Popups have a bad reputation when it comes to on-site user experience. But it is also a fact that without those slight nudges, internet users aren’t really willing to provide their contact details. This is where popups come in play – when used properly.

Good popups don’t annoy internet users. If they are well designed, thoughtfully implemented, provide relevant content and are always contextual in nature, popups can actually increase the conversion rate of websites.

popup stats

But here’s the sad truth of popups currently being used on many websites:

  • They are highly intrusive in nature
  • They don’t really add any value to the visitor
  • They are non-contextual and don’t cater to visitor interests
  • They are implemented at almost every step on a website

All the above end up in a bad on-site experience for the visitor. Be it browsing through the rest of the content you have provided or searching for something specific, these kind of popups only act as distractions. This results in the visitor either losing the context of his visit or getting discouraged and leaving the website.

Here’s taking a look at the most common popup mistakes that businesses are still making:

Mistake 1: Not timing it right

In a recent thread on Inbound.org, our answer to popups reducing conversion rates was a big ‘NO’. We emphasised on how the timing and context is what actually mattered. They were the elements that determined whether or not the popup strategy is going to yield higher conversion rates. Needless to say, there were many who agreed with us on the same.

answer on inbound

Timing is one of the most crucial elements of a good popup strategy. If you time it too soon, they will be intrusive in nature and will annoy the visitor. But if you time it too late, you might actually lose the chance to convert those visitors.

But here’s the thing – there is no set perfect timing for popups. You need to understand your audience, what they are looking for, analyse the time they take to consume a convincing amount of information on your website and then target them with a popup. This might vary from business to business, and person to person.

According to a post on Unbounce, if your visitor has spend 60 seconds of his time on your website, he is already engaged with your content and is interested in interacting with your business. In simpler words, a 60 seconds delay is considered to be a converting time strategy for a business. But the post suggests testing and doesn’t claim a perfect time for popups.

Our suggestion: Test out different timings for your popup strategy or make them action oriented.

For example, when a visitor has decided to leave your website, you could target him with a custom, personalized message that asks him to maybe subscribe to your newsletter.

subscription campaign

Or for example, you own an eCommerce store. You could target the visitor with a personalized campaign that shows up after he has spent X number of minutes on your website or has scrolled through X number of rows of products on a page, promoting an ongoing sale.

folklore-exitbee3 - ecommerce case study

Since the popups are action or behavioural in nature, they are the most unobtrusive way to approach the visitors and have a higher chance of getting converted on.

Mistake 2: Asking for too much information

Let’s get one thing out of the way right away – people don’t like sharing too much of their information online. The lesser the information your popup asks for, the higher are the chances for the visitor to opt in.

But then this practice is also open to testing. The reason being, every business might require different information from their audience for a campaign. Hence, this should totally be decided based on what your business offers and what the visitor is going to gain out of sharing that information.

Asking for more information – gender, location, first name, email address, age, phone number, etc, helps marketers create even more personalized marketing strategies (which is the need of the hour). And asking just for the email address is a sure shot way of getting the visitor to opt in.

So which is better? Both and it entirely depends on your objectives.

If you’re making use of a single step campaign, it is advisable to have a maximum of 2 fields for information – Name and Email address. Some businesses just ask for the visitor’s email address to make it simpler. Since opting in seems like it would barely take any time, the visitor is more likely to convert here.

For example, the House of Folklore only required their visitors to signup for their weekly newsletters. So they used a single step campaign that only asked for the visitor’s email address.

folklore edit

If your campaign requires you to ask for more information, we suggest opting for a multi-step campaign. The first popup could simply ask a yes/no question that would eventually lead to another popup that asks for the information from the visitor if accepted. Since opting in here is broken into 2 steps, the visitor feels it could be completed quickly. Also, because he has responded positively to the first popup, his interest in converting on the second are more.

For example, we make use of our bounce prevention technology on our main website. The popup targets our visitors when they are on their way out. It asks them a simple yes/no question. If they agree, they are taken to another popup that contains the form.

purple exit bee campaign step 1 purple exit bee campaign step 2

Mistake 3: Being completely irrelevant

Another common mistake that most businesses make while framing their popup strategy, is to provide completely irrelevant and out-of-context content to the visitor. Or sometimes targeting all the visitors with the same message.

Imagine yourself as a B2B business selling a software. Now considering that you are running an inbound strategy, your blog gets a decent amount of traffic. So when you target a visitor who is leaving from one of your blog posts with a lead generation campaign popup that offers them a FREE ebook, he is more likely to convert.

