Do Pop-Up Forms Really Work?

Do Pop-Up Forms Really Work?

Reader Comments (137)

  1. Hey Beth (your’e the Pinterest lady)

    Sorry if i have coined that term for you, but when I think Pinterest, your name comes to mind, by the way I loved your Pinterest segment in’s Authority section. Stellar !

    Anyway back to the Blog Post, I agree pop ups are not the best at all. I was just on a Niel Patels website and he had a double pop. One when you arrive on his home page and then when you scroll down another one appears. A little annoying.

    I feel if you need a pop up then it comes across as a bit desperate. Copyblogger has never needed them, because they are so awesome with their content you actually look for the sign up page. 🙂

    • Thanks, Geoffrey! I’m so glad the Pinterest webinar was useful! 🙂

      And I completely agree about Copyblogger…long before I was a staff writer here, I was a fan. 🙂 And I couldn’t wait to sign up for the mailing list back then — even without a pop-up on the site!

    • I agree that a pop-up seems desperate. At least that’s the feeling that I get when I see them.

      I’m interested in the story. If the pop-up appears over the story that I am reading, I close the pop-up as quickly as I can and continue reading.

      Clearly (an extension from Evernote) helps by taking a lot of the distractions of a webpage away.

      • Grant

        If the pop-up offers you a sequel of the article which you’re reading (or a full blown PDF report, or whatever), and which regular visitors don’t have access to… will you sign-up for it?

        Think of pop-ups as arsenals… maybe you don’t run a site/blog of your own… marketers have always brainstormed ways of building assets and growing their databases – pop-ups may appear annoying (if you don’t know how to make them friendly…) but are essential in business…

        Think of pop-ups in a new way…

        Reward your readers
        Hold contests
        Give a discount on your product or service…

        You can do all this (and more) with a delayed pop-up. Instant pop-ups tend to be like sales pitches in your face… 🙂

        • Well, the point of this article is that they’re not essential. We run a multi-million dollar business driven by this web site, and we don’t use them.

          Some businesses find them useful, we just wanted to let people know that there are options that work well.

        • They’re not essential. That doesn’t mean they’re ineffective, however.

          Everyone says they hate pop-ups, but the data indicates most people don’t mind them so long as the content underneath is high quality.

          • I am one of those people who really feel annoyed by pop-ups. I wonder about the quality of your list if people give up their email address without even reading the material. I bet most of them give their fake address. On the other hand, If I like the material, I go out of my way to subscribe.

          • I just looked at my confirmation numbers from my popup for last month and it’s slightly lower than my overall rate (I use double opt-in, eliminating fake addresses). But it doesn’t reach into the “most of them” giving a fake address realm. And it’s only one month of data.

            I do think *how* you do the popup really affects your results (and how many people you irritate). Not popping up right away, giving people multiple ways to dismiss the popup, and letting people opt out of ever seeing it again would, I think, help. And I do look at myself as my target market, and I know what irritates me and apply it to my website.

            One more thought: If your goal is to never irritate anyone, you aren’t going to be very successful in business (or in ever meeting that standard…you can’t please all the people all the time!) Those people who don’t like how you do things, aren’t your ideal clients, imho.

          • I think popups are annoying for multiple reasons, but the biggest is that when I am on my tablet I can’t properly tap the tiny x at the top/bottom/just off the page to get back to reading.

            I end up cussing and closing the tab. Any site with even marginal numbers of mobile visitors ought never use popups.

        • The problem with this is I would never see the offer, because when a pop up POPS UP in my face while I am trying to read, I simply X out of it and do not even read it.

          If it did not allow me to X out, then I leave the site.

          I do not mind a pop up as I am leaving, but NEVER in my face when I first get to a site and NEVER EVER EVER while I am trying to read something.

          BTW…as someone who is a heavy purchaser of lots of products when I “know like and trust my source”, pop up in my face and you just lost any possibility
          AND you ^%$’d me off

          Which is kindof stupid

  2. Pop-ups tend to work like a charm, However from a few tests and experiments I’ve done, I found out that the quality of such leads are generally quite poor. People are found to fill such forms under the assumption that the form is required to read the content, without really understanding why or what they are signing up to. You will be surprised that there are millions of users who don’t really understand or know the concepts of blogs and lead generation online.

    You might want to take into consideration how often popups are displayed, as they might upset your current and regular readers.

    • I’ve often wondered if some people sign up for the offer just to get the pop-up cleared (and then unsubscribe right away). And I agree — I think the quality of the subscribers does tend to be a little lower than on other kinds of sign-ups.

  3. I couldn’t agree more – I hate pop-ups! I feel like website owners often look too hard at the numbers and forget that there are actual people behind all those numbers in their website analytics. I’m not willing to increase my numbers at the stake of my reader’s happiness 🙂

    I once added one of those small surveys that appears at the bottom right of the screen (not fully a pop-up). I thought it would help me get good feedback…. turns out on one browser it was screwing up the whole screen and messing up experience for an entire category of reader’s using that browser! The small gain from these added widgets is SO NOT worth the potential pitfalls!

  4. Pop-ups annoy me. But I love them too!

    I get annoyed when a pop-up “pops-up” several times when I’m reading a blog post. But I love a pop-up form because it’s easy to sign up, and I don’t have to search a website to find a signup form. For whatever reason, some website owners hide their signup forms, or they blend into the background of a website’s theme.

    I use a pop-up on my personal development blog (need to update), but I don’t like it. The color scheme is too dark.

    My suggestion is to use a pop-up with a time delay and have a regular signup form on your website.

    • Having a big, prominent, bright opt-in will work nearly as well as the pop-up for the readers who are really engaged, without getting the people who just want to read the content and don’t realize they can close the pop-up to get it (more people than you might think — and folks you don’t want on your list).

      • Yes, but with a pop-up you can take the engagement next level, it’s the second step – you take them from reading the article to enriching their experience on the topic, and BAM, you hit ’em with a full blown special report or audio interview worth $47…

        If you sell that on your site and the offer is real, you can build a nice “freebie seekers” mailing list… that you can use to drive traffic back to the blog, run ad swaps, grow other mailing lists, JVs, and so forth.

