How to Use Website Popups So They Don’t Annoy People


Have you started to see pop-ups popping up (sorry, couldn’t resist) all over the web?

It seems like every marketer (affiliate or otherwise) is using pop-ups these days and perhaps you’re starting to wonder why.

Well, the simplest answer is that they work.

But how do you use them without making every visitor to your site hate you?

Now that’s a great question, and one I’ll be addressing in this article.

I’ll be giving you the four main strategies you need to keep in mind to lower bounce rates, increase conversions on your pop-ups and (best of all) ensure your traffic doesn’t get too annoyed.

Let’s get rolling.

They really work?

Yep, and it’s not just some random case studies I can spout. I can tell you with absolute certainty that since July 17th we’ve generated 668 leads with our blog popup.

Now, Wishpond makes a website popup tool, so running them isn’t costing us anything, but even if we weren’t we’d probably engage with a company like ours (whose tools should, honestly, probably cost a bit more).

For instance, let’s say you pay $528 for a yearly account (what Wishpond’s yearly accounts cost as of July 31st). Our pop-up tool alone pays for your investment many, many times over – let alone access to landing page templates, online advertising tools, retargeting software, CRM databases and email automation, but that’s another story.

Have I piqued your interest? ‘Cause I’ve definitely piqued my own.

Here’s a few ways you can ensure your pop-ups earn you the best return on your investment possible (and don’t make people want to leave and never come back).

Make it Easy to Disengage

You’ve probably had an experience with a pop-up where you couldn’t find the exit. There is nothing I know of on the internet more off-putting than a pop-up that doesn’t give you an out.

Your landing page or blog traffic feels immediately trapped.

Website Popup example

This example from marketer John Chow uses a bunch of the pop-up best practices we know and love (including my own personal favorite, the directional cue). But more than that, this pop-up makes it easy to disengage (via the easy to see “X” in the top corner) if you’re not quite ready to convert.

This ease-to-disengage is the difference between a visitor to Chow’s page returning again to find reason to convert, and never returning at all. And that’s what makes this whole thing so valuable: testing and tweaking your pop-ups so that people don’t hate them means more people returning to your site, more people converting, and less people talking badly about you behind your back.

Looking to add popups to your website? Check out Wishpond’s Free Shopify Popup Builder App and Free WordPress Popup Builder App.

Time your Pop-Ups Intelligently

Entry pop-ups, while tempting as they ensure your visitor will see them, are dangerous as they will also be the first impression your visitor has to your business. Do you want someone’s first impression to be of a pop-up?

Perhaps you do!

Perhaps you’re running an awesome discount on your tools and the promotion ends in 14 hours and 58 minutes. Getting that news (exciting and time-sensitive) in front of your landing page traffic immediately will substantially increase the chance of them engaging with it.

But perhaps not.

Or perhaps you want to implement an email-subscriber pop-up on your blog site. Should you set it to show 30 seconds after someone comes to the page, 60 seconds or 180 seconds?

How to create a website popup

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Avoid showing anything other than an entry pop-up in the thirty seconds of a visit.

  • Implement scroll pop-ups instead of timed pop-ups on your blog. This ensures people have invested enough time in your article to actually care about the subject. Timed pop-ups are risky, as you never know how fast people are reading and you don’t want to throw a pop-up too early or (equally) after they’ve already left.

  • Implement exit pop-ups once a day per unique visitor for both product pages and blog pages.

  • Implement click pop-ups as much as you want, as they should be used almost exclusively to facilitate the lead generation process (cut out the need for your visitor to travel to a full lead-gen landing page).

Make your Pop-Ups Relevant

The best way to ensure your blog or landing page traffic doesn’t hate your pop-ups is to ensure they’re interested in what you’re promoting.

That means creating pop-ups that are relevant to the page they pop up on. Not only does this increase the chances of your traffic returning if they aren’t interested in converting, it increases the chance of them converting in the first place.

It’s like this: Let’s say you’re an ice-cream salesman. Would you find more success selling your frozen treats on the beach in July or in a mountain resort in January?

Why would you think that selling your promotions online would be any different (or have any less influence on your sales)?

Here’s an example. This pop-up appears when blog traffic heads to the “healthy eating” tab of a healthy lifestyles blog:

Website popup example

A different pop-up will appear for the fitness tab promoting a workout ebook, and so on.

Changing from a generic healthy lifestyle ebook to a more specific “better eating” ebook increased the conversion rates on this page by 320%.

Not bad, eh?

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Create subject-specific content for each of your blog subjects.

  • Integrate your pop-ups with specific keywords on your pages (for instance, if you have an article on landing pages, your landing page ebook pop-up will appear when the url string reads “landing-pages”. If “Facebook Ads”, your Facebook Ad ebook pop-up will appear).

  • Consider implementing click pop-ups with your ebook banners, so when someone clicks on your ebook image at the bottom of your articles the lead-generation process is sped up with a pop-up.

  • Create several ebooks related to your sector’s objectives in general (increasing sales, looking good this summer, customer retention, etc) and put them on the same product page (ensuring that only one pop-up will appear per day per unique visitor). This increases the chance that someone who travels to your page will see multiple ebooks. If they’re not interested in one they may be in another.

So let me quickly re-iterate that second bullet-point up there, because it’s a bit complicated (and seriously impressive).

Wishpond’s pop-up tool (and one or two others around the web) allow you to target pop-ups based on certain keywords. This is what the single step process looks like after you’ve created your pop-up in our builder:

How to set up a website popup

There are multiple options in the dropdown on the right, but the one we want is “Phrase Match”. This means that the pop-up will show on any URL that includes the keywords you’ve set. The pop-up will appear on new pages as well as old – new blog articles, product pages, promotions, as well as the ones you’ve had for years.

Why is that cool?

  • Because you don’t need to keep dragging and dropping code into every single page you want a pop-up.

  • Because it makes it incredibly easy to create three or four pop-ups and only have them shown on relevant pages of your website.

  • Because it’s a single step process that doesn’t require any more coding than you do in WordPress every day.

  • But mostly because this capability increases conversions by (as we showed above) about 300%.

Don’t Push too Hard

Naturally, the definition of “too hard” will be entirely dependent on your business and your target market. Affiliates may find that a different message resonates with their possible customers than charitable organizations.

The crux of this whole thing, however, is that you need to tread softly when crafting your pop-up message (particularly when it comes to your CTA button copy).

Here’s an example very similar to a CTA button I saw earlier today:

Website popup CTA

And here’s the same kind of message in a less-pushy tone:

Website popup CTA 2

It’s tone changes like this that affect your conversion rates more than you might think. Tone changes that don’t scare your page visitors, don’t scream “sales!” at the top of their voices and don’t encourage your visitors to never return.

But then again, it’s up to you and your company. Don’t take my word for it (or anybody else’s for that matter). You know your business and your target market the best. Try out your best-fitting copy, A/B test and go with the tone that converts best for you.


Hopefully this article has given you a few things to think about (and perhaps an idea of why your pop-ups haven’t quite found the success you were hoping).

Remember that every website popup needs to be tested. Seriously – I can’t repeat that enough. You need to determine what works for your business, as best practices are only “best” for most people. What I’ve included in this article are general rules of thumb that you need to ensure work for you through lengthy A/B testing.

Luckily, Wishpond does pop-up A/B testing (though you may have trouble finding it elsewhere, as I know Optimizely hasn’t gotten there quite yet).

Related Reading:

If you have Shopify or use WordPress, check out Wishpond’s Free Shopify Popup Builder App and Free WordPress Popup Builder App.


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