But if you were to offer the same ebook to someone who is already ready to make the purchase and is almost going to make the transaction, but decides to leave for some reason – you’re going to look stupid. This person probably needs an offer or an extra off on your plan to be convinced to convert and not an ebook.

For example, imagine yourself reading this blog post and then deciding to leave the web page. If I offered you a personalized demo of the technology, you’re more likely to convert because it is more contextual.

demo campaign

Mistake 4: Offering something unappealing

Continuing on the point above, popups are supposed to be used to give the final nudge to visitor towards conversion. Be it an incentive that you offer or a promise that you make, if it doesn’t add value to the visitor – no matter how beautiful or optimized your popup is – he is not going to convert.

Most business websites use popups to show irrelevant offers or messages to their visitors. This doesn’t just ruin the website’s user experience, but also irritates the visitor enough for him to leave.

Consider yourself browsing through the women’s clothing section. You’re interested in buying a few dresses and accessories to go with it. Now when you are leaving the website and it targets you with a popup that says ‘50% of men’s clothing’, you’re just going to get more disappointed. In worst cases, you might even end up thinking ‘why the hell are there no offers for women’. Popup strategy – backfired.

Now again imagine yourself being targeted with a popup that says ‘don’t go’ and asks you to subscribe to the newsletter. You’re going to think what you would gain from it and then decide on leaving it because you see no value.

Here are a few things that you can offer on your popup:

  • Discount coupons – the best thing that could happen to a visitor is to get a better deal on an already good deal on the product that interests him. Anyone would subscribe to reveal a discount coupon.
  • Free giveaways – who doesn’t like free things? Be it an ebook, a whitepaper or an industry report, as long as it matches your business goals and visitor’s interest, your campaign is going to convert.
  • Promise for exclusive deals – if you want the visitor to opt in to your email list, the best thing you could do is promise him exclusive deals or content. People like being a part of special groups or communities that get access to special things.
  • Promote a contest – if you’re hosting a contest that has an interesting prize giveaway, it could be your chance to convert more people. Promote the contest on your popup, time it right and you’ll generate a lot more leads.
  • Conduct a survey – if there is a topic that your audience is engaging in actively, leverage from it by conducting a survey around it. More participants, more leads.

For example, the House of Blouse offers an addition discount to those who are leaving their website without completing the purchase. The campaign requires the visitor to share his email address to reveal the coupon.

house of blouse ecommerce case study 2 house of blouse cart abandonment 2

Alternatively, you could also use the popup to ask your visitors if they found your website content useful or simply ask them to drop their ratings on a scale of 1-10. Yes, net promoter score!

For example, here’s a campaign for the net promoter score on a website that offers a lot of content. They just simply want to know if the content they are churning out, is liked by their audience or note. Since the campaign trigger is the visitor’s exit, he has enough time to form an opinion on the content.

rate the content

Mistake 5: Poorly designed popup

Here’s the most cringe worthy mistake that most business websites are still making – designing outrageously ugly looking or unintuitive popups.

A popup must not only be in sync with the overall website design and theme, but should also be intuitive enough for the visitor to act on. Here are a few practices that must be followed while designing the popup:

  • Don’t clutter it with too many elements
  • Add only the copy that holds the most value
  • Create clear call-to-actions
  • Give the user an option to not just decline the offer, but also close the popup
  • Ensure the popup doesn’t look too jarring when compared to your website design
  • Optimize the popup for speed and a seamless experience
  • Experiment with the popup design (move over squares and rectangles)

For example, here’s a popup we designed that can be used for social sharing or promoting your social accounts to an exiting visitor:

social media follow

Over to you

Remember, if the popup you designed and incorporated on your website bothers you on usage, it is more likely to put off your visitors too.

A good popup is the one that is timed perfectly, designed to suit your brand image and audience preferences, adds value to the visitor and of course, provides a seamless user experience.

By avoiding the mistakes stated above, we’re pretty sure your next popup strategy is going to be highly converting!

What other mistakes have you seen businesses make with popups? Any other tips you’d like to add to this post? Feel free to drop a comment in the box below. We love discussions!

email list cta


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Vanhishikha Bhargava

Content Marketer at Exit Bee. Most of the times found trying to create compelling copies for blogs and digital campaigns, keeping a watch on what's happening on social media or ranting on Twitter. At all other times, not found.

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