          • I don’t buy that advice…

            It’s like saying you can voice call someone, why SMS him or her, that’s not essential…

            Both, squeeze pages and pop-ups work, and both are essentials…

            Trying to prove that they’re not because you’ve build a solid business without them is nothing in my case…

            Trying to prove that pop-ups are not essentials because others cannot stand them, it’s nothing again…


    • Pop ups do NOT work unless you are a major brand I.e. cola or your list building for some SEO product / ebook and intend to spam some poor buger with free reports on how to get more visitors.
      Source? 14 years of seo.

  5. Nice post. I agree. Pop ups tend to be invasive. You’re probably also dealing with a good percentage of people who signed up for your offer because they didn’t know how else to make the annoying box go away.

    After reading this, I found a WP footer ad plugin that I’m testing out on my site. I figure I’ll monitor my conversions for a bit, and see if that helps. Good ideas here.

  6. I strongly agree with the fourth point mentioned here. We must identify the interest of the readers first. If he stays on the site for more than a minute then surely he would be interested in the pop up that will appear there.

    But, my $0.2 is: keep on playing with different formats of pop ups to understand which performs better for your niche.

    Cheers to pop ups.

    • I’m not sure we can guarantee that the person would be interested in the pop-up offer just because they stay on the site for a few minutes. I think you have a SLIGHTLY higher chance that they’d be interested, but they could still be really annoyed, too!

  7. Pop ups work but I find them intrusive so I do not use them. If they do work for you, go for it. Readers need to adjust. I just do not care for them.

    A fine balance exists between serving your readers without bending over backwards and doing what works for your business. Many bloggers grow fortunes using pop ups to grow their lists;sure not hurting them.

    However if you feel unclear using the strategy stop it now. Readers will sense your lack of clarity and you might just repel folks who would otherwise soak up your content.

    Thanks for sharing,


  8. Pop-ups will absolutely drive me away from a website. Even worse than signing up for an email list (if I like your content I’ll RSS it tyvm)? The pop-ups to take a survey! F&*# No. I have -one- blog in my RSS (of ~50) whose pop-up I will tolerate (it truncates the post in RSS, so I click through to read). Even then, I tolerate it b/c I know it triggers after a certain amount of scrolling, and most of the time I gather the info I want before reaching that point. If I hit that point, fine, the post of the day was good, but it’s still irking since I’m already “subscribed” to the blog in a particular manner and I’m being prompted to subscribe again.

    The take-away (for me), though, is that a website’s content better be EXCELLENT in order for me to not “x” the entire tab and not just the pop-up (same goes for any video, legit content or ad) that autoplays.

    • I haven’t tested it (or seen much research) about pop-ups and mobile users. Would be really interested to see how the behavior differs!

  9. I am one of the readers, who find popups extremely annoying. I will immediately close them without reading them. If you can’t close them, I’ll leave the site. I probably missed out on good deals because of this practice but I find it annoying in person also. When I walk in a store, I don’t want someone in my face the second I walk in the door. No matter what they are giving away. Just my two cents.

  10. I’ve used them and lost… my quest for world (well at least Baltimore) domination failed. Managing 30 sites for a variety of hotels, I’ve banished the pop-up, float-over, pop-behind from our sites for good. It’s just not worth it. I’ve had brides (thankfully) pick up the phone can call me because “I block all pop-ups and I can’t fill out your form.” I’m left wondering how many didn’t pick up the phone and just moved on.

    From a user perspective – I’m continually amazed that sites keep these in place. It’s a little like keyword stuffing or paying for links from Central Asia these days… been there… done that… show’s over.

    • I had the same experience with my site a couple of years ago – I had someone write to me to report that on some browsers, the pop-up didn’t render correctly, so there was no way to close the box. I sat there wondering how many people just left my site in frustration when that happened. Total bummer. That was the final straw in my pop-up experiment.

  11. Oy! Pop-ups are the worst. Especially on mobile devices. As you pointed out, if they malfunction at all, you keep people from reading your content. Which is NOT the point.

    Like you, I used to have a pop-up on my site (time-delayed). And while I never received any hate mail, I did decide that the increase in opt-ins wasn’t worth it.

    What I use now is a scroll-triggered pop-OVER. It slides up from the bottom right hand corner of the screen when someone gets to the bottom of the page. Doesn’t impede the content at all. And it does seem to provide me with about 60% of my opt-ins. (It’s a WP plugin called “Scroll Triggered Box” and it’s free from the WP database.)

    • Yes, popups on mobile devices are the worst! They load slower and waiting to see the ad while the site is grayed out is super annoying.

      No one likes them, but all the research says they work. It reminds me of a quote a recently heard: “The plural of anecdote is data.”

      • I love that quote, Andy! Goes along with the other motto I try to follow in life (sometimes more successfully than others) which is “What gets measured, gets managed.”

    • Interesting, Tea! I think those pop-over ones are only slightly less annoying (because I still have to click out of them in order to see all the content on the page, typically) but again — they convert! So it’s a difficult call.

        • I just don’t like anything that pops up on my screen after I’m on a page — I didn’t mean to make a statement about your pop-up, in particular!

  12. I almost instinctively close popups, especially if it’s my first time visiting a site. If I’m really interested in the content of the site, then I will seek out the email sign up box. I think, those are ultimately the kinds of people you want subscribing to your newsletter.

  13. The more pop-ups I see, the less likely I am to notice what they are offering. All I’m looking for is the little X that closes it. Same with overlay ads on YouTube videos. I don’t even read them.

  14. Like the whole “linger longer” Publisher’s Clearing House approach (get people to read more and more, find more little treats and gems until they finally “buy”), pop-ups for me are simply annoying. Oh yes, I know they work, and it boggles my mind. And one could say it’s silly not to use something that works.

    I don’t use pop-ups. I immediately click “close” on them to have them disappear. I’ve stopped following a few folks because their pop-ups drive me crazy…not just one, but two sometimes, punching me in the face.

