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How to Drive Conversions Without Relying on Intrusive Pop-Overs Everybody hates pop-over ads, but everyone clicks on them, too.

By Andrew Raso Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Conversions and growth. Growth and conversions. They make the business world go round.

So how much do you love (and by love, I mean hate) pop-over ads?

The paradox is that they're incredibly effective at converting, but people loathe them.

The good: Pop-ups (which open a new browser window) and pop-overs (float above the content but do not open a new window) have a click-through rate near two percent, which is higher than other most other methods. Entrepreneur got 86 percent more subscribers when trying out a pop-over opt-in form. Popup Domination users boasted conversion increases between 150 percent (wow) and 1100 percent (WOW) when it first debuted.

Marketing firm Fresh Relevance added a popover form on every page after a 30-second delay, resulting in 11 times as many sign-ups as they got from the old form in the footer while doubling the numbers of sign-ups from the old form, too!

The bad: People -- your users and customers -- despise them. A lot. Beth Hayden at Copyblogger actually received hate mail when she tried them on her own site. Most studies have found 90 to 95 percent of people claim to hate them with a fiery intensity.

Tools like AdBlock Plus -- downloaded over 500 million times -- make pop-ups very easy to control and eliminate.

They're the second most detested type of ad after telemarketers. 64 percent of respondents in a recent survey said they use blockers because pop-ups are annoying and intrusive.

Annoying. Intrusive. Not exactly the feelings you want to inspire in your visitors.

You have two choices: don't use them at all, or make them less irritating. Here are a few alternative suggestions:

Option A: Use a traditional inline form

Yes, pop-over adds are effective, but they're not the only game in town. For example, you can use a traditional inline (directly on the page) form in either the header, footer, or sidebar.

  • It may not convert as much, but it's much less annoying and impossible to block.

  • Create and share fantastic content on a consistent basis. Provide a wonderful product or service. If your product is great, people will convert without the pop-over.

  • Include an inline opt-in after blog posts and articles. If what you're providing is valuable, they'll sign up.

  • Personalize your messaging and segment your audience.

  • A/B test. Then A/B test again.

  • Improve your CTA with stronger copy.

  • Upgrade your sign-up form with personality and social proof.

Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

Option B: Use an app or online tool

Here are some of the tools I'd reccomend:

  1. Scroll Box is a slide form that appears from any corner after reading X percent of a page. It's smaller than a traditional pop-over, doesn't obscure (as much of) the page, and converts at 0.94 percent. Also try the Scroll Triggered Box. Hubspot found a 192 percent higher CTR and 27 percent more submissions using a slide-in form when compared to a static CTA.

  2. Smart Bar can either sit at the top of a page (static), appear only when scrolling up after scrolling down (smart), or stay with reader as they move down (sticky). Businesses use it as a less invasive opt-in or simple reminder. It converts at only 0.25 percent, though. Also try the Hello Bar.

  3. Welcome Mat is a full-screen CTA that launches immediately as a visitor lands on a page (so although it's similar, it's not a true pop-over. It doesn't interrupt their experience). It can even be used as a landing page. It has a 1.76 percent conversion rate according to SumoMe. Also try: OptinMonster's Fullscreen.

Related: 11 Ways to Make Money While You Sleep

Option C: Use the pop-over strategically

I'll be the first to admit that the allure of the pop-over is hard to resist. Many websites report sales increases of up to 40 percent after implementing them.

The trick is to compare the upswing in sales and conversions with any resulting reduction in subscriptions, higher bounce rates or angry hate mail. Is it really worth it?

If you absolutely must use a pop-over, though, use them in as unintrusive and innocuous a way as possible, be prepared for possible customer blowback and remember these helpful hints:

  • Use a cookie or session tag to make sure people only see it once.

  • No means no. Respect someone's decision to close it. Don't have another pop-over asking whether they're sure. They're sure.

  • A/B test everything: copy, layout, image, color.

  • Match the style and theme of your site.

  • Make the close button easy to see and use.

  • Avoid condescending options like "No thanks, I already know everything".

  • Keep the copy short, action-oriented and positive.

  • The ideal formula? Headline, 2-3 benefits, an image, and a strong CTA.

  • Acknowledge and thank those who opt in.

Related: How to Start a Business With (Almost) No Money

Option D: Use a delayed pop-over

Give your users a little bit of time. Delay your pop-over to coincide with:

  1. X number of page views. If someone has read two or three pages already, they're interested in you.

  2. End of a post. The pop-over is triggered as they hit the bottom of the page.

  3. X number of seconds or minutes spent on page. For example, you could use a pop-over containing a valuable coupon within seconds of opening the site. It's quick and viewed as helpful to potential shoppers.

  4. Exit intent. Pop-overs can be triggered when someone goes to exit or close the page.

Just be aware that many users consider exit pop-overs a little pathetic. They see websites that use them as less confident, less polished, and less professional. It's considered a needy design pattern, and no one likes the needy friend, right?

Pop-overs are definitely a catch-22. Some of the highest conversion rates out there, but terrible street cred. 70 percent of people say they have a lower opinion of businesses who use them.

Tread lightly.

Andrew Raso

Co-founder and Director of the Online Marketing Gurus

Andrew Raso is the co-founder and director of the Online Marketing Gurus, a fast-growing, award-winning search company working with some of the world's leading brands, including Coca Cola, Salesforce and Freshbooks. Follow him on Twitter @marketinggurus3. 

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