Pop Ups: Do they work?


Not the ones from VH1’s witty Pop-Up Video series from the 90s. Though, those are pretty cool. Where else could you so effortlessly acquire useless information that could potentially win you hundreds on Cash Cab, information like Rick Astley was a backup singer on the Lion King soundtrack?!

Anyway… pop-ups… the ones you’ve likely run into a time or two (or sixty) while surfing the World Wide Web.

The question we’re exploring today:

Do pop ups work?

Any time I encounter this question in conversation, the word “annoying” inevitably crops up, which is what seems to fuel the continuing debate over whether or not marketers should use them but never actually answers the question of whether or not they convert.

So, with all this uncertainty, we felt it time to do some digging to find out for ourselves whether or not pop ups can be effective for website conversions.

What we found:

Yep, pop ups DO work.


According to AWeber’s popup experiment on Nikki McGonigal’s craft blog, pop ups, while still considered generally annoying, actually convert 1,375% better than traditional embedded website forms.

For anyone out there trying to grasp that statistic, that’s almost 14 times better. Whoa.

Therefore, they are not a complete and utter waste of your time, as long as they’re designed and placed effectively.

Pop Up Types & Supporting Statistics

DISCLAIMER: These types of pop ups are categorized by when they show up on a website, not by what is on them. What is defined as quality content for a pop up and how to place them effectively really depends on your goals, which are entirely different beasts, ones we’ll tackle another day.

Entrance (or Welcome) Pop Ups

The least liked of all the pop ups are the ones that appear within seconds of arriving on a website, if not immediately. Hence why they’re seen as the most invasive and offensive type.

I like to think of this kind of pop up as a marriage proposal on the first date. Why would I immediately give you my email address for your weekly product update if I don’t even know what you’ve got to offer?I mean, gimme just a second to look, man!

General offers, notifications or alerts work great, though, as entrance pop ups. For instance, I’d LOVE a quick pop up on my favorite online shoe shop telling me I’ll save 20% on purchases of over $50, or that I’ll get free shipping if I place my order within 2 hours, kind of like this one:

It’s helpful for me to know those things right up front, plus it’s non-committal cause I didn’t have to fork over any private info to earn those deals.

Wishpond shares stats on another great example of this kind of pop up: a 3-second delayed entrance pop up NYP Bar & Grill used on their website. It offers visitors a $5 Off voucher when they enter their email and first name.

The numbers? Between the two variations of the pop up they were running (for A/B Testing purposes…which is smart…) the pop up was seen more than 30,000 times and received nearly 4,000 submissions. That’s a conversion rate of nearly 13%. Hot diggity dog…

So, yes, annoying, but restaurants can get away with it, cause…ya know, last time I checked, most people eat and enjoy “free” money, soooo…. You do the math.

Timed Pop Ups

These are pop ups that are timed to appear after a visitor has spent a certain amount of time on a website.

Counter to the entrance pop up, this one gives visitors a chance to soak up what a website’s spillin’, so to speak (that’s what the kids are saying these days, right?). What I mean is, people have a chance to look around the website a bit before they see the pop up, so when it appears with an offer, they can make an informed decision.

Sanderling Resort saw a conversion rate of over 6% using a timed pop up to offer special promotions to visitors who’ve been on their site for 15 seconds. That 15 seconds gave visitors a fair chance to decide whether or not the resort had something to offer them, so when prompted, they were just fine signing up for those special offers.

Time truly can be on your side, huh?

Triggered Pop Ups

Scroll-Triggered Pop Ups

Great for blog post pages, marketers can use these pop ups to ask readers to join an email list because it appears based on how far down the page the reader has scrolled. People who’ve scrolled most of the way through your page are clearly more engaged with your content than someone who only made it a tenth of the way, so it makes sense that they’d be more interested in signing up for your newsletter.

At MayeCreate, we typically set our email sign up pop up to appear about three quarters down the blog page before offering our readers a subscription to our Weekly Pride Maker.

At three quarters of the way down, we’re confident they’ve seen enough of our writing style to know whether or not they’d like to hear more of what we have to say.

Click-Triggered Pop Ups

These are set to appear only when a visitor clicks a specific element within the website and are used to further target the right audiences on your site (and we all know the best conversion rates come from well-targeted ads).

A perfect example of this is featured on the Sparkle in Pink kids clothing website. When visitors click on the “Rewards Program” icon in the top right navigation…

New visitors get this:

Account holders get this:

Both provide motivation and encourage visitors to take action, and they appear at an appropriate time and therefore do not invade or offend.

Wishpond, which clearly holds the market right now for most blog posts written about pop ups, states they’ve found the most success with this type of pop up, getting only 2.5% conversions with their scroll pop up and 54.7% with their click pop up. That’s significant.

When graphed out, click pop up conversion rates compared to those of their landing pages pretty much says it all:

JavaScript-Triggered Pop Ups

Sometimes pop up plugins just don’t come with the specific triggering capabilities you need. If you want your pop up to appear when a person on your site has been to certain pages on your site, you’ll need special code for that… that’s where the JavaScript-triggered pop up works its magic.

Wishpond highlights a pop up like this on the eFinancial website—it only shows to visitors who’ve looked at the family insurance page and offers them a free consultation. That kind of specified pop up targeting contributed to an impressive 14.2% conversion rate!

Exit Pop Ups

According to Ambitionally, the exit pop was originally designed to convert the people leaving your website into email subscribers. And, wouldn’t ya know it? That’s primarily what they’re still used for today. It’s set to appear when a user’s mouse pointer drifts out of the browser window or tab, signaling that the website visitor is about to leave the page.

Venture Harbour reports a decline in the use of these types of pop ups, but they do still convert. The one Museum of London uses on their website prompting visitors exiting the site to leave their email address for update-to-date news and events sent to their inboxes. It only had a 1.8% conversion rate, but it got them 788 more leads than they had before.

Venture Harbour also warns marketers to use this kind of pop up as a last resort and to ensure they’re disabled for anyone who’s met your conversion goals. The idea behind this is that your website should be so well optimized for conversions that people wouldn’t make far enough into the “funnel” to see it. Just a little food for thought… as if you don’t have enough to chew on already, right?

Looks like pop ups are here to stay…for now…

As with anything in marketing, a clear strategy (and trial and error, of course) is the only way to achieve desired results. Otherwise, you’re just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Sounds iffy at best, and really boring…depending on what you’re throwing…

Regardless, you’re not in the business for “iffy” results. That said, know that yes, pop ups do work, but only when planned, designed, and placed well will you see the results you’re after.

Now get out there and “pop” it like it’s hot!


(Yeah, that was a reach…)

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