check it out:

Pop-Up Conversion Rate

Let me break that down for you right quick:

  • We create content and ebooks for SEO, brand awareness and sector authority anyway
  • We make the pop-up tool ourselves, so it's free (though, honestly, the whole gambit of tools costs $45 a month anyway).
  • If we are generating a thousand email subscribers every 21 days, we can estimate that we'll get about 17,000 a year.
  • If we convert even 1% of our email subscribers to a final sale (worth, at least $540 each per year each), our pop-up will generate at least $91,800 in revenue/year.

And remember, that's our cheapest plan and the most conservative lead conversion rate I can imagine.

Let's say you don't have 28,000 readers a week. Let's say you have 2000. You'll still generate about 136 leads a month, or 1632 a year. Convert them at 1% and you'll have 163 new customers - all from a single pop-up on your blog.

Using Pop-ups so You Don't Get Hate Mail

Now here's the tricky part: ensuring people don't throw their laptop across the room when your pop-up "pops up"...

Here are my four favorite ways to do that (and also maximize your conversion rates):

1. Make it Easy to Exit:

You know those telemarketing calls that seem to exclusively occur the moment you sit down at the dinner table? A pop-up is kind of like that. Sure they end (about 1% of the time) in you actually signing up for a guy to come look at the siding of your house, but more often than not you're simply fighting to get off the phone.

My go-to has always been to interrupt with "I'm afraid I'm not interested at this time. Thank you and good luck with your next call" before hanging up. It's polite, but I don't exactly give them the opportunity to argue.

Your pop-ups have to be equally easy to back out of. A pop-up that doesn't give you an out is like a telemarketer who can't be hung up on (a nightmare, if ever I heard one).


Here are a few best practices for making your pop-up easy to quit:

  • Prominently feature an "X" in the top right corner.
  • Make it so clicking on the space around your pop-up exits the pop-up.
  • Make your "No thank you" Call-to-Action button equally visible as your "Yes, give me the thing" CTA button (but, perhaps, a less desirable color).

Entry Pop-Up

2. Make it Relevant:

When it comes to both optimizing your pop-up for conversions and making sure you don't lose a reader for all time, making your pop-up relevant is crucial.

Your readers are interested in your content (otherwise they wouldn't be there). They're not, however, necessarily interested in your products (at least not yet). Nor are they interested in an entirely irrelevant subject you also happen to write about.

Your pop-ups will be less annoying and have a far higher conversion rate (one case study improved their conversion rates by 320%) if the content you promote with your pop-up is relevant to the article your readers are enjoying.

Phrase Match Pop-Up

Our tool uses "phrase matching", which ensures your subject-specific pop-up only shows on the blog articles with URL's that feature that subject. For instance, our Complete Guide to Landing Pages ebook pop-up appears only on URL's that look like this: "

Here are a few best practices for making your pop-up relevant:

  • Create a piece of content relevant to each of your primary blog subjects (three or four comprehensive and specific how-to guides, for instance).
  • Create a scroll pop-up to promote your subject-focused ebooks.
  • Set the pop-up to appear at 70% of the way down the page (to ensure your readers are genuinely interested in the content they're reading)
  • Ensure the subject of your ebook is featured prominently in the pop-up. Make sure readers know quickly and easily that what you're promoting is relevant to what they're reading.

An image that triggers a click pop-up, currently featured on pop-up relevant articles on the Wishpond blog:

eBook Click Pop-Up

3. Time it Right:

Timing is essential both to increase conversions (ensuring your pop-up shows at the optimal time for engagement) and to ensure you're not annoying people too often.

How often to display Pop-Ups

Here are a few best practices for timing your pop-up:

  • Don't show the same pop-up to your blog traffic more than once per day.
  • Show your scroll pop-up at least 50% of the way down the page.
  • Only show an entry pop-up if your promotion is time sensitive (otherwise it's tough to justify them).
  • Test timed pop-ups against scroll pop-ups. It may be that you'll find more success with timed pop-ups on your product pages and scroll pop-ups on your blog pages.
  • Test multiple pop-ups throughout your website. Not every pop-up has to have a conversion button - some can simply send traffic to a different part of your site.

Timing is (as you may have noticed) one of the most necessary elements to test. If you are going to invest in pop-ups, ensure you go with a software provider that makes creation and A/B testing easy.

4. Don't Push too Hard:

Your perception of pop-ups is likely based on the extremely loud and aggressive windows that appear on many of the more sales-oriented pages (I'll name no names here).

That perception is not something you want to cultivate if you want to retain your reputation as a deliberate, professional blogger. As a result, you need to focus on creating pop-ups that promote content without shoving it down your reader's throats

Here are a few best practices for making your pop-up casual (but still optimized for conversion):

  • Keep them short and to the point. Too much noise and distraction reduces conversion rates and overwhelms your visitor.
  • Test your language (as we did in our A/B test). Does the affiliate stereotype work best for you or does calmer language?
  • Ensure you feature a "No, thank you" option. Test whether your conversion rates really do increase if you make the option smaller than the "yes" button, as - if not - you run the risk of annoying readers.
  • Match your pop-up design and color scheme with the source page. This makes it more visually appealing, increases conversion rates, and decreases the feeling of your pop-up hitting your readers in the side of the head.


Hopefully the math and sneak peek at my own success gave you a bit of impetus to try pop-ups out for yourself. Email subscribers are worth real-world money to your business (especially if you have an optimized lead-nurturing funnel, but that's a whole other article.)

They're controversial, I know. But they're getting more common, and perhaps you've been wondering why. Well, it's simple: they work.

Test them (heavily). Tweak them (constantly). Stop them. Let them run. Switch where they're featured, when they're featured, what they feature and how often they're shown.

But, whatever you do, don't get left behind. I'm generating more than 300 leads a week and I, for one, am not looking back.

To learn more about Wishpond's epic marketing tools, click here [affiliate ilnk].


2018 Blogging Planner

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James Scherer is content manager for the Wishpond Blog. Wishpond offers a free website popup builder, enabling your business to create list-building and promotional tools of all kinds. Connect with James on Twitter.