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Website Pop-Ups in 2019 – Love 'em or Lose 'em?

by Mary Ann Hegvold on January 10, 2019

Pop-ups can, and do, work when done right. But what is that happy medium? Do they hurt your SEO? How can you get positive results versus simply annoying the visitor?  

Here are eight do's and don'ts for website pop ups that will help you grow your leads, without annoying your visitors:

  1. Don't Overwhelm Your Visitors
  2. Don't Guilt Your Visitors
  3. Don't Use Mobile Pop-ups That Take Over Their Screen
  4. Do Keep Your Pop-up Offers Relevant 
  5. Do Keep it Simple
  6. Do Evaluate Your Chat / Bot Experience on Your Website
  7. Do Choose Your Pop-up Placement Carefully
  8. Do Monitor and Evaluate Your Results

3 Don'ts for Website Pop-ups

1. Don't Overwhelm Your Visitors

Have you noticed that it can take about three clicks on a website before you can fully see what you're trying to get to? Upon arriving at a website, especially one you've never visited before, you might experience several pop-ups within the first 15-30 seconds of your visit, including one or more of the following:

  • A "cookies" notice
  • A GDPR notice
  • A chat bot or live chat offer
  • A "signup for our email" notice
  • A "we'd like to use your location" notice from the browser

That's a lot to deal with and starts to impact what your visitor thinks about your company and your products. They may or may not stick around after all that, it depends on how badly they'd like to see the content you have. (See our blog about how web design impacts whether people will stay on your site.)

Consider these questions as you create pop-ups that your visitors will experience on your website:

  • Do the pop-ups all need to appear within the first few moments of arriving on the site? In some cases, yes. But other things could either wait a little longer, or may not need to be set to appear on every page.

  • What is the experience like on a phone? With smaller screen real estate, there is a chance that your visitor really can't see much, even after they close the legal notices. Be sure your legal notices are set so that visitors don't see it on every visit. 

  • Do you really need to know the visitor's location straight away? Sometimes you really do. And sometimes, you're gathering it for use later or for your own data collection. I know, personally, if I don't see a need for you to have my location right away, I'll decline and wait till it's necessary. As part of the trust-development process with your visitors, only ask for what you need, when it's needed.

2. Don't Try to Guilt me into signing up for something

Have you ever seen a website pop-up that makes you feel like a bad person for declining? I've seen some really offensive ones like:

Would you like to subscribe to our email to get updates from the veterinarian?
Yes, I love my pets. --or-- No, I don't really care about my pets.

What? Just because I don't want to sign up for whatever they're offering doesn't make me an animal hater. And who wants their visitors to associate these negative feelings with their products or services? Consider choosing text that doesn't give anyone a guilt trip. Here's that same example, but less abrasive:

Would you like to subscribe to our email to receive helpful updates from the veterinarian?
Yes, I love to learn new things about my cute, cuddly pets. --or-- No thanks, my inbox is already full.

Being kind in your pop-up offer could be the difference between a visitor staying or leaving because of how you've made them feel.

3. Don't use mobile Pop-UPS that take over the screen

Mobile search results are critical for everyone nowadays. And Google is playing its part in presenting websites that provide a better experience on small-screens. That's why you must pay attention to the following if you use pop-ups that appear at the mobile screen size:

  • The pop-up cannot cover the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone pop up that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the "above-the-fold" portion of the page (what you see before you have to scroll) appears as though it was a pop up with the actual content lower on the page, forcing you to get past what looks like an ad.

These are called intrusive interstitials by Google. But for most of us, they're just called really irritating. And your website's mobile SEO rankings can drop if you don't follow the guidelines.

Here are pop-up styles that Google advises against:


Here is a pop-up format that Google likes for the mobile experience.


Remember, you can still use the larger pop-ups on a desktop view. 

5 Ways Ensure Your Website Pop-ups Are Not Overwhelming

1. DO Keep Your Pop-ups relevant

Before you choose to have any type of pop-up appear on your website, you should first consider whether it's relevant to the visitor. There are some legalities that you probably can't avoid. But take a moment to consider the others that you may use. If they've been to your website for 5 seconds, they probably don't know yet if they want your free content offer download. Try presenting a content offer after they've either scrolled down, or after being on a page long enough to read some of the content. You may want to consider changing your offer based on the page the visitor is on. This is especially important if you have a few different personas and you'd like to offer different types of things based on their interests.  

2. Do Keep Your Pop-ups Simple

As marketers, our design sense often drives us towards "making things pretty." While this is often important, it's more about offering a pop-up that doesn't take too much time to think about and offers something that's relevant. Check out this example and guess which one did better. 

useful pop-ups

The first one performed 30% better. It's simple, it offers something you want, and it didn't take more than 2 seconds to read and understand what you were signing up for.

3. Do Evaluate your chat / bot experience

If you use Live Chat or Chat Bots, give the visitor a few moments before the whole things starts expanding and dinging at me. Most people would like to evaluate the content they've come for and then, in maybe 15-25 seconds after having at least a little time to start reading, they might want to ask a question, or be led to other content. This is especially important if you're going to use a pop-up to sign up for email notices or coupons early in the visitor's time on the site. It starts to become too overwhelming if you don't spread it out.

4. Do Choose pop-up placement carefully

Place the pop-up in  the screen that's noticeable, but does not stop the visitor from accessing the content they really want.

    • Top banner
    • Appear in the bottom right corner
    • Center of the screen, but doesn't take over the entire screen

There are services that allow you to create various types of pop-ups. We use HubSpot's Pop Up Forms tool most often because it's easy and built into report with other CTAs and data. It's available in their free version of the product (as of early 2019). It includes a super easy tool that walks you through the steps of creating one.

5. DO Monitor and evaluate your results

It's important to remember that we don't always get things perfect on the first try. If you have a pop-up offer, see how well it's converting to leads. Try a few different ones to see what works best. Maybe try different timings on your chat windows and for the appearance of your offer. If your tool for pop-up management allows for A/B testing, it may be a good idea as long as you have enough traffic to your website to make it a decent sample size. 

If you'd like to learn more about how to make pop-ups, live chat and even chat bots work for you to increase leads, let us know and we can set up a time to talk. You may also want to download this guide for other things to consider on your website. 

25 Website 'Must-Haves'

Originally posted February 2017. Revised January 2019.

Topics: SEO, Website Design

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