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By Nate McCallister / a few months ago
Annoying Pop Ups

Here are some stats I want you to struggle with for a minute.

First, surveys have shown that 70% of people think pop ups are annoying... ouch.

Second, pop-ups can easily double your subscription rate. Companies like Entrepreneur.com were able to increase their sign ups by 86% and their sales by 162% by using pop ups!

As bloggers, we have ourselves a bit of a conundrum on our hands.

What do we do?

You’ll have to decide for yourself but here is my answer...

Pop-ups are a “necessary evil,” and as long as we provide value (both in the lead magnet we offer and the follow up emails we send them later) they should be implemented into your blog. 

That being said, I will do my absolute best to ensure that my pop ups are as minimally intrusive as possible. 

Inevitably, some people will always be annoyed by pop ups. You shouldn't let this deter you from including them on your site. 

Implementing the 11 tips below will help minimize the level of annoyance of your pop ups.

As a welcome side effect, implementing these tips should also help you achieve lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates!

Quick Tool Check...

Before I get into the methods that make your pop ups less annoying, I want to share the tools that I am using for my pop ups.

It's important that I share these tools first because without them you can't edit your pop ups, how they're delivered or when they're delivered. 

I use two tools interchangeably for my pop ups across various websites but could easily get by with just either one of them. 

I recommend that you choose just one of these though for your site.

One issue I ran into when I tried to use both on the same site was that I could easily create overlapping rules that would cause chaos and would show my visitors too many pop ups. 

The tools are Sumo and Thrive Leads.

Sumo

Sumo

Formerly known as "SumoMe," Sumo is a powerful and affordable suite of tools to help you get more email subscribers.

You can make any sort of pop up you'd like and can edit the design to your heart's content. 

You can also set "show" and "do not show" rules and even trigger email automations directly from the app itself (without any 3rd party email marketing software). 

Thrive Leads

Thrive Leads

Thrive Leads comes with the Thrive Themes suite (which is what I use for my blogs). 

If you're using Thrive Themes for your blog already (like I am here at EntreResource.com) you will probably prefer using Thrive Leads. 

Comparing the two side by side, I prefer the way that the Sumo pop ups look (although with enough tweaking I can get the same look with Thrive Leads) and I prefer Thrive Leads for their ability to utilize smart links and how it works more seamlessly across my Thrive WordPress theme. 

Side Note: There are a lot of tools for creating and managing pop ups but these are the ones that I have found work best for me. Just be sure you have something that allows you to create attractive pop ups with rules that help prevent flooding your readers with too many or showing the wrong pop ups to the wrong people. 

There is a misconception that it's the flashiness and intrusiveness of pop ups that annoys readers. That is just half of it. 

1. Offer Lead Magnets of Real Value

A truly annoying pop up is intrusive AND offers nothing of true value. 

When you give something that is both relevant and of real value to your users, the initial intrusiveness of your pop ups will be quickly forgotten. 

Also, the more value you provide, the more comfortable you'll feel including more pop ups on your site. 

So, what makes something valuable?

I highly recommend you read my article on lead magnets and learn what makes a lead magnet great (for you and your reader). The article also provides 49 lead magnet ideas and examples.

A rule of thumb question I ask is "would someone pay for this if it wasn't free?" If the answer is, "yes, most of my readers would willingly pay for this if I charged for it," you probably have a good lead magnet on your hands. 

2. Make it Relevant to the Page

Pop ups are annoying because they take our attention away from the task at hand.

If someone is on your blog, they're looking for information about some topic of interest. A pop up that has little or nothing to do with the content the reader is looking for will almost always be considered annoying. 

For example, on a blog post like this one your reading now I wouldn't show a pop up offering you a work out program. That isn't why you're here! A good pop up for this article would be something like my spam words to avoid in your emails PDF

Why? Because if you're interested in pop ups (you're reading this article so that's a given) then you should also be interested in improving your email deliverability. 

3. Avoid Being Redundant to Existing Susbcribers

Make sure that you show pop ups only to people who would benefit from them. 

Imagine that a girl scout comes to your door and sells you some cookies. 

Pretty much everyone loves cookies and helping a little girl get a merit badge, so you buy some. 

An hour later, another girl scout shows up and is also selling cookies. 

Two hours later, another girl scout...

That would get annoying right? 

It's important that we do our best to not show pop ups to visitors who have already seen them recently. Whether they subscribed or not. 

This is easier said than done unfortunately for a number of reasons...

  • Cookie blockers make it impossible to prevent this for every visitor
  • People visit from different devices

So what do we do?

The answer is: the best that we can. 

Yes, some people will inevitably see the same pop ups multiple times but it's impossible to prevent this completely.

We can however do a few things to minimize this number of redundant pop ups.

Never Show Pop Ups to Visitors Clicking on Posts from Your Emails

You should regularly email your list with links to new/old content. This is a massive source of traffic for me. 

If someone is on your email list, they opted-in to something at some time. Remember, most people don't know you have new content unless you tell them about it! I have over 100 blog posts here and many of my subscribers don't know about many of them but would like to. It's my job to get the content in front of them BUT it's also my job to prevent bugging them with redundant pop ups in the process. 

In comes Thrive Smart Links.

Thrive Smart Links are URLs that are programed to NOT show specific pop ups to anyone who clicks them. 

Thrive smart links

Here is a video explaining the process. It is way worth the 8 min watch if you are a Thrive Themes member or are considering becoming one!

