Applying popups is no rocket science; any webmaster or website admin can do it with a WordPress plugin. However, what separates a good web popup from a great one is that the latter is built on a solid foundation of rules and best practices. If you want a higher than average conversion on web popups, these best practices listed below should be followed like a Bible.
In this section, we will dispel some myths and share some truly effective best practices for web popups. Implementing these practices will also enable a better conversion rate with your existing web popups.
If you are using web popups, these tips will help you set expectations of what to expect when shopping for a web popup plugin.
An effective popup strategy is never the “one-size-fits-all” approach. The number one rule of high-converting web copy is the relevance to the customer. You may have segmented your emails to speak to a different set of customers in their own, unique way. Your popup strategy should also follow a similar approach. The variations in the message delivered to different segments may not be much. However, it is the crucial difference between customer clicking the CTA and ignoring the popup altogether.
There are so many variables that you can consider for customizing the popup text, appearance, and timing. Some of these tips to optimize web popups are:
Once you have created segments, you will start seeing discernible characteristics (a different identity) for each group. This makes it a lot easier to find the most relevant messaging for that group. You can then leverage dynamic texts in web popups to deliver personalized messaging for higher conversion rates.
Some companies tend to communicate a lot more in the web popup copy. Their web popups are filled with too much text, communicating so many benefits.
Addressing so many features will make your popup text unfocused and unprofessional. They also distract the visitor from the core benefit.
Instead, pick up one key feature of your product that addresses your customers’ biggest problem. Use your creativity (or hire a copywriter) to craft a message for that one big problem.
Using too many colors, too much text, different types of fonts - all these make the popup look very unprofessional; they are a recipe for a disaster.
For better conversions, ensure that your popup doesn’t have more than two colors chosen from the color scheme of your website. Choose colors that portray sufficient contrast with the rest of your website (so that the popup gets noticed separately from the content).
Avoid fluorescent colors; they are an eyesore! Keep the fonts simple.
Fortunately, you don’t need to hire a designer to build you web popup design. Many marketing automation tools provide free templates for web popups that are designed using solid conversion principles. Paid templates are also available but they are also better designed.
The goal while customizing these popup templates is that a web popup should have a clear and minimalistic design.
Mobile screens are much smaller. First essential is that the web popup should dynamically adjust its size to fit on the smaller screen.
Wide popups are also not advised for mobile pages. If these web popups are not sized dynamically, they end up looking quite large and bulky. So the user has to drag his finger around to locate the close button. This hurts the user experience.
Therefore, the safest way to create mobile-optimized web popups is to display them at the bottom of the screen as a flat bar popup. This will require you to stack the email field and the CTA right next to each other in a single row.
The close button also has to be more prominent. The best way to make sure users don’t miss it is to add some text to the close button and place it next to the CTA.
Some websites take full-page web popups to a next level - by placing an ad on it. As explained above, they hurt user experience and leave you vulnerable to a Google penalty.
There is a third downside to full-page ad interstitials: if you use them, your site ends up looking like a cheap and spammy knock-off - a design that is typically used on third-rate gambling and pornography sites.
Typically, full-page web popups like age filter for sensitive content, a login prompt, or verification of a legal agreement are all fine. These are mandatory and should always be used; it could be a violation of rules if you removed them.
Google considers these kind of full-page popups as part of the user experience and doesn’t penalize them.
Any concerns which marketers currently have with web popups started with entry popups because, in the early days of email marketing, no one knew how to work smartly with web popups. So, most marketers conceptualized popup as a “splash screen”, which was commonly used in new desktop software. This was a wrong application of web popups - it was used as an introduction, not as an add-on.
Entry popups not only disrupt the user experience, they actually annoy many users. The conversion rate also suffers miserably. Even today, many webmasters and web entrepreneurs are skeptical of using web popups.
Why are entry popups dangerous? The customer comes to your site for content, not for freebies, and most definitely not to share their email. If the first thing you show them is a splash screen asking them their email, they will leave as fast as they came.
Also, from Google's point of view user experience its visitors get upon visiting your site is the paramount. They want users to land on an ad-free page showing genuine content. While delayed popups and opt-in forms are okay, full page popups (also known as “interstitials”) are actively penalized by Google.
So, full-page popups not only hamper the user experience, but it’s essential to avoid them from an SEO point of view too.
If you have popups being shown after a certain amount of time, it is worth noting that the time you have set will have crucial ramifications on your conversion rates.
You may annoy your visitor with a quick popup, or you may lose a potential subscriber with a delayed popup. Unfortunately, there’s no formula for knowing the optimal time that guarantees maximum conversion rate.
So how does one know when to show the popup? There are several suggestions from some of the biggest blogs in the industry. Some say let the popup trigger at 60% of the average time on site. Some also give a fixed time interval (say, 15-30 seconds) for all sites, regardless of the niche or time on site.
A simpler way would be to first check the time of all visitors on site through Analytics. From this report, find a median time-range with concentrated visitors i.e. the amount of time after which most users quit, only a few loyal ones remain. Add your popup to trigger 10 seconds before this time.
This is largely a guideline, not a rule. You could always test different variations and find out a time which yields maximum conversion for your site.
Some marketers tend to keep the close button transparent so that it mixes with the background of the page or the popup. They think that by making the close button hard to find, the user will stay a few extra seconds on the popup, and might just click on the CTA.
This strategy usually backfires; instead of improving their conversion rate, it ends up annoying people who want to close it.
Conversion should be a function of the web popup copy, its position, and its timing. Trying to achieve better conversion by using shady tactics like hiding the close button only ends up hurting the user experience.
As mentioned earlier, Google wants the best user experience for its users. This means they have strict rules for first page loads on any website. If a user hits your web page directly from Google’s search results, it is taken as a part of user experience.
To be on the safe side, you must avoid anything on that first page load which blocks a search engine visitor from seeing the content (and is not part of the experience).
There is a bright side to this rule - it applies to only the first page load. When the user clicks an internal link and moves on to visit the second page, that is not controlled by Google. Marketers have more freedom from the second page onwards.
While many plugins have made popup generation very easy, there are also instances of businesses overusing them. For example, a coupon for a free phone case is suitable for the purchase of mobile phones, not on a page that displays USB speakers.
Similarly, if a user is ready to buy (i.e. close to the end of the sales funnel), sharing a free eBook will only be considered a sub-optimal match.
For this reason, popups are suitable only on the most relevant pages. As a thumb rule, if there is no direct connection between the page content and popup content, you should not use that popup.
Unfortunately, some companies still treat web popups as user registration forms. Over the course of internet’s history, a clear distinction between the two has been realized. You don’t need to accept more than an email and a first name on a web popup form.
However, there may be exceptional cases where more information may be necessary. In that case, the web popup must be designed very carefully. Only a few most relevant fields should be included.
Make sure all of them are not pure text fields. Don’t make the user type everything; no one who is surfing online has time or patience to type. Instead, make other controls clickable with the help of radio buttons and combo boxes on the web popup.