Pop-up Calls to Action: Tread Lightly

November 17, 2017//1,405 words

Those of us who grew up in the 90s probably remember seeing their computer screen look like this at some point or another:

annoying pop ups

Or even this:

annoying pop ups

This was very common after downloading any sort of free software online, playing online games or even just browsing for a few hours on the internet.

It was out of control and had us searching for the best pop-up blockers constantly.

Times have changed.

Now, browsers come with pop-up blockers installed and computers usually come with some sort of a basic spam blocker to help.

Thank goodness we’ve evolved from the days of having to reboot our computers just to clear the pop-up cycle.

While pop-ups can’t take over your computer the way they once did they can still interrupt or destroy your experience when visiting a website.

Now keep in mind, in this post I’m just referring to non-paid or local site popups. Ones that are focused on getting you to sign up for additional content or alert you to something. Paid ads are a different animal even though I think a lot of the techniques remain the same. However, I will be addressing the paid ads at a later time.

I’m going to go through a few of the common pop-up scenarios that I see on websites, tell you why you shouldn’t include these pop-ups on your site and then give you a couple of alternatives – ways to engage with and alert your audience that will not ruin your user experience.

The first killer pop-up …


Pop-up on Website Arrival

You click on a link to visit a site that you’re hoping contains a good, solid, high quality article and then BAM – before you can even start reading you have to figure out how to close this full screen pop-up.

Like this one …

website pop up call to action

Now, it’s a great picture, and a great pop-up, but because it’s not what I was looking for I’m taking it the wrong way.

I can’t help it – I just got interrupted. I have a lot to do. I was hoping to just be able to visit the site and quickly scan the article for relevant info.

Recommendation: As great as the picture is, replace this full screen pop-up with one that is on the sidebar, not blocking any of the real page content. Yes, less people will notice, but at least you won’t run the risk of annoying your loyal readers.


Delayed Pop-up

These pop-ups are delayed for extra effect. You start skimming and perhaps even enjoying the article on the page and then you are interrupted with something like this:

Again, not a bad call-to-action. Actually, I think it looks really good. But the point is that you’re distracting readers from your content! The focus should always be on pointing people to your content. That’s why we make the font sizes bigger and typically put black text on a white background.

Recommendation: It’s fine to have pop-ups as long as they are not blocking the content. In the case of someone reading one of your blog posts, I would also be sure that your pop-up is relevant to the post. Don’t try to sell someone on basketballs when they are reading about baseballs. Again, think about what you can do to support the main content on the page.


Pop-up Shifting Content

My least favorite pop-up, when the page shifts without warning and I click on something without meaning to. Many blogs have pop-ups like these that try to shift content so that you will accidentally click on an ad.

Many content marketers will do this too but they are trying to get you to sign up for something that they are selling. Like this example:

website pop up call to action

Side note, don’t put something on the bottom like you see above – No, thanks.I would rather eat ketchup. 

Although this example is a bit comical, these typically come across as snooty, like, You need to do what I say because I’m smarter than you are.

Recommendation: If you are planning on blocking content with your pop-up, at least do it in a static, non-shifting way. Don’t make people have to shift down to continue what they were reading and then shift back up to find where they left off. Again, you succeeded in getting people to your site! Congratulations! Now don’t make them want to leave!

Instead of using this or the other methods mentioned, try this beneficial pop-up method instead:


Exit Intent Pop-up

This is a great pop-up technique that I would recommend to everyone. For those who are unaware of this pop-up, it uses Javascript code to know when someone’s mouse leaves the browser window. At this point you are going to assume it’s because someone is finished looking at your site and they are about to exit the tab.

The exit intent pop-up serves 2 purposes.

At this point, you don’t need to worry about interrupting someone that is reading your content. When they are planning on leaving already, all bets are off! Do whatever you can to get them back!

Here are a couple of examples:

website pop up call to action

website pop up call to action

I would also recommend using a …


Sidebar Pop-up

I also strongly recommend having pop-ups on your sidebar. You have likely noticed mine on this page.

I use mine to remind you that I’m a real person by showing transparency, and with that how I can help you with the techniques in the post that you are reading. My goal is not to distract you from the content but rather encourage you to let me help!

Pop-ups are very trendy right now among inbound marketers and for good reason as they do a lot to encourage conversion rate growth. The biggest things to keep in mind, however, are not to distract your readers or annoy your readers.