    I will continue to write, and trust that those who are interested will decide to take action, by offering the CTA/option in a way that puts them in the driver’s seat, and not the receiving end of a punch to the face. Cheers! Kaarina

  15. I keep seeing A/B tests that show how remarkably effective they are. But I agree 100% with you – annoying and frustrating readers is not the key to building a relationship.

    Having easy to find signup forms with key value propositions are fantastic.

    • You have to look at *all* the data. How’s your traffic? Link profile? How are your conversions looking from that bigger email list?

      Data is great stuff, but you have to look at the whole picture, not one sliver.

    • You also want to watch your bounce rate closely if you install a pop-up. If it goes up measurably, you have a significant problem.

      Every combination of site, content, and audience is different, so different things will happen in different situations.

  16. There’s an extra layer of annoyance to certain pop-ups. When I am subscribed to receive emails from a website, and I click on a link in one of their emails to read the rest of the story, I should NOT be subjected to a pop-up box that prompts me to–you guessed it–subscribe to their emails.

    It’s annoying when this happens, but there’s something even worse that happens. This little voice in my head says, “Hmm, I can see by the URL that they are tracking my origin and know that I came from their own email blast. And yet they’re trying to get me to subscribe via this annoying pop-up. If they don’t have this figured out… why am I looking to them for good business and marketing advice?”

    Maybe I’m being unfair. It might be very difficult to write in the logic that hushes the pop-up when someone is visiting from a certain source. I have never used pop-ups, so I don’t really know about the logistics. All I know is the impression that I get when that happens.

  17. I’m with you on this Beth. While it doesn’t normally drive me away from a site, I’m looking for the close button before it has even loaded and never read what the pop up has to say.

    I’ll make my mind up whether to sign up once I’ve completed whatever purpose brought me onto the site in the first place (normally reading the blog post/article), although, the pop up has just given me a bad first impression – and we all know how important first impressions are!

    Annoyingly though they do work, but then so does sending out mass amounts of junk mail I guess otherwise the spammers would stop, so is it really worth a few more opt ins? I say no.

  18. I loathe pop-ups. Like Tea said, it’s maddening when I visit a site on my phone and I can’t dismiss the pop-up because it’s not mobile/responsive friendly. That’s a big problem considering how many people read with their mobile devices.

    I think another problem is that if people immediately dismiss the pop-up, then they’re probably more inclined to ignore the static sign-up boxes as well.

    • Agreed, Bryan! If they dismiss the pop-up and get annoyed with you right out of the gate, how likely are they to sign up using your regular form(s)? I’d love to see data on that, too.

  19. I agree that they are annoying. Like others said, the first thing I look for is the close x. I prefer to look at the content first, then decide whether it is worth signing up for. It is especially annoying when you are already signed up for updates, and you have to still close those stupid pop-ups every time you visit.

  20. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your timing is perfect. I was about to start researching plug ins for pop up opt in forms. In my heart of hearts I thought it was a bad idea. They really are annoying. Most pop up when I just opened the site and haven’t even had time to look around. I have no idea yet if I like what they are offering so why would I want to opt in right that second?

    On the flip side, I have heard again and again that this REALLY works and you get massive sign ups. Alrighty then. Who can argue with that?

    But your thought process is right on. Makes total sense. People that opted in for the initial freebie might not even really be interested in your site and opt out right away. And what about the folks that might have become true blue regulars and buying customers…you probably annoyed them away and lost them.

    Ok, so back to the drawing board for me. My current opt in is hideous and hasn’t brought me a single subscriber! It must go. Thanks again!

    • I’d highly recommend using a large opt-in form across the top of your site (in the banner area) instead of using a pop-up form. Jon Morrow’s site uses one that I hear is really effective. I modeled the large opt-in form on my author site off Jon’s form (using a StudioPress theme as the basis) and that form converts like CRAZY for me. There are other options that don’t make you feel gross when you use them!! 🙂 Good luck, Sylvia!

  21. It’s so frustrating to not be able to find a sign up form when you want it, but I think pop-ups are more annoying. I have unsubscribed to things that have too many pop-ups. I have subscribed to a few blogs that still have huge pop-ups asking me to subscribe every time, which means I will unsubscribe. Some pop-ups won’t go away, which is probably a glitch, but still…I vote no for pop-ups, but I also don’t understand why so many sign-ups are so difficult to find. Surely there is a “Middle Way” as the Buddha says.

    I do enjoy this pop-up free blog!

  22. Yes, to all the “they work” comments, there is no question that they will increase your opt-ins. (Most of the time. In a few cases, they don’t.)

    The question is, as Eddie and some others have mentioned, Are these high-quality leads that are actually engaged with your content?

    The other issue that doesn’t get covered often enough is that an annoying user experience can depress the number of other sites who are linking to you and sharing your content. If the content is stellar, people will get over it … but you’d better be stellar.

    As Beth mentioned here, making your sign-up nearly impossible to miss (like we do here on Copyblogger) will give you a good lift in your opt-ins, and you can have more confidence that these are people who truly want to get more of your content.

  23. I think there is also a huge difference between a popup seen on a desktop and on a mobile device. A reader’s connection to their mobile device is much more personal, which makes the pop-up far more offensive than when seen on a desktop.

  24. I don’t care about the numbers, especially if the bump is so little. Pop-ups are obnoxious. Perhaps they’ll turn away an otherwise valuable customer.

  25. Hi Beth,

    This is a post very much after my own heart – I absolutely loathe pop-up boxes. I find them intrusive and annoying – and time-wasting. One of the things that gets my goat is the way they continue to keep flying in your face even when you’ve signed up to a blogger’s list – it really is enough to make you want to unsubscribe.

    I’m not sure delaying their appearance helps much – I find it even more aggravating when I’m part way through reading an article and it’s suddenly obliterated by a pop-up – I feel like screaming at the blogger, “I thought you wanted me to READ this?!”

    I’ve just started building my list and I’ve made a conscious decision not to use them – I’d rather forego a few subscribers than annoy large numbers of readers.


    • Exactly, Susan. And I agree about the delayed pop-ups…they’re not actually that much of an improvement. That’s why I said, “If you MUST use a pop-up, use a delayed one.” I’d really rather people not use them at all.