4. Make Them Easy to Kill 

Your pop ups should have a clearly visible exit option. 

If you make this difficult, you can expect bounce rates that are through the roof and readers who have no interest in ever returning to your site. 

If anything happens after someone clicks the "X" or the "No thank you" text, you are going to hell.

Ok, thats a bit dramatic, but never take people away from their content with tricks. 

I've seen shady marketers make the "X" and "No thank you" links the exact same as the confirmation links. 

I recommend including both an "X" at the top of the pop up and a clear "no thank you" text option below.  Like this...

Kill pop ups

Be sure to test that the exit buttons work properly. Exit links that don't work are extremely annoying. 

5. Set "Show After" and "Don't Show If" Rules

I find it to be annoying when I am immediately hit with a pop up before I can even read a single word on the article. 

Some sites like Inc.com do this and it works for them, but for me and you, I don't recommend hitting readers with a pop up ASAP. 

In come the "show after" rules. 

There are two types of show after rules...

  1. Show after user scrolls a certain % of the way down the page
  2. Show after a certain number of seconds. 

These rules allow you to show pop ups only to people who are interested in the article. If you are following step #2 and making your pop ups relevant to the page, this will greatly increase your conversion rates and reduce your bounce rates. 

6. Make Sure Your Full Screen Pop Ups Offer Your Best Lead Magnets

The full screen pop up (called a "welcome mat" in Sumo) is one of the highest converting options BUT it needs to be treated with respect. 

These are extremely intrusive and shouldn't be used on every page or very frequently. 

All of your pop ups should be linking to high quality, relevant lead magnets but your full screen pop ups should absolutely be the best, most relevant offer you could make to your readers. 

7. Get to the Point

The average attention span of Americans is shrinking year after year. 

We are so used to pop ups that unless they grab our attention quickly, they are ignored. 

Your headlines should be straight forward and to the point. You have no time for long winded pitches on why the lead magnet is great. 

As a rule of thumb, your pop up should be a one sentence headline with a maximum of 2 sentences below describing it in more detail. 

Including a picture or video that depicts the lead magnet is also a great way to quickly relay to your readers what the pop up is all about. 

In my testing, pop ups with only text vastly under perform compared to pop ups with images that depict what is being offered. 

8. A/B Test Continuously 

David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy

The God Father of Advertising

"Never stop testing and your advertising will never stop improving."

A/B testing will help you find out what converts best with your audience. 

Although the impact of A/B tests will be a minor increase in conversions (a few percentage points is great), every little bit helps. More people converting usually means fewer people are annoyed by your pop up. 

Both of the tools I referenced above (Sumo and Thrive Leads) provide everything you'll need to run A/B tests. Whichever you use is a choice of preference but you should always A/B test your pop ups. 


Here is what a split test looks like in Thrive Leads. 

Thrive Leads Testing

Note: This isn't a great split test for a couple of reasons. There are too many variables I'm comparing. 

  • One is a pop up (lightbox), one is in content
  • They are different lead magnets. 

This example was intended to show you the inside of a split test rather than a perfectly executed one 🙂 

I recommend that you test one variable at a time and then choose a winner after enough impressions have been received to make a good, educated decision. 

Side Note: If your pop ups are converting below 3% you need to kill them OR optimize them. This is the minimum acceptable rate for me on my pop ups and if a pop up is converting below this it means something is wrong and I need to fix it. 

Average pop up conversion rates

Things to consider when troubleshooting a failed pop up include...

  • The offer itself..Is the lead magnet any good?
  • The targeting...Are you showing this only to people who would be interested?
  • Possible redundancy...Are you showing this to existing subscribers?
  • Poor copywriting...Does your pop up sell the lead magnet well?

Pop ups aren't something you should ever "set and forget." They should always be in a continual state of optimization even after you are converting above the minimum acceptable conversion rate of 3%. 

9. Balance Pop Ups with Other Methods

Pop ups are great but they shouldn't be the only method you use to collect leads on your blog. 

Some people don't respond well to pop ups at all but may be more likely to opt-in if you give them other opt-in options. I love adding relevant inline opt-ins on my content in lieu of pop ups on every page. 


These allow the user to see the opt-in without the intrusiveness of taking up the whole screen or interrupting the content. 

10. Use Exit Intent Pop Ups

Here is a very sobering stat for you...70% of people who visit your site will never come back.


Thats crazy!


Exit intent pop ups are often your last ditch effort to turn a casual viewer into a subscriber and returning reader. 

Exit intent pop up

These are also less annoying because they allow the reader to get whatever it is they were looking for first and only shows them a pop up offer after they have left. 

11. Pop Ups Linking to Other Products Should Include an Offer

I have had good luck with pop ups that link to affiliates or paid products. 


It is typically best to focus on collecting emails and then selling to them in a follow up sequence BUT including the occasional affiliate or product pitch pop up is worth a shot. 


A pop up that promotes an affiliate product or one of your own paid products should include some sort of discount that merits the readers attention. 


Just saying "buy this now" in a pop up will annoy your readers but showing them an offer is much more enticing and generally less annoying overall. 


This method has made me tens of thousands of dollars over the years so I can't ignore it. It is a more advanced method that should be done only AFTER you have a system in place to collect leads. 

About the author

Nate McCallister

Nate is the founder and main contributor of EntreResource.com. He is a lifestyle entrepreneur who spends his time building businesses and raising his two kids Sawyer and Brooks with his beautiful wife Emily. His main interests include copywriting, economics and piano.

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