5 Ways to make popups less annoying and more effective

I know what you are thinking, popups are the worst. Sometimes I have nightmares of the popups ruining my MS Paint photos, but as of recently, pop ups have turned a new leaf.

What are popups? (00:16)

They are light boxes that block the entire screen of a website with the intention of getting users to pay attention and have a call to action, whether that be through signing up for emails or highlighting a campaign. There are tools that can help you generate a pop up without being a designer or a developer, such as Bounce Exchange, Optinmonster, Wishpond, and Sumo Me.

Why are popups powerful? (01:58)

Popups are extremely effective because they are triggers, which is one of the core elements of how a behavior happens. BJ Fogg’s model tells us that high motivation and easy ability lead to a high success rate of triggers. Popups fights inattentional blindness, which happens when users on the site cannot focus on something because there is too much information that is being thrown at them on the site. Instead of having a sign up box passively on the site, popups command attention to the call to action and are hard to ignore.

5 tips on how to effectively use popups

Tip #1: Brand it (02:54)

Make the popups look like they belong on your site, rather than being some alien addition that looks extremely out of place. Templates in the previously mentioned tools make it really easy to customize a popup for your organization.

Tip #2: Segment your popups (03:12)

This can be easily done by creating different campaigns within your popup tools. The purpose of segmenting your popups is so that the popups are tailored to the specific interests of your users. You can segment your popups by device, by browser, by location, by pages and even more!

Tip #3: Provide an easy way out (03:36)

Manners matter! Make sure that your users can easily exit the popup.

Tip #4: Don’t spam (03:47)

Making the popup appear many times will backfire. When you spam, it will likely deter users from ever revisiting your site, and it will make them not want to come back to your site! On your popup tool, there is a setting where you can set the duration of time between when someone closes the popup and when it will pop up again. Normally, setting it to 30 days is a safe bet.

Tip #5: A/B Test (04:09)

This will allow what messages, what calls to actions, what headlines and which images work best on your popup. The same rules that apply to A/B Testing on a website will apply to popups.

1. Headlines

This is the hook that gets visitor’s attention to motivate them to take action.  You can use reciprocity, social proof and need fulfillment to show the benefits of why they should provide more information to your cause. There are display rules, in which there are three trigger rules that you can play around with.

  • Time based – popups will show up after a certain amount of time
  • Behavior based – popups will appear after users have visited a number of pages on your site or after users have scrolled down a certain amount on the page
  • Exit intent – popups only show up when users are done consuming content, indicated by the cursor moving up towards the browser to close it.

2. Size

On some sites, users prefer a popup that is smaller and blurs out the content, while on others, users may prefer a larger popup.

 3. Animation

There are animations that are specific to popups that can help make them more engaging to the users.

4. Opt out

This feature is often times overlooked, but the “No, thanks” button can be very decisive in how many people end up giving. We have seen nonprofits phrase the buttons in a way that makes them feel guilty or obliged to donate because who can say no if the button is phrased, “No, thanks, I’d rather not make a difference today.” Instead, they will take the action that you want them to take.

Popups have really come a long way from the 90’s MS Paint errors. They can really be beneficial to effectively retaining more visitors, so go set some popups up on your site!


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