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Using Pop-Ups on Your Website: The Advantages

Code Sign Up Today Popup Button[Updated February 2017]

You may have noticed the dreaded pop-up creeping back into common usage. If you frequent high-street retailers online or marketing blogs and resources (whom I find to be the biggest users; your experience may differ) you’ve no doubt had your fill of the modern pop-up menace. But you wouldn’t do that to your own website, right? There’s no way…

Or could it be an awesome way to spark online engagement?

The current resurgence more frequently uses a “pop-over” or “interstitial” window displayed on top of the page’s content. Please note: this is strictly about pop-ups that are relevant to your site and brand – don’t get them confused with pop-ups that advertise other services. If your mental image is of unsolicited dial-up era messages proclaiming “You have critical errors on your PC,” only with poorer spelling, you are thinking about the wrong thing. Not a free iPad or bored local housewife in sight here, I’m afraid.

The two main uses of modern pop-ups are to either get people to sign up for related newsletters and updates, request a free “lead magnet” resource (such as an ebook or checklist), or to encourage follows on social media, which are the kinds of functions we will be chiefly talking about in this series, though they are in no way the only functions out there.

On the topic of encouraging email subscriptions, I will add this note: marketing – lead generation in particular – is all about achieving some method of getting “in” with the customer and generating a mutually agreed contact point with them in order to market to them. Social media likes and follows are great and all, but can be a little passive when it comes to lead generation. People can respond or not respond to things that pop up on their social media feeds. Most people just scroll down blindly, but when they have agreed to receive your newsletters and things start showing up in their inbox, they are more likely to take notice, especially if you have offered a discount voucher, entry into a prize draw, or access to a free tool or document as an incentive. This will increase their engagement with you and foster brand awareness in their minds.

Using pop-over windows to perform these kinds of functions is not essential by any means, but it can be a useful asset when used properly. So with that said, on with the advantages of using pop-ups:

The Good Stuff

  • It’s undeniable that interstitial windows grab attention and give you an opportunity to plainly offer the benefits of whatever function you are asking the reader to perform. Because it’s such a unique way of commanding attention, a well designed and well written pop-up can be a real boon to your company’s lead generation efforts.
  • Numerous studies show that subscription/interaction/conversion rates increase remarkably with the use of pop-ups. For example, Matthew Woodward found that though his bounce rate took a dent, his conversions increased by 44.71%. In this study from 2008, Darren Rowse found that his subscriber rates grew massively too – seriously, take a look at his graph and be amazed! WPBeginner achieved around 450 new subscribers a day using OptInMonster. So evidence shows that subscriber rates in particular benefit from the use of a popup.
  • There is an element of ease for the customer. If they want to hear more or agree to the proposed interaction, they are easily able to do so because the option is right there in front of them. You can guarantee that any visitor is now aware that your company has an email newsletter or has a free resource available, even if they don’t commit just yet.
  • It not only commands attention, but it can significantly boost the conversion rate of the function at hand because it’s there in the visitor’s face. Your visitor may not otherwise have agreed to involve themselves if you passively put the request elsewhere within your webpage, but may be further encouraged to get involved for a reason that you were able to explain in your pop-up window that may not be relevant elsewhere.
  • When it is well produced and used alongside other professional website presentation elements, it gives you the appearance of a much larger organisation, say with a devoted IT or marketing department, even if you are a one-person-band with minimal budget! The benefits of a professionally built website go without saying, and have been discussed more than once on this very site. Here are a few of my Yell Business faves on the topic of web design, but I encourage you to do your own research too: John informs us What is Responsive Web Design and why does it Matter?, 5 Web Trends that have Had Their Day also comes to us from John, 5 Things No-One Told you when you Built Your Website by Honor, and Essential Website Elements from Yell’s Expert Team.
  • Pop-up engagement works best when you offer further action; free documents, prize draws, and money off vouchers work incredibly well and help to instil positive emotions depending on what you offer. Free downloadable resources in particular are great for brand awareness because they allow the reader to go away and apply your expertise to their offline lives, fostering a sense that you are an authority on the subject. Sadly this “freebie” method can’t realistically be applied to all industries; for those companies looking to dip their toe into the pop-up waters there is always the good old fashioned money off voucher. It instils a mild, though present source of brand loyalty, people will want to avail themselves of that discount and will remember your site in order to use it.

Google’s 2017 Interstitial Update

Since this article was first written, Google has changed the rules slightly with regards to how pages with invasive interstitial windows rank on mobile devices. As part of an effort to improve the user experience for those using mobile search, as of the 10th January 2017, Google has introduced a ranking penalty within mobile searches to webpages that use overly invasive pop-overs. If a page’s interstitial window obscures too much of the page when accessed on a mobile device, it may rank lower on mobile search than it did previously.

Interstitials for responsible purposes such as age verification and agreement to cookie usage are both still permitted, regardless of how much screen space they take up.

However, this only affects rankings on mobile devices, so desktop search rankings remain unaffected. If this concerns you, you may be able to alter the appearance of your pop-overs to be less intrusive or removed altogether on mobile devices. Google is keen to remind users that this is just one element out of hundreds that go into ranking, so it may not mean life or death for your website. If you’re concerned, run your pages through Google’s Mobile-Friendly test.

I know this isn’t exactly an advantage, but it’s well worth knowing. For more information about this update, please refer to this post on Google’s Webmaster blog and this blog post on Search Engine Journal.

However, I hope this article has made your opinion of the dreaded pop-up a little more positive. But wait – this series is all about being fair and balanced, so click here to look at some of the disadvantages of this undeniably fruitful marketing tactic.

'Pop-ups? On my website?' It can be more beneficial than you think. Click To Tweet

What are your opinions of pop-overs/interstitials? Lifeblood of modern marketing or the bane of the web’s very existence? Let us know down in the comments!