When you launch a popup on your website, you want to make sure it looks great and has persuasive copy. Meanwhile, what often gets overlooked is popup timing.
Discounting the importance of the right timing can be a costly mistake. Here’s why:
Your visitors don’t go to your site to look at your popups; they go to look at your content and products.
This means that if you present a popup too soon, you’ll make them want to leave. But if you take too long, you may have lost a precious opportunity to gain a new email subscriber (or customer).
So how do you get your popup timing right? Should you wait 10 seconds? 30 seconds? Two minutes?
To answer this question, keep reading. By the end of this article, you will know how long you should delay your popups and much more.
What is a timed popup?
A timed popup is a call to action that appears after a certain amount of time has passed since the visitor landed on a given page. They are also called “time-delayed” popups as they don’t show up immediately after a visitor lands on a page but with a “lag.”
Here is an example of what a timed opt-in popup may look like:
No one likes to get bombarded with offers right after landing on a site. If a visitor doesn’t even have the time to read the contents of a page they decided to visit, they will be enticed to leave it altogether.
Consequently, marketers delay their popups to improve the visitor's experience and generate conversions.
How long should you delay your popups?
The main question you should be asking yourself now isn’t whether you should delay your popups, but how long your delay should be.
Sadly, there’s no hard rule we can offer you. Presenting a popup before the visitors are ready will lead to many bounces. But waiting too long will lead to missing the opportunity to gain new subscribers or customers.
The solution to this crucial issue lies in your site’s analytics.
As a rule of thumb, you should delay your popups using your visitors’ average time on site (for site-wide popups) and time on page (for page-specific popups).
The rationale goes like this: if you set up a time delay close to these metrics, your popups will show up near the time when the average visitor is about to leave. In a sense, your popups will behave like when they're triggered by exit-intent technology, but manually.
Thanks to this setup, you will balance your popups' timing — neither too soon nor too late. Simple enough, right?
If you don’t have enough data, or if your data has a lot of outliers, you can use the results from one study which found that delaying popups for more than five seconds generated 52.02% more conversions than delaying them for two to five seconds.
All in all, the study showed that the ideal time to delay your popups is between three to 30 seconds. But since this is a big time gap, it’s best you only use them as a reference and not as a rule.
How to time your popups the right way
Now that you know that the best way to time your popups is by taking your time on site and time on page, let’s see how you actually go about it.
Time your popups based on your analytics data
To find your average time on site, open your Google Analytics, and go to Audience > Overview. There, you will see it under the “Avg. Session Duration” row:
Then, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. There, you will see the average time on page for all of your pages under the “Avg. Time on Page.”
If you have already migrated your account to Google Analytics 4, you have to follow a different yet equally simple approach.
First, you will have to look for “engagement time,” calculated as the sum of user engagement durations per active user. If that sounded like a mouthful, fret not, as it’s the same as the average time on site when used for your whole site.
To find it, go to your home and look for “Average engagement time:”
Then, go to Reports > Engagement > Pages and Screens. There, you will see the engagement time for each page:
Now that you know your visitors' average time on your website and on each page, how do you use it to time your popups?
First, you want to use the average time on site when you time your site-wide popups. Such is the case for stores that promote the first-purchase discount throughout the site.
But if you also use page-specific popups, use your average time on page for the pages you are targeting the popup for.
For example, if you show a free shipping discount only on your product pages, define your time delay by analyzing the average time on page for all of those pages. The same idea applies if you plan on creating a popup for one particular product or page.
What’s important is that you don’t mix the average time on page and the one for the site.
Average times vary greatly depending on the page; that’s why you want to adapt each popup accordingly.
Also, consider setting up a time delay slightly above the average time on your site and page — five to ten seconds is enough. The idea is to err on the side of caution. However, you should also consider your priorities and the audience's funnel stage, something you'll see later.
To make things better, you could test timing your popups before and after the average time and see which one works best. You could even test timing them at the exact time of your visitors’ average session duration.
Finally, keep an eye on your bounce rate. Your popups may annoy some people no matter what, but you shouldn’t make it so that everybody feels that way. Since your goal is to sell more, balance your list-building efforts with a good visitor experience.
Combine time delays with behavioral triggers
Time-delayed popups may be great on their own, but their power can be magnified when mixed with behavioral triggers. By “behavioral triggers,” I mean any behavior a visitor does on the site, like:
- Clicking on a link, image, or button
- Scrolling a page
- Exiting a page
These triggers allow for creating even more targeted popups, as you can infer many things from a visitor’s behavior.
For example, if a visitor is trying to leave your ecommerce store, you can present them with a targeted offer like a time-sensitive discount for first-time buyers. You couldn’t have assumed that from the time on page alone, but with the exit-intent technology like the one Getsitecontrol uses, you can.
Most popup tools allow you to use time spent on your site, time on page, and behavioral triggers together. All you need to do is create two or more triggers, apply the OR operator, and you are done.
Delay for the right popup type
As you saw, time-delaying your popups is almost always a good idea. The only reason why it’s not always the case is that some popup types aren’t meant to be delayed.
Such is the case for “welcome mats,” which are fullscreen popups that appear immediately after a user session begins:
Likewise, each popup type can use different time delays. On the one hand, popups like modals and fullscreens should be presented with more delay, given their disruptive nature. It’s even better to mix them with one or more behavioral, audience, or page triggers.
On the other hand, slide-ins and floating bars can be presented faster, as they aren’t as disruptive as the previous types.
Although these are just suggestions and not hard rules, they will likely improve the effectiveness of each type of popup you use.
Segment based on your visitor’s purchase stage
Another important point is to consider the purchase stage of your visitors. To help you understand this point, remember the marketing funnel:
Simply put, the top of the funnel has the highest volume of visitors but the lowest purchase intent, and the bottom has the lowest volume but the highest purchase intent.
When targeting the top of the funnel, you want to use a higher delay as you don’t want to risk breaking their experience and pushing them away too soon. If a first-time visitor leaves your site annoyed, it will cost you a lot of potential revenue.
The lower you get in the funnel, the less you need to use the delay (without forgetting everything else we discussed already). Since people will already know and trust your brand, you can risk a bit more and still benefit.
💡It’d be a good idea to use the guidelines discussed earlier to define how much you want to risk for each segment. For example, for the top of the funnel, you could use a 10-second delay on top of your average time on site, and five seconds under it for bottom-of-the-funnel visitors.
Timing your popups the right way: a summary
Now that you know how important delayed popups are and how to get their timing right, let’s recap.
Timed popups are a must-have for any store owner. It’s never a good idea to present a popup immediately after someone visits your site or any page on it.
Ideally, you want to delay your popups using your average time on site and average time on page for site-wide and page-specific popups, respectively.
You can (and should) add a margin on top of it, just in case, but you should also consider your visitors’ stage in their purchase process.
What’s more, you should mix time delays with behavioral triggers to maximize your popups' relevance and effectiveness. You also want to factor in the popup type and its disruptive nature.
No matter what particular popup timing you choose, using time delays will improve your conversions and business success. Try the advice shared today and experience it yourself.
Ivan Kreimer is a freelance content writer for hire who creates educational content for SaaS businesses like Leadfeeder and Campaign Monitor. In his pastime, he likes to help people become freelance writers. Besides writing for smart people who read sites like Getsitecontrol, Ivan has also written in sites like Entrepreneur, MarketingProfs, TheNextWeb, and many other influential websites.
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