  26. I’m definitely on the side of people who do not like pop-ups and immediately close them without taking the desired action. I’m confident I have never once signed up for an email list via a pop-up.

    If the suggestion other posters are making is true, that people sign up because they misunderstand how the pop-up works, then it’s not really working.

    It’s just succeeding as a form of manipulation to get what you want, without providing the reader something they actually want – which is a terrible business strategy. And, of course, it doesn’t really get you what you want after all, because a subscriber who doesn’t care about your emails or offers is no better than a non-subscriber. It’s just lose-lose for all involved.

    • Kristen,

      I don’t get the picture either! 🙂

      In regard with pop-ups… you’ve been probably onto sites which had no clue how to setup friendly pop-ups and make irresistible offers… I consider pop-ups similar to “up-sells”… they help the user get more from an experience/transaction.

      I’m always thinking in terms of both pros and cons; when looking at things, it’s good to avoid one sided views…

      Hope I’ve made you re-think the concept of pop-ups?

  27. I have been reading Copyblogger for a long time, and I can tell you that would not be the case if it caught that popup fever. One of my friends shares content from UpWorthy all the time. I have gotten to the point that I don’t even visit the links anymore (and I was never comfortable sharing them) because their popups are freaking obnoxious!

    It just feels desperate. I like my websites like I like my women: self-confident.

    Desperation is NOT sexy!

  28. I would never subscribe to anything only because something popped up in front of me. But I believe a lot of visitors just need a little (or sometimes not a little) push to subscribe. Or they just pickup everything on their way thinking “perhaps a good think may be use later”.

    Probably, using or not using popups is a question of your targeted visitors. If you have a strong community on your website, popups would be too disrespectful to them. So need to choose – either more subscription in a short run OR more respect to the community and better relationship.

    And by the way, showing popups for those who are already subscribed is even more annoying. But is it a matter of programming good popups.

    • A call to action is always important. Pop-ups are one way to deliver that call to action, for sure. The question is, are they the optimal way to deliver it, in order to maximize list quality as well as your site’s reputation.

  29. In addition to the down sides that the article mentioned I have two more that will drive me away from a site. 1) The pop-up that asks me to sign up every time I come to the site, even though I have already signed up. Two or 3 times of that, and I’m gone. 2) Pop-ups on my iPhone. Usually can’t fill them in because they aren’t formatted for the small screen. Blam! I’m outta there and not likely to return given the information stream (firehose) that I’m tapped into.

  30. Hi Beth,

    Popups won’t make me leave a site, but my instinct is to ignore the offer and immediately click the “x” to close.

    As a designer and someone working to build a relationship with my audience, I need to look no further than your first point:

    “First and foremost — keep your focus where it belongs. If you consistently create good content and actively promote your site, organic opt-ins will follow.”

    YES to organic opt-ins as part of a slow and steady content marketing plan.

    I like to think of the relationship you have with your customers/readers as a blossoming romance that grows stronger over time.

    Yuck, huh? Super sappy analogy, I know, but think about it. An aggressive kiss on the first date (Pop-up), could do one of two things:

    1. Get you a slap in the face (whack!) or

    2. Be the start of a relationship with someone who’s is, um, not so picky and not so right for you. Who knows where that might lead …

    Like all good things, a great relationship happens over time. With time you both start to realize how much you love (or hate) each other.

    Slow and steady wins the race in by book 😉

    This is of course what Copyblogger media is about, right? And why Brian Clark and crew have built something so darn special … 🙂

    • Yes to your last question, Craig – that’s exactly why Brian Clark and this crew have become so successful….we take the long, careful route, and focus on creating useful content and building good relationships with our readers.

  31. Undiscerning pop-ups that interrupt you (especially when you’re already a subscriber to the blog) are the antithesis of quality content and inbound marketing. I wonder what Seth would make of them? If you did pop up on Copyblogger pages, then I’d have to unsubscribe, the way I felt I had to from CMI introduced them on their website. This also led to a long and protracted discussion of short vs long term objectives. Personally, I feel they damage a brand and the credibility of those that manage the brand. Hope I’m not being too harsh

  32. Hit me with a pop-up only if yow want to ensure I close the window and never return. I came to read your content. Unless you are real good, I am probably not interested in your offer.

    If you are real good you likely don’t have the obnoxious pop-up anyway. At least the key people I subscribe to don’t.

    Place your offer in an attractive box on the SIDE and I may opt in. That box can slide as I read and as long as it doesn’t interrupt what I came for, I am fine with it.

    The only thing more obnoxious is exit popups.

  33. Over 85% of my list comes from Pippity opt-ins and it’s extremely rare for people to unsubscribe. So, do they work? Heck yes they do! And I wonder what the heck any marketer or blogger is thinking when I visit their site and don’t see one.

    • It’s great that they’re working for you. I wonder if you’ve tested any other options to see if you can improve bounce rate, social sharing, list quality (specifically, revenue per name), etc.

    • Maybe we’re preferring to listen to our subscribers and audience, who have said they also hate pop-ups and signed up due to the non-invasive end-of-post CTA..?

  34. The Popup form does work in some situations where the visitor has predetermined to fill in the contact form for certain reason.

    I personally would like to have a Popup form inbuilt on my website so the predetermined visitor who wants to fill in the form has it really handy and does not forget to fillin the form.

    Thank you
    Sunil Datar

  35. One of the things I find most annoying (and defeating to the website,) is anything that doesn’t have an x on it, or the x doesn’t work. There are a lot of websites out there that I would have liked to read, but was prevented by a large block of whatever in the middle of the page, and try as I would, it does not go away. So I leave, never to return.

    • Sharon – I had that happen on my site (with the pop-up I tried) and I didn’t even realize it until one annoyed reader wrote to me. So I should probably add another piece of advice to this post – “If you do decide to implement a pop-up form, make sure you regularly test it in different browsers and on mobile devices, to make sure nothing has gone awry.”

