Website Popups: 10 Rules You Should Follow for Better Engagement

If you want to annoy people who visit your site, just add website popups to completely destroy the user experience — right? Maybe not. When not properly utilized, yes, popups can hurt your traffic and conversions. But there are indeed ways to use these to nurture your leads and even boost conversions. Keep reading for 10 website popups tips you should be using.

10 Tips for Better Website Popups

1. Keep Your Website Popups Branded to Match Your Aesthetics

One of the biggest reasons popups are so disturbing is that they look like that were randomly added out of nowhere. When they don’t fit in with the branding of the website, they look cheap, salesy, and aggressive.

Yes, website popups are supposed to stand out. The word itself — “popup” — implies as much.

But take note: This does not mean it shouldn’t match your branding and overall voice. Use similar colors and fonts to what you use elsewhere on your site. Think of how you maintain brand consistency across all your platforms, from your website to your social media pages to your email marketing. You do this because you want to keep a flow, a consistency, a cohesive brand message.

A pesky popup shouldn’t interrupt that. Keep it on-brand. Maybelline did this with their newsletter popup.

maybelline website popups

2. Solve a Problem

Getting people to take action with your popup is like getting them to take action anywhere else. You have to be offering something that they want or need. One of the best ways to do this is to solve a problem they’re experiencing.

For instance, let’s say you’re a plumber, and you get a lot of phone calls about running toilets. It’s a common problem and one that people can often fix themselves — but they don’t know how to do it. This might make a great popup. It helps people immediately solve a problem that they’ve probably run into in the past and would like to know how to handle in the future.

Here’s another example. If you’re a nutritionist, you might offer a popup with your top 10 quick and healthy snacks. People are busy and overwhelmed with life’s responsibilities, and health often gets put on the back burner. Offer them a quick and simple solution, and figure out the best snacks for them so that they don’t have to.

One final note on this point: It’s best if your popup not only solves a common problem but also makes for a quick win. Don’t offer a solution that will take weeks or months to accomplish. People want instant gratification. Notice with the two prior examples, they offer immediate solutions that people can use in real-time.

As an example of what not to do, think of that same nutritionist offering recipes to help people drop weight in the next six months. There’s nothing exciting about something happening six months from now, even if the information you provide is super valuable, so this might not make for the best popup.

3. Have a Clear and Obvious Call-to-Action

Sometimes, a little mystery can be a good thing. This is not one of those times. Don’t leave website visitors guessing when it comes to the functionality and appearance of your popups. Playing hard to get is an easy way to drive people away from your site. Put it all out there.

The simplest way to do this? Have a crystal clear call-to-action (CTA), such as:

  • “Fill out the information below to receive our free guide.”
  • “Enter your name and email address for a chance to win.”
  • “Just provide your email address to start your free trial.”

In these examples, you’re clearly telling people (A) the information they’re required to provide and (B) what they’ll receive when they do so. Bear in mind that people are understandably hesitant to provide any of their personal information. They already get enough emails, most of which they probably never open.

Here’s a good example from Reebok, who leaves nothing to the imagination.

reebok website popups

Don’t take this lightly. You’re asking them for important information, so you need to do it properly so that you don’t scare them away. Once that happens, it’s hard to get them back. Now, if they do opt into your popup…

4. Acknowledge That They Were Successful in Submitting Their Information

Sometimes, you have the option to make a popup simply disappear after someone submits their information. Sure, it might make for a simpler user experience, but it’s also a little too mysterious. And as you know by now, when it comes to website popups, we’re not going for mysterious.

It can be concerning to provide your email address to a website and then the popup just vanishes. A little confirmation goes a long way. Set your popup so that after someone has provided their information, they receive some sort of “thank you” message confirming that you’ve received it and they’re all set. It’s a small detail that makes a big difference, and it’s a good opportunity to build trust.

What if your visitor has no interest in providing their information? We know it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s going to happen. So, in that case…

5. Make it Easy for People to Get Rid of It

Yes, you read that right. Visitors should be able to quickly and easily get out of your popup if they so choose.

Persistence is great, but there are a time and a place, and this isn’t it. Making it difficult for someone to remove your popup will only hurt the user experience. “But what if they accidentally x’d out of it and didn’t mean to?” you’re asking. “Or what if they change their mind?”

Good questions! These things do sometimes happen. In that case, it’s good to offer the opportunity to opt in elsewhere on your site, should your visitor want to provide their information. For instance, if you have a popup asking people to enter your contest, you can have a CTA somewhere else on your website prompting them to enter.

