Let’s go back about 8 months, to a growth team meeting in the Wishpond boardroom.
We’ve defined a new KPI: leads. Which makes sense – we want to start drilling down on turning our 250,000 monthly readers into blog subscribers and, hopefully one day, customers.
So as we’re building our content strategy, we identify our many great ebooks as a definite advantage we can leverage to drive leads for the next few months. Though we already use these ebooks to generate leads and subscribers, we could be doing more.
So we double down on our ebook promotion efforts. We drive ads to landing pages, add links to our blog posts, and create popups to encourage ebook downloads.
And, on our journey to generate more leads for our (rather excellent) sales team with gated content, we discover something pretty interesting…
Our click popups convert 33% better than our landing pages.
How? Why? Well, to explain that, we’ll have to start right at the beginning…
What’s the Deal With Popups, Anyway?
If you asked someone to describe popups, they’d probably say things like:
- Annoying (again)
Popups emerged in Internet-advertising infancy – remember those toss-the-paper-in-the-garbage-can games? If you ever clicked on one of these, you’ll know they didn’t direct to a reputable place. Instead, popups usually led visitors to a shady, scammy website, which is a big part of the reason they’re so hated now.
There’s no question about it – popups have a bad reputation, and those shady website popups are just part of the reason. In the past, popups created brand new browser windows, came in droves, and – for those of us with older computers – made our browsing experiences rather slow.
Long story short, popups were awful.
In 2004, 95% of Internet users in the U.S. used Internet Explorer. Mozilla Firefox launched that same year, and soon after, it introduced its popup blocker feature.
By 2009, Internet Explorer’s market share dropped to 80%, with Firefox growing from nothing to 15% in five short years. I’m willing to bet that popup blocker played a big part in Firefox’s quick ascent.
Even today, most Internet users aren’t big fans of popups. AdBlock and AdBlock Plus remain two of the Chrome Web Store’s most downloaded apps, boasting over 10 million users each. Pagefair estimated that there were 198 million active adblock users around the world in 2015.
“Okay, I get it, I get it,” you say. “People hate popups.”
So we shouldn’t use them, right?
There’s no easy way to do this, so I’m just going to say it: popups work.
In all their obtrusive, intrusive infamy – they work. You’d be hard-pressed to find the website of any modern tech startup that didn’t hit you with at least one popup on entry, click, scroll, or exit.
So, armed with this information, the Wishpond marketing team set out to do a little testing of our own…
There’s that saying: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
So we came up with the unique and original idea to start linking ebook CTAs within our blog posts to click popups with a form, instead of to the landing pages we normally linked to.
Good artists copy,
great artists steal.
After swapping up our gated content strategy, we came across some pretty interesting results. But before we get to that, we need to do what any good scientist does and go over our hypotheses for the changes.
We expected the conversion rates on our popups might increase by maybe five to ten percent. It’s not huge, but even a small percentage increase can make a big difference when it comes to converting 250,000 monthly blog readers.
Though we have dozens of ebooks, we only created click popups for those relevant to our highest-traffic articles. We picked nine of our very best and created click popups for them, adding them to CTAs within our newest and highest-traffic blog articles.
Here’s an example of one of our in-line CTAs:
The Ultimate Guide to Boosting Your Social Media ROI gives you everything you need to drive reach, user engagement, leads, and sales for your brand through social media to produce real results for your bottom line.
And the popup it led to:
For comparison, here’s the landing page we used for the same ebook:
Once we were all set up, we sat back and watched the leads roll in.
Have a look at the results before I explain…
That’s a lot of orange.
Out of the 9 click popups we created for our ebooks, 8 of them performed better than their landing page counterparts. And not by any small amount, either – our click popups converted at an average rate of 40%, a staggering 33% increase over the 30% average rate our landing pages held.
To give you a better idea and a little more detail, here’s a closer look at statistics for The Complete Guide to Facebook Contests and Promotions…
For us, this was evidence enough that we need to start linking all of our ebook CTAs to click popups instead of the landing pages we were previously directing visitors to.
After looking at these statistics, we’ve been spending time trying to figure out just why click popups perform so much better than landing pages for us.
We’ve come up with a couple possible reasons…
What’s in a name? The aptly-named popup is a strong lead generation tool because it literally pops up, alerting the viewer to the offer you’ve chosen to highlight.
It may be true that a landing page should, theoretically, command the same attention as a popup because it takes up the whole browser window… but popups are jarring.
Popups not only command attention – they demand it. A standard feature of modern popups is the lightbox: the feature that dims the rest of the window beneath a piece of content like a popup.
Where a landing page invites the user to scroll through a page and look around, a popup says “LOOK HERE”. This bold declaration likely has a positive effect on the chances someone will convert.
Popups not only command attention – they demand it.
