The use of popups is a controversial topic. In spite of what you may read about them, they can and do serve an important role in online marketing, but you shouldn’t just use them for the sake of using them. Using popups incorrectly may not only be ineffective, it can also drive potential customers away. Here’s how you can use popups effectively as part of your marketing campaign while steering clear of the pitfalls of incorrect usage.
1. Popups as CTAs
If you are using a popup as part of your marketing, it should be used as a type of Call-To-Action (CTA). Therefore it needs to fulfil a number of prerequisites, for example:
- serving a genuine purpose
- being relevant and enticing
- being visually consistent with your brand, your visual theme, and your regular CTAs
- not be distracting (i.e. it must not harm the user experience)
At the same time, popups should not replace traditional CTAs; they’re simply another tool that can be used for special emphasis. Use popups sparingly—less really is more when it comes to popups.
2. When to trigger the popup
One of the biggest mistakes developers make when using popups is that they set them to trigger too soon. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of visiting a website and as soon as the page loads, a popup is forced before you’ve even had a chance to read any of the content. Most users find that annoying and it can result in higher than necessary bounce rates. It’s not necessarily a reason to not use popups, but it may mean that you need to set them up to trigger at better times, for example:
- when they have scrolled down to a certain point on the page, perhaps 30% or 50% of the way down. (A service like Unbounce can help you generate code that achieves this. This service also provides help with creating landing pages and sticky bars.)
- when they have added contents to their shopping cart but haven’t proceeded to check-out. A popup that offers free shipping could be the incentive needed to complete the transaction.
- a popup that deploys when people are leaving the site asking if they would like to sign up to your email newsletter before they go.
3. An obvious exit
Always make it obvious how someone can close a popup. Don’t assume that your visitors know they can click anywhere off the popup to close it—include a traditional “X”, “close”, or “No thanks” so the user experience is not compromised.
If they’ve clicked “No thanks” it is best to assume they are not interested in the offer so don’t present it again. Similarly, don’t have popups appearing one after another—one is plenty.
4. Use popups in a complementary way
Popups should complement your existing website rather than be distracting or detract from the user experience. This means not using gawdy, clashing themes and being careful with popup size and placement! Google has also made it very clear that popups must not interfere with the mobile viewing experience so you cannot have a popup that takes up the whole screen or blocks the main content behind it. Refer to this article on Google’s Webmaster Blog: Helping users easily access content on mobile
Popups should also be short, simple, and clear. Consider relevance if you need to make sure the use of the popup is targeted. For example, if a visitor is looking at shoes it wouldn’t be appropriate to trigger a popup for woollen jerseys. You might use a popup to offer a special discount on boots though! In the same way, make your popups smart! If a user has logged in, you can use popups to offer returning customer deals; if they don’t have an account you can offer the first-time visitor special mentioned above.
Like regular CTAs, you’ll probably want to employ some form of A/B Testing. You can trial different versions of a popup and compare their effectiveness including.
- which version has highest conversion rate?
- which version has increased website traffic the most? (You can check your traffic patterns in Google Search Console)
You can also see if using a regular CTA that is well-designed and well-placed gets more optimal results.