  36. I love this article. I just said to someone on G+ that I absolutely detest them. I am a voracious reader and if I’m looking for specific information and find it on your site the popups are distracting and mentally pull me away from what I was reading. More than one popup should be criminally banned. I really despise the ones that are all the way to the far right in the bottom corner because 9 out of 10 times when I try to hover to get the little “x” to close it I get my browser’s scroll bar instead. Anything that floats and stays in my field of vision while I’m trying to read has to go, too. Sorry, but I freaking hate those floating social bars, especially since so many of them are poorly placed and cover the text.

    As a reader/writer/researcher, I see a blog with popups and doubt the integrity of the information. If your writing is good and your information is accurate, I promise I will come back and I will subscribe. Especially if you are linking to relevant, well-written and well-researched material (external or internal). But popup subscription boxes is like saying “Don’t peek at the man behind the curtain!” As I said in my G+ response, I land on a site with popups and my immediate impression is a site with weakly/poorly written material from someone who is more interested in stats and monetizing a site and couldn’t care less about me as a reader.

    • “Anything that floats and stays in my field of vision while I’m trying to read has to go, too.” — I couldn’t agree more. I can’t stand floating social networking links, etc. Anything that moves on the page like that just gives me a headache and makes me want to click away. Ack.

  37. Hi Beth!

    The pop up Should Appear When the user reads the contents, in a way that is “camouflaged in these”. Show a pop-up just loading the website is very aggressive, the users can think you’re only interested in getting something of they.

    Show pop-up after 5 minutes that the user has browsed your website, it’s like when you’re at the supermarket and a hostess offers to try a product, it’s much friendlier way, as saying: That hey if you found what you wanted, maybe you are interested in other thing, like this, look….

    Two more things about the pop up:

    1)A pop-up can work if have a good text.

    2)You should not create pop-up with time limit, Because people feel That you are forced to see your ad, and they will leave your website immediately

  38. Thanks, Beth. A well written and (obviously good controversial) post.

    I strongly dislike the popups. If your content grabs my interest, I will subscribe and see if your stuff is what I am really looking for. If it is, I’m yours. If not, I’ll keep looking…

    Popups simply hurt the reading experience for me. There are sites that I won’t use because I know that a popup is going to block the article I am interested in. New York Times, do you hear me?? What ever advertising that I might have seen there goes unseen because of the frequency of pop up ads.

    I REALLY dislike exit popups. “Wait, don’t leave this site…”. When I decide that I am done, I am done. An exit popup will only irritate me.

    Ahhh. It’s one of my pet peeves, and I thank you for the article. Very nicely stated.

  39. Everybody hates pop ups. The sad truth is that they still work. Just make sure you limit them to once every 24 hour sessions and they are timed to not immediately appear. I also make sure the close method is obvious. This greatly improves the quality of leads.

    I also use the scroll trigger pop up. As long as you have compelling content they are worth using.

  40. In the past we only cared about the people who took action. We were happy to waste the time of 1000 people with an inappropriate email as long as we got one click – only the person who clicked mattered.

    Some new research made me think. If you give people something sweet before they are asked to vote on something you get more positive results – give them something sour and you get negative ones.

    So consider the thoughts of those who who have to dismiss a pop-over. They now read your blog, website or whatever with a less positive attitude.

    Basically you’ve wasted a lot of the power of your content. You have just reduced the effect on 999 of your 1000 readers.

  41. I’m glad Copyblogger doesn’t do popups. They’re a scourge to society, no matter how well they perform.

    And if you *do* do popups, use Infusion Soft intelligence to only show it to people who have not already signed up to your stuff. We’re not seeing enough of this yet?

  42. I have no idea whether or not they are effective but I personally detest them. I dislike anything that interferes with my browsing experience.

    Again, this is my own personal feeling, but if you want me to join some mailing list or offer me some kind of deal then put that info in the sidebar or some other prominent place – I’ll find it.

    My browsers are set up to automatically block popups but if a site is using some technology that circumvents that I never revisit that site.

  43. Whenever someone says “A popup increased my conversion by 2000%” I wonder how terrible their conversion optimization was to begin with.

    You can win with popups, and you can win without them. You have a choice. So, why not choose to be cool?

  44. first, Iw ant to say I HATE popups. I close them as fast as I can and do so without reading anything if I can. The popup could be offering me a free million dollars but I wouldn’t do it because I hate them and tend not to trust the value of any offer because of that.

    On the other hand, I struggle when I go to the bathroom and see that little sea shell, dot, or whatever on the urinal that is supposed to be a target. It makes me angry because I know it is a mind game intended to keep my wee in the bowl. I was going to do that anyways, but seeing it makes me want to pee on the wall just to prove they can’t control me.

    I’m a pretty fringe type of person. So don’t take my hate and general distrust of ALL pop up ads as the gospel truth.

    That said, as I was reading this I thought, you know what would be kind of cool. A script that could be triggered when a specific ID hit the top of the screen. This script could slide a box up from the bottom of the window which would give your CTA a nice big space, maybe 200-300px tall and eye catching. The box could be closed and even if you left it open, the rest of the content would be visible above that box.

    For example, on this page, when I scroll “Related Posts” off the page the “Leave Lame Behind” section is fully visible. Wouldn’t it be neat if that sort of slid up and then you could close it or live with it as you read the comments. Maybe it could go away after you reach the comment form automatically, just to make sure that it didn’t interfere with that.

    I have no idea how something like that would convert, I just think it would make me a lot less angry than a full page pop up that makes me want to scream. I might even read what it said before closing it.

    • To kind of touch on what Nick said, I see some sites use a “related posts” plugin that causes a small window or box to slide in from the bottom right corner of the screen as you reach a certain point when scrolling. I don’t mind that so much. It doesn’t block the content I’m trying to read, it doesn’t require any action on my part if I choose to ignore it. I can live with that. If such a method were to be utilized to display other content or info it would be an acceptable compromise – for me anyway. 🙂

      • I can live with that, too – I don’t mind being prompted to read more relevant content. As long as it’s not a pop-up box that I have to click out of/away from.

    • “… seeing it makes me want to pee on the wall just to prove they can’t control me.”

      Funniest thing I’ve read all day!