They don’t redirect the user from the current page
There’s nothing worse than clicking a link and being redirected to a galaxy far, far, away. With landing pages, the viewer doesn’t really have a choice – if you want to see the page, you’re going to end up on a new webpage.
And because our ebook CTAs resided largely in the top half of our articles, clicking one that linked to a landing page meant the reader would be whisked away from the article they were trying to read – not a great experience.
Conversely, popups require a smaller “commitment” from the viewer. Though they pull a viewer’s focus, the dimly lit background content reminds the viewer they’re still on the page – there’s a greatly reduced sense of unfamiliarity because the original content is still visible.
It’s probable that the viewer feels less uneasy about converting because they know they’re not far from the original piece of content they came to see.
They create urgency
Ever visited a popup shop? Just like website popups, popup shops hang out in a retail space for a little while and then leave, never to be seen again. They’re fleeting and exclusive – two characteristics that are a large part of their appeal and popularity.
On the other hand, consider a landing page – they’re easy to get back to because all a viewer needs to do is bookmark the landing page URL.
This gives viewers time to think about the content being offered to them and about whether or not they want to trade their information for it. More likely, however, it gives them time to forget about your offer – and that means you’ve lost a conversion.
Combined with an enticing offer (like a free ebook or a discount), popups instill a strong sense of urgency in the viewer. It’s a simple call to “act now” – and often times, people do.
Less content = less work for viewer
Landing pages are great because they’re capable of conveying a significant amount of information about a single product or topic. It’s likely they also convert worse than popups for the same reason.
With their smaller screen footprint, popups – out of necessity – tend to contain less information than their landing page counterparts.
What does this mean for a viewer? Less work – there’s less to read and understand. Though landing pages may be suitable when a viewer needs greater amounts of information, popups can be great for things like ebooks, especially when the investment is low (time, email address, name, etc.).
Obviously, this varies from case to case – good luck selling someone a house with a popup – but lowering the amount of work your viewers need to do will do impressive things for your conversion rates.
What We’re Doing Now
From our data, it’s clear to us that, when looking to generate leads with CTAs in our blog posts, click popups are the way to go.
Beyond that? It’s hard to say. But we’re applying some of the things we’ve learned to our recent marketing efforts, to great success.
We’ve been doing some upkeep and maintenance on the Wishpond blog lately, optimizing blog posts and adding relevant CTAs linked to content upgrades and ebooks to our high-traffic articles.
In the process, we did a little more refining to our CTA and popup design, as well.
We realized in-line text-based CTAs were great, but also that they were easy to gloss over while reading a blog article – so we spiced them up a little using Wishpond’s CTA tool. Here’s a couple examples of our current blog CTAs:
And our newly-styled popups:
Pretty nice, eh? Here’s a few rules we followed when crafting our new CTAs and popups:
- Less is more: We drastically reduced the copy on the majority of our content upgrades. We found that if we were able to communicate benefit in the CTA itself, conversions on the popup didn’t decrease even when the popup itself had no copy.
- Form mimics content: As you can see, we have two considerably different CTAs built using Wishpond. We did this to communicate the differences between our content upgrades. For our simple PDF content upgrades, we created a simple text-dominant CTA with a pink line to help them stand out to readers scrolling through a blog post. For our “bigger” gated content (like our Instagram Marketing Kit), we put together a brighter, more “complete” looking CTA to differentiate it from our normal content upgrades.
- Separate call-to-action link within CTA: A CTA within a CTA? Instead of linking our entire CTA text to the popup, we created a new link saying something like “Get The Free Guide” to jolt viewers to attention and focus their intent.
- Clean, simple design: Let’s be real – our old popups weren’t the prettiest things around. We cleaned up our design to give our new CTAs and popups a streamlined look that fit into our existing visual identity.
What did this do for us?
In only a few weeks, we tripled our daily lead generation just by adding CTAs linked to click popups to our blog posts – and get this: our popups started converting at 49%, even higher than the rate we experienced the first time around.
Of course, this isn’t the end of our testing. We’ll continue refining, optimizing, and trying new things, looking for the next big lead generation trend.
Trust me, I dislike popups just as much as the next person.
I wish I could had some data to prove they don’t work – some “aha!” research that could help me say, definitively, that popups are no good.
But I don’t. All I have is data that tells me click popups work much better than landing pages, at least for the Wishpond blog’s lead generation strategies.
I wish I could had some data to prove they don’t work – some “aha!” research that could help me say, definitively, that popups are no good. But I don’t.
That being said, is this definitive? Not at all. There’s still a place for landing pages – they’re more complete, standalone pages that you can send users to using ads or through social media.
But this is definitely worth thinking about.
I’d love to hear about your personal experiences with popups! Love them or hate them? Have they been successful for you? Let me know what you think in the comments below!