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How to Use Pop-Up Ads Without Annoying Your Visitors Capitalize on the benefits of a pop-up ad without irritating or turning off your audience.

By Timothy Carter Edited by Russell Sicklick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Business owners from all backgrounds and all industries are interested in getting more conversions on their website. For some businesses, that means collecting email addresses to build a subscriber list. For others, that means closing more sales.

Whatever your intentions, you might be able to boost your conversion rate with the help of pop-up ads. But as we all know, and have personally experienced, pop-up ads can be incredibly annoying.

So how can you capitalize on the benefits of a pop-up ad without irritating or turning off your audience?

The troubled past of pop-up ads

Pop-up ads have had a negative reputation for some time, and admittedly, it's a bit deserved. Pop-up ads used to be everywhere. They also looked and operated much differently than they work today. When you visited a website, you might be instantly bombarded with several separate windows or separate tabs. They would be calling to you to click here with flashing lights and obnoxious messages. Even worse, when you went to close the window, you might be tricked into clicking an X that takes you to a different website.

Since then, a combination of anti-spam practices from major tech companies, pop-up blockers and public opinion have caused the death of traditional pop-up ads. These days, pop-up ads are much more tasteful, presenting users with an image or a simple offer within the window they're already using.

Related: How Ad Blockers Benefit Both Consumers and Advertisers

The duality of modern pop-up ads

Today, pop-