      I agree, though. I don’t mind the “related posts” at the bottom. I also really don’t mind sub boxes at the end of articles. Nice reminder, easy to find, but not aggressive. Kind of the “Like this? Want more? Here’s how to get it regularly” sort of things. Felt very natural at the end and I wasn’t forced to interact with it. Haven’t done it on my own blog because I’m just lazy.

  45. I personally find pop-ups rude. I came to a site to read an article, not have this window in my face appear suddenly and prevent me from reading the article I came there to read.

    If I encounter a pop-up, it sort of offends me and I almost never sign up for whatever is being offered. For this reason, I do not use them on my own sites regardless of how well they convert.

    I want people to like my content enough (after getting a fair chance to read it, something a pop-up — even a time delay one — doesn’t do) and then decide to sign up for my newsletter, like my Facebook page, etc. after deciding that would be worthwhile to them. An in-your-face pop-up is going to do nothing but annoy my readers for the most part. I know this.

  46. Thanks for speaking out on this, Beth. Pop-up forms are so common I was beginning to wonder if it has just become part of web design. I usually leave sites immediately when affronted by one.

    Yes, pop-ups work, the same as do cold calls and door-to-door sales.

  47. The worst use of popup I’ve seen was the site that instantly gave me a popup that wouldn’t go away unless I signed up… and wouldn’t let me see ANYTHING about the site – in fact they’d blocked any About Us info from showing UNTIL you’d signed up.

    Why would I sign up if I don’t know anything about you???

    Needless to say I didn’t sign up, and tweeted about the bad experience 😉

    Some people seem to never learn 🙁

  48. Sure, pop-ups are annoying. But I just can’t get over how desperate it looks to put a “sign up for my newsletter” box everywhere! I know it’s effective, but I’m really struggling with the idea of looking as desperate as I’m supposed to in order to get sign ups!

  49. I can’t stand pop-ups. I thought I was the only one who felt this way! Everyone seems to be raving about them. So glad there are others out there who feel the same way. And I agree, if you’ve got to use one, give me a few minutes to look around. It actually leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when I see a pop-up within seconds on a site. I end up seeing the site through “you pop-up-ed me” eyes and I’m not ready not to look past it yet.

  50. I agree so much. I tried a couple of different pops and they were so annoying to me and mucked around with my site.

    The one thing I hate when I visit a new site to read something is a huge pop up in my face almost straight away. I dont even read it but click it off.

    If I really want to subscribe to a newsletter I hunt it down or add the rss feed to feedly. And this is where I found your article.

    Thanks for the honesty and let’s hope web designers get a bit smarter with their content and earn the right to get sign ups.

  51. As a web developer…. THANK YOU – THANK YOU – THANK YOU! OMG I take the “beautification” of the web seriously and nothing is worse then pop up ads. Unless your giving away real Corvettes to new subscribers please do not add pop up ads to your site. They are ugly, annoying, and as noted by copyblogger only marginally effective.

  52. First, I want to thank you for this site. Very informative!

    I am glad I am not the only person annoyed with the pop-ups. I think if you provide good content updated on a regular basis, that is more beneficial in the long run. Most of the time when I see a pop-up, I close out immediately.

  53. Pop-ups generally won’t drive me away from a site but I don’t even read the offer, just look for the X to get it off my screen.

    I know that whatever the pop-up is offering I will find on the site anyway and I prefer to reserve judgement till I’ve seen some of the site content rather than feeling hassled into handing over my email address.

  54. I have no doubt pop-ups work.

    I also have no doubt unsolicitored telesale calls work, and high street ‘market research’, and door step sales, and junk mail, and probably pop-unders too.

    I don’t use pop-ups but I appreciate there are some sites where they’re probably beneficial, and I think if the user gives due consideration to where and how they’re used and avoids being unnecessarily intrusive, then I don’t have a problem with them.

    Unfortunately, the vast majority of sites that use pop-ups, shouldn’t. I reckon they do because they read somewhere that they’ll increase subscribers or sales or whatever. And so, for the same reason they install that pointless plugin because so-and-so uses it, in goes the pop-up.

    It would be interesting to see some pop-up A-B testing.

    Did they increase subscribe/unsubscribe/sales compared to previously?
    Did they effect bounce rates compared to previously?

    I’d do it myself – if it wasn’t for the fact I’d rather have root canal treatment!

  55. There are two things that will *always* make me leave a website. Always. Popups or autoplaying audio or video. Always.

    You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, or to get me to read your site.

    • Oh no, here we go – you’ve opened the floodgates. 🙂

      If there is anything I hate more than popups it is auto playing audio/video. When browsing, I’m normally listening to music via my favourite media player and the auto playing stuff annoys me to no end. Not to mention the fact that sometimes the volume is cranked up on that stuff and scares the crap out of me when I hit the site.

  56. What I’ve discovered is that I’m not the best person to judge what is effective in marketing. I don’t like video. I don’t like popups. I don’t like case studies. I don’t like zen type, mostly white themes. I hate long form sales letters.

    But all of these things work well when done right in the right context.

    So I’ve learned not to judge something based on how I feel about it. Research from trusted sources and then testing on your own sites is the appropriate way to approach it.

    I guess you have to figure out if you are your target audience.

  57. Interesting post and fascinating comments that followed on Pop Up optin forms, which left me with a few takeaways;

    – John Gibbs comments where he suggests a specific kind of use seems to fold neatly into Brian Clark’s philosophy of how all small business need to view themselves as media companies in the tradition of how soap opera television shows were sponsored by household product manufacturers.

    – when M. Henry comments here that pop up optin forms absolutely drive him away from any website that uses them (with the exception of one site whose content is just too useful to pass up in spite of the pop up nuisance) is indicative of how visitors to websites deem the publishers value proposition … and why website publishers are “pausing for a word from their sponsors” whenever a pop up interrupts their reading experience.

    Perhaps there should be more discussion here about “best practices” in future posts as John Gibbs intimated in his comments, rather than a wholesale denial of its value to web publishers just because its an annoyance.

    Or how many of us are going to stop watching Breaking Bad, Mad Men or The Walking Dead just because commercials “interrupt” the episode we’re watching?

