How to Build Effective Pop-ups

Pop-ups. They’re simple, they’re powerful, and they’re annoying as hell. Well, when done wrong that is. You ever open a website and you’re ready to dive into your online shopping escapade or scour over that intriguing article your uncle posted on Facebook, only to be hit with the dreaded “PLEASE SUBSCRIBE!” pop-up? A lot of the time it has some fairly passive-aggressive messaging too, like “YES I want to subscribe!” followed by “No, I want to miss out on awesome deals and be poor and forever alone.” Yeah, not really doing much to entice us so much as making us feel terrible about one click of our mouse. 

Anyway, there’s a method to making your pop-ups less annoying and effective, and we’re gonna tell you how you can do that. Because building your email list is extremely important, and actually pop-ups are the best way to do so. Here’s how you can make them work for you and the visitors to your site:

First… Why are pop-ups so effective?

Pop-ups work by capturing the visitor’s attention and drawing it to one simple area of focus. According to BJ Fogg, behavior scientist, and creator of the Fogg Behavior Model, this triggers something in the brain that leads to higher conversion. Fogg’s model shows us that high motivation and ease of usability lead to high success rates in these triggers. Why? As we mentioned before, pop-ups cut down on inattentional blindness (basically when users on the site get distracted by too much information being thrown at them at once). By directing their attention to a pop-up, users will find it hard to ignore the call to action.

Here’s how to make them work:

  1. Offer high value.

You want to make your offer just high enough in value so that people will be enticed enough to enter their email, but not so high that you’re running yourself out of business. If you have an online retail store, consider offering a percentage off their first order. 10–15% is often too low, while 20% seems to be the sweet spot. You could, however, offer 10% off and free shipping, as most people feel burdened by shipping costs. If in doubt, try to think about your own value threshold. What would be the absolute minimum value you would settle for when deciding whether or not to subscribe to an email list? You can also survey other people to get a good idea of what to offer.

  1. Offer relevant value.

Visitors are drawn to your site for a reason. They likely have something in mind that they want to buy, and are coming to you for that item. If you’re a clothing company that specializes in garments, in particular, something like adding free skincare or makeup sample to their order in exchange for subscribing to an email list probably isn’t going to be effective. Offering free shipping or a discount is more likely to entice them to buy.

  1. Create a simple, user-friendly design.

Again, the purpose of a pop-up is to draw and capture the visitor’s attention to one call to action. But if your pop-up’s design is too busy and overwhelmed with text, the visitor is likely to exit out without even bothering to read what kind of value they are being offered. Create a simple, straightforward design that advertises the offer front and center. Also, make the pop-up easy to close if the person is not interested.

  1. Delay the pop-up.

There’s nothing worse than being bombarded with a request to subscribe to an email list of a site that you’re not even sure what the content is, let alone if you enjoy it. Give the visitor a little time to explore first, and then trigger the pop-up once they’ve spent some time browsing the site.

  1. Include conversion-driven copy.

Every pop-up should include a clear call to action as well as conversion-driven language. Some examples, according to Wise Pops, are:

  • Using copy to create a sense of urgency
  • Using copy to create fear and loss aversion
  • Adding personalization
  • Using sensory words
  • Overcoming objections with risk aversion
  • Connecting to visitors through storytelling

Pop-ups don’t have to suck

As long as you provide value, create simplicity, and don’t be a jerk about it, including a pop-up on your site can do wonders for building your email list and expanding your reach.


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