What’s the first thing that ‘pops’ into your mind when you hear or see the term ‘pop-up advertising’?
For many people, this term is enough to get them started on a rant about how annoying pop-ups are.
Years ago, ecommerce websites relied heavily on the use of pop-ups to market their products without taking the user experience into account.
As a result, the Internet was flooded with pop-up adverts that:
Provided nothing of value to website visitors
Disrupted the user experience for online shoppers
Used misleading clickbait grab the attention of users
In short, there was little to no consideration for providing a positive shopping experience for online buyers.
But if you take a look at some of the most successful online stores today, you’ll notice that the way popups are used is changing.
Fortunately, pop-up advertisement in 2020 takes the user experience into account – not just sales tactics. Popups, when done right, can seamlessly integrate in the user experience without disruption while providing value for website visitors.
Because of this, public opinion on popups is slowly changing for the better, which is good news for you!
How to make your pop-up advertising effective (and non-intrusive)
You can avoid what makes most pop-up advertisements annoying – as long as you keep the experience of your visitors at the forefront of everything you do.
Here are four ways you can create a more positive experience with your own popups.
1. Pick the right timing to show your pop-up ads
Have you ever landed on a website for barely half a second – and then got bombarded with a popup?
I have – and this partly contributes to the bad rap popups have gotten in the past.
For example, as soon as I landed on the Mava Sports website, this showed up:
I didn’t even have time to read their headline or scroll down.
If you want to provide a positive experience for your website users, timing is everything when it comes to popups.
You should always give your users some time to engage with our website BEFORE you try to re-engage them with a popup.
For example, you can create popups that only appear when users are about to exit your website (they are called exit-intent popups).
This means your shopper won’t see the popup while they are still engaged. Instead, the popup is used to attempt to re-engage them once they have already made the decision to leave.
On the other hand, you can take advantage of the fact that users are engaged to promote something to them.
For example, I got this popup when I scrolled about 75% down the home page of Guard Lab:
They know that users who make it to this point are at least somewhat interested in what they have to offer, so it makes sense to try to add me to their email list.
Additionally, you could trigger your popup after a certain amount of time. Let’s say your user has been on your home page for thirty seconds and hasn’t clicked on anything yet – now would be a good time to show them something they could be interested in.
2. Make it easy to close pop-up ads
Even though pop-up advertisements are a great tool to help you grow your business, you need to ensure you’re making it easy for people to ignore them if they wish to.
Otherwise, your visitors could get turned off and annoyed by your website. And if they were currently shopping and got interrupted by a popup that just won’t go away, you could lose a paying customer!
Want to see what I mean? Let’s compare two popups to explore this.
The first one, from Altitude Sports, is an exit-intent popup:
There is nothing wrong with this popup per se, but now let’s compare it to this one from WordStream:
What I like about this ad are the two options to close the window. There’s the ‘X’ in the corner, but they also have an underlined text at the bottom that reads: “No thanks, I’d rather work all day”.
This serves two purposes. One, it shows visitors what they’re missing out on if they decide not to take action on this ad. Two, it provides two paths to remove the popup if they’re not interested.
This doesn’t mean you have to add two exit strategies to your popups. However, it does mean you should think about this when you are designing.
For instance, don’t make your ‘X’ too tiny or difficult to find – and make sure your popup disappears if users click outside of the box.
Always test your pop-ups on mobile devices too so you can ensure mobile users can easily get rid of them if they want to.
3. Set up the frequency of your popups
Timing is important for your pop-ups, but so is frequency.
Just imagine how annoying it would be to get the exact same popup every single time you land on a website – whether this is your first time visiting that site today or the tenth.
Instead of leaving it up to chance, make sure you change the settings in your widgets to adjust the frequency of your popups.
I know many websites are doing this right, because when I’m trying to find and screenshot popups for posts like these, I often have to use Incognito tabs to see them. This means most websites don’t want to show me popups I’ve already seen that same hour, day, or week.
So what is the RIGHT frequency to use? That depends! For example, if you’re running a weekend sale and want to showcase your best-selling products or a countdown timer for that sale, it makes sense to up the frequency to at least once or twice a day.
On the other hand, if you have a popup that appears after a set amount of time or when your users scroll down to a specific spot on your page, you probably don’t need to show this again for at least a week.
These numbers aren’t set in stone, though. Test it out for yourself and see how your audience responds.
4. Use a clear and engaging call to action
When visitors see your popups, what they need to do to take action should immediately be clear to them.
You can achieve this by making your call-to-action button stand out from the rest of your design.
Just take a look at the contrast between the background color for this popup and the orange CTA button:
No one can miss it.
The copy you use on your button should also be clear and action-driven.
Not sure how to word your CTA? We covered 12 of the best call-to-action words in another post!