    • We’re not actually denying their value wholesale, we’re just encouraging site owners to look at the larger picture.

      I don’t think they’re a bad fit for every site. But many sites can do nearly as well in improving opt-ins by adding a very clear, prominent call to action, without the negatives.

  58. I wonder if the dislike for popups would lessen if there was a way for the user to disable the popup? (So, they’d only see it once.)

    I added a popup to my website, but had it custom-programmed because a) I wanted control over the delay before popup;
    b) I wanted the popup to only no more than once a day for a particular visitor;
    c) I wanted a “never see this again” button; and
    d) I wanted to be able to suppress the popup on certain pages.

    I have all of those features. And I’ve never gotten a complaint about my popup (aka lightbox). My programmer also suggested a feature where you can click anywhere outside the box and it closes (same as clicking the x or the close link – giving people 3 easy ways to get rid of the box!)

    I am intrigued though by the “Scroll Triggered Box” plugin. I’m going to see if my designer can tweak mine to trigger on scroll position (bottom of article) instead of a time delay, and emerge from the bottom instead of the top. And perhaps get rid of the lightbox feature…

  59. Clearly I’m not alone in my distaste for pop ups. Based on advice from an “expert” I even paid for a premium plugin that allows me to customize and delay the timing of the pop up – I stopped using it. The other day I compelled to visit a blog for the first time because the title of an article interested me – within less than 2 min I was treated to 2 pop ups and one of those “call me and let’s talk” images that slide in. I didn’t finish the article and will never go to that site again.

  60. It’s been a long time since I posted my last comment here on Copyblogger. But this topic is very irresistible to me, so here I am again.

    Anyway, I cannot find the logic of inviting someone to subscribe (or get a free ebook) from a site without allowing them first to read the entire post.

    I am also very much annoyed when the x of the pop-up is very small as if it’s telling me not to close it.

    Even more, I really hate pop up that follows me where ever I go. When I see one, I leave immediately and remember the site so that I can avoid it even if the headline is compelling.

  61. Love this post – and I agree with everything (yes, everything) you wrote. I also hate popups … for all the reasons you mention above. That being said, they can – and DO – work for many people (as you also mention).

    I believe strongly that you should test them for your audience before you write ’em off entirely. I’ve blogged about popups/popovers plenty … and even dedicated a section to them in our book … but the bottom line is TEST.

    I practiced what I preached a few months ago and found that popovers did not work for my audience. They did not move the “subscribe” needle at all. I didn’t hear any negative feedback, yet I’m sure they drove some people nuts.

    Another key takeaway here is that YOU are not always your own audience. Just because YOU hate popups does not mean your community will.

    Very well written – balanced post. I’ll be sharing this with my Waldow Social Weekly (email newsletter) community on Friday!

    *P.S.: I did not read the 106 comments before posting mine. Ha! 106!!!

    • Agree all around.

      The only caveat I’d add is … for some sites, you know your audience hates them with a white-hot passion. (This is one.) We’ve certainly thought of them from time to time, but in the end, we don’t think they’re the right fit for our particular group of very passionate readers.

      • 100% agree Sonia. As always, gotta know your audience. Thanks for addressing the “much-dreaded” popup. Wonderfully balanced post.

  62. Pop ups to me are like a journalist asking someone who has just stepped off a plane into Australia for the first time “So what do you think about Australia”. (You can tell where I am from). You either get an embarrassed round about an answer that is a blatant lie or a puzzled, “I don’t know yet” – neither of which are particularly useful and leaves the journalist looking like an idiot.

    As we move to relationship based marketing, saying, “Do you like me yet” after the first few seconds of meeting someone is not a great start to a relationship. Yes, you will get conversions, but there will always be a question over the motives and a lingering distrust. My guess is pop-ups are a yesterday fad and will quietly fade away in the coming years (says she with great hope).

    • I’d like to see them get replaced with another prominent kind of opt-in that really works, but doesn’t get in the way of the user experience. I know Jon Morrow is working on some sort of opt-in form that isn’t a pop-up, but still converts well. I think he’s even calling it “Unpop.” I’m excited to see what he creates!

  63. I’m often browsing from my phone and pop-ups are the worst on mobile! Ugh, sometimes I just exit rather than trying to find the tiny X to close. Plus, sometimes I’m already subscribed! With so many mobile users, we have to consider that aspect.

  64. To be honest, I really find pop ups annoying. It never really worked for me and I’m saying this as an internet user (not a blog site owner). It’s just annoying that I really want to read the post already and suddenly, a pop up appears. Because of this, I’ve told myself not to use pop ups on my blog site…ever!

    Nevertheless, if it does increase conversion rates, maybe other bloggers can give it a try. They can test it out for a week or so and see if their opt in email subscriptions sky rocket. Also, it would be a good testing period to see some negative comments about the pop ups.

  65. A theme like the one you mentioned are quite pricey for now…

    But I’d otherwise try to make my newsletter signup box PROMINENT for a change; and try a delayed pop-up box…

    We’ll see how it goes and update you again.

    Thanks for your tips!

  66. If I get a pop-up, I immediately close the site. I don’t care who you are and what you are talking about. I don’t care if it’s the Dalai Lama talking about how he discovered the fountain of youth, if I get a popup, it’s adios.

    Your content is not that important or that special that you need to shove it in people’s faces. If your content is good, people will come.

    Some people try and be clever and have popups come up when you scroll to the bottom of the page. I leave those sites too, and never return.

    If your content is good, I’ll find your newsletter. I’ll seek out how to keep in touch with you on my own.

    If you are having trouble with getting interaction and people involved with your site, a popup is not the solution. They are not effective. Sure, some data shows that they are, but I’ve never met anyone who said, “Hey, I love it when I get popups!”

    Have you?

    • You do have to watch what people do, not what they say. Many site owners do, in fact, see that many more people opt-in when they install a pop-up.

      What this article is exploring is an alternative that works nearly as well to increase the number of opt-ins, but better safeguarding the site’s reputation, the user experience, and the quality of the leads generated.