This way, they still have the option, but you’re not aggressively pushing a popup on them.

6. Ask for as Little Information as Possible

People have neither the time nor the patience (nor the trust) to fill out lengthy and demanding website popups. For this reason, your popup should have only the fields required, and no more. If you don’t need people’s last names and phone numbers, don’t ask for them! Yes, it can be nice to have as much information as possible, but that’s not how they see it. In fact, it’s the exact opposite for them. They want to provide as little information as possible and still receive whatever you’re offering.

More often than not, a first name and email address will do. Of course, this might change depending on the popup. The point is this: Make your visitors do as little work as possible. Otherwise, your popup won’t convert.

Look at Cooking Light, which doesn’t even ask for a first name. So simple. So easy.

cooking light website popups

7. Use Specific Triggers and Timings

There are all kinds of popups. Some will appear a few seconds after a visitor lands on your site. Others, right before they leave.

Some are triggered by certain actions that the user takes.

It’s up to you to decide what’s best for your brand and your goals. Very often, popups that appear a few seconds after someone lands on your site are not the best route to take. This is because they haven’t had a chance to get to know your brand yet. You haven’t nurtured the relationship at all. At this point, asking them for their contact information might very well be pointless and even harmful.

The more personalized of an experience you can create, the better. One visitor doesn’t want to be treated like a number — like everybody else who comes to your website. So, if you can do something to customize a popup based on their behavior, you’ll likely have more success. For this reason, action-triggered popups can work very well.

And speaking of personalized experiences…

8. Tag Subscribers and Put Them Into Specific Email Sequences

You’re very likely using popups to collect people’s email addresses and grow your list, which is perfect. A growing email list is the backbone of your business, and you hopefully already know that email marketing has the highest ROI of any type of marketing. But what do you do with those email addresses once you have them, aside from delivering whatever content you promised in your popup?

You tag those people and enter them into the appropriate email sequence to continue to nurture these leads.

For instance, if you’re a gym, and you have a popup offering a free guide containing ab exercises, you know that people who request this guide are interested in — surprise! — ab exercises. So, once they enter your email system, you should automatically tag them so that they get put into a list that will then deliver more information over time relevant to their interests.

Other emails might provide information for total core workouts, the best full-body workouts, or the best nutrition to lean out and have more defined abs.

You need to be building these relationships over time. This is what turns leads into loyal fans, and loyal fans into paying customers. Understandably, this process doesn’t seem all that appealing to brands. It’s more work on your end, it’s time-consuming, and it delays the gratification of getting new business.

However, acquiring new customers is often a lot like dating. You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you when you first meet them. Similarly, you don’t ask a website visitor to fork over any cash the first time they land on your website. You have to date them before you can ask them to marry you.

9. Check Your Website Popups on Mobile

These days, websites are often already optimized for multiple devices. This means that if someone views your website from a tablet or smartphone, everything will already be resized and reformatted to fit the size of that screen.

This is really important, because now more than ever, people are accessing the internet from their smartphones.

Don’t make any assumptions — visit your own website from your mobile device to see how the popup appears. Has it resized? Does the whole box fit within the screen, so that you don’t have to use your fingers to zoom out or scroll back and forth to read all of it? Is it difficult to exit out of the popup? If any of these things are happening, they should be immediately addressed, because they’re going to compromise the mobile experience.’s mobile popup is looking sharp.

self website popups

10. Split Test the Variables of Your Website Popups

Testing is everything. Without it, you can’t really know for sure what works, what doesn’t, and if your popups are the best they can be.

You should test every factor of your popups that you can think of, including:

  • Fonts.
  • Colors (including button colors).
  • What the button says.
  • Backgrounds.
  • Headings.
  • Images/no images.
  • The specific CTA.
  • Their triggers.

You’ll be surprised at the findings. The things you swore worked actually won’t, and things you never thought in a million years would work… do. But the only way you can figure this stuff out is to test, test, test.

On the same note, be sure you’re giving everything enough time to work. If you change the button color from blue to green and 24 hours later, you don’t notice a difference, don’t assume it has no impact and then switch up the color again. Give things a few days, if not a couple of weeks, to take effect and deliver new results. Nine times out of 10, things don’t happen overnight. You need to collect a big enough sampling of data to get a good read of the results of what you’re testing.

Ready to leverage the power of popups on your own website? We can help. Visit Engagebay’s website popups guide for more helpful information.

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