What to advertise in your website popups
Now that you know how to create popups that don’t suck, let’s talk about what you can use them for.
1. Prevent cart abandonment
In several cases, your website visitors will scroll around, look at your products, maybe even add something to their cart – and then leave.
You don’t have to keep your popups for the home page only. For example, if you shop on the Casper website, you’ll notice that there is NO exit intent popup on the main page!
However, when you add something to your cart and then attempt to leave, that’s when they try to re-engage you.
By that point, I’ve already added something to my cart, which means that getting an additional 10% could be what convinces me to stay and complete my purchase.
On the other hand, you could also show a pop-up survey to ask why visitors are leaving. This can help you figure out what isn’t working on your site to prevent future abandonments.
2. Add an element of scarcity
Are you running a flash sale or offering a limited-edition product?
If so, you should definitely let your website visitors know.
Consider adding scarcity elements to your popups, such as timers or inventory warnings, to add a sense of urgency to your offer.
You can use urgency to promote:
A popular product that is going out of stock soon
A limited-edition product that will disappear from your shop soon
Limited time coupons or sales
Free shipping periods that are about to expire
Seasonal offers that are about to end
Just make sure you remove these popups once the promotional period is over.
You could also decide to create an evergreen scarcity tactic. In this case, your visitors have a set amount of time to redeem a special offer based on when they landed on the site.
This means the offer doesn’t expire at a specific time on a specific date – it expires X amount of time after each unique user lands on the site.
A word of advice – test this out first before setting it and leaving it on autopilot. Not all audiences will respond the same way to different popups, and there is no way to know how your audience will respond until you test it out yourself.
Here’s an example: I recently helped my partner launch a single-product site, and we discovered that the popup that used an evergreen timer for a limited time coupon didn’t convert as well as the regular popup with no scarcity. When we discovered this, we removed the evergreen scarcity element and found that more people signed up to his email list!
3. Promote a specific product
What if you want to place a specific product at the forefront of your marketing efforts?
Whether you want to do this because you have found that this product converts better than others, or because you’re launching something new that needs a bit more traction, you can use your popups to bring more attention to that product.
You can keep this type of popup relatively simple: provide one clear, engaging call-to-action button that links to your product, and specify why your visitors should check it out.
If you’re offering a special price for that product, make sure the copy on your popup mentions that, too.
4. Grow your email list
One of the most common types of popups you’ll see is designed to encourage email opt-ins.
In fact, I found it extremely difficult to find examples that WEREN’T designed to collect email addresses!
If you scroll back through the examples I showed you in the first section, you’ll see that most of them capture email addresses. But here’s another one to show you what it can look like.
In this case, Yankee Candle showed me this popup upon exit intent. Like many ecommerce sites, they are offering me a discount in exchange for my email address.
If you want to offer something else than a discount, you could also:
Offer bonus points if you have a loyalty program
Gift a free item if they purchase above a certain amount
Redirect users to a quiz that provides them to with curated products that are the best for their personality
There’s a reason popups are used so often to collect email addresses. With email marketing, you can add several touchpoints to the buyer’s journey and increase the chances that your visitors remember you.
Without collecting their email addresses, the visitors who leave are often gone forever!
5. Funnel visitors to a specific page
Popups can do more than sell a product or ask for an email address.
Sometimes you’ll want to redirect your users to a specific page on your site. Maybe you’ve found that this page gets higher conversion rates, or maybe you use this page as an effective top-of-funnel piece of content to nurture new visitors.
Whatever the reason, you can use your popups to do just that!
Remember the WordStream popup I showed you earlier? Well, if you click on ‘Grade My Account for Free’, you get redirected to a landing page that offers a free report for you.
In their case, they do ask for your email address so that they can send your report. But instead of asking for an email address directly in the popup, they decided to redirect people to this landing page.
This allows them to give visitors more information about what they’re getting when they enter the sales funnel through this offer. It would be difficult to explain the benefits of the free report in a single pop-up ad (without making it too text-heavy or overwhelming).
Always prioritize your users when creating pop-up advertising
I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it again — the key to effective pop-up advertising is to prioritize a positive experience for your website visitors.
Your potential customers expect more out of you in 2020 than they did ten years ago – and chances are, your competition is using these methods to create a better pop-up experience on their own sites.
Luckily for you, creating popups that don’t suck doesn’t have to be hard! Getsitecontrol makes it easier than ever – you don’t need any coding or design skills for that.
Charlene Boutin is a B2B writer for hire specialized in creating compelling case studies, blog posts, and converting copy for digital entrepreneurs and SaaS businesses. When not writing, she can be found prototyping weird games in Unity or playing on her Nintendo Switch.Subscribe to our newsletter → Main illustration by Icons8