    • Hi Raymond. You (and most of the “I hate popups” crowd here) are much more savvy than most web users. Marketers can’t afford to hope that people will look for their signup forms.

      People are creating valuable content for you to read, listen to or watch. That takes time. That takes effort. That costs money.

      They build a website for the content and host it. That takes time. That takes effort. That costs money.

      I don’t think that anyone has the right to tell them how to design their site to make it easier to view what they’re offering for free.

      Television, radio, newspapers, magazines… all have ads and some are intrusive and some are subtle. Why expect anything different on the net?

      When I first started out online I had a golf blog. I had an AdSense block in the sidebar and a banner ad between articles on the Posts page.

      When I asked for critiques of the site design on a forum one response was along the lines “I saw you had ads so I stopped reading. Looked okay up til then.”

      Guess what… I don’t care. I didn’t build it for him anyway!

      Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you see a site that has popups, just X out of the popup. Judge the site by the content. Remember, the writer has to get a return on his time, and “if you build it they will come” is no truer today than it was 100 years ago.

      • Bill,

        You are right, marketers cannot afford to hope that users will find the newsletter signup. That’s why it’s up to the content producer to write better content to get more users.

        There is a reason why this particular post has 3-5x the number of comments than all the other posts on the Copyblogger frontpage: It’s because people are angry about pop ups on the web. 98% of the comments here are from people that dislike them.

        As for the value of content, that is subjective. As I mentioned in my first comment, a website’s value immediately loses said value the second I see a popup. By the way, I have been blogging for 3 years so I know the time and effort it takes to distribute content.

        As for costing money, you can easily get a blog for free now a days. Go sign up on tumblr. Pay $10 a year for a domain. Boom. Done. People have done this successfully and created blogs with 10,000’s of followers.

        People can design their site how they want. I have the right to decide if I will view it. Free country.

        As for advertising… you are changing the subject. Popups =/= advertising. I’m IN advertising. I’m a copywriter.

        If you plan and write your content correctly, you’ll get an audience without ever having to use a popup.

        • Not that you were necessarily implying this, but just because 98% of the responses here are negative toward popups, doesn’t mean that represents the population. As someone noted in another comment, those who read this blog are very likely to be a more experienced, savvy marketer, who is rightly annoyed with popups – especially given the amount of time they spend looking at other people’s websites. The average internet surfer doesn’t always have that level of experience and may or may not be annoyed with popups.

          Also – many of the comments here seem to indicate annoyance particularly with popups that show up right away or are minimally time-delayed (and I hate those too!) (Side note: I’m having mine reprogrammed as we speak so they don’t show up until you reach the bottom of the article, which is a much better trigger imho.)

          I also spend a lot of time reading articles online. A lot of the content is really worthwhile. But I rarely go looking for the signup, because I don’t need any more newsletters in my inbox. OTOH, if a popup was to offer me something free (but valuable) in exchange for my email address, I would be tempted. I never would have looked for/seen that freebie (unless it was REALLY prominent in which case it would probably be annoyingly prominent and distracting from the content!)

          Just my $0.02.

  67. I really dislike pop-ups when one pops up as soon as the page finishes loading, or when I’m trying to read an article, even when a time delay is enabled. Whenever that happens, I always close the pop-up without signing up. And it’s doubly annoying when it happens while I’m visiting a blog using my smartphone because it’s more difficult to close it quickly. I know I’m extremely unlikely to use pop-ups myself.

    It might be worth waiting until the reader has scrolled past the end of the article before allowing the pop-up to appear, but what is the point, when you could easily place your sign-up form or offer at the end underneath the author bio? It’s not worth annoying your readership in my opinion, unless you have the figures suggesting otherwise.

  68. Thanks for your contribution: I enjoyed reading your post.

    However, I think pop-ups are annoying. Just as you are reading a great article, they ask you to sign up and so on.

    I think it is a better idea for websites and blogs to have separate sections for this: whether it is signing up for a newsletter or filling out a form, pop-ups are not the way to go.


  69. I think my audience would hate hate HATE popups. They’re a fairly sophisticated bunch, and I can’t imagine I’d keep many of them if i started bugging them with such things. They won’t tolerate a hard sell either.

    Personally I don’t like all that pushy snake-oil style selling. It isn’t me at all, it isn’t my audience at all.

    I really get annoyed by the floating social media tab strips. Ever tried reading a blog post on a smartphone through this strip of icons you can’t get rid of? Meh! I will leave the page and never return no matter how good your info is!

    • Thanks for bringing up the floating social media strips – reminded me to check my site on mobile to make sure they aren’t getting in the way!

      I also checked to see what my existing pop-up box does…and it doesn’t seem to pop up on mobile. I don’t know if that is just a happy coincidence, side-benefit to having bMobilized, or because I have pop-ups blocked on my Droid browser. Interesting though – although my desktop broswer setting to block popups doesn’t seem to block them, my Droid browser does. Another happy coincidence? Does anyone know more about that??

  70. At last a post that agrees with my way of thinking!

    I cannot stand pop-ups and more often than not I’ll simply click away when confronted with one without bothering to look at the content that I visited the site to read.

    I personally think they smack of desperation, they are incredibly intrusive and make most sites appear spammy. I honestly can’t think of a single time I’ve ever signed up for someones newsletter/article/whatever from a pop-up.

    IMHO if you want people to sign up for whatever it is you’re offering, providing great quality content is the best way.

  71. I personally hate pop ups, that’s why we are working on an alternative.

    “Several online studies showed that 80% percent of online surfers have negative opinion of pop-up that show without warning. go to for more.”

  72. I hate pop-ups and simply just x out of them. Waste of time, and lowers my opinion of the site, wasting my time.

    I also hate people that post something interesting (I was looking for more statistical analysis rather than opinion) so excited by the post above – and wasted my time going to glow…. – just a countdown timer with 12 days to go and no information.

    Is that what comment spam is coming to!

  73. I so agree with you, Beth. I don’t believe in forcing people to buy stuff or subscribe to anything, even if it is free. Our readers are sentient human beings and we should respect them as such. Deliver amazing content and the right people will join that list. It’s really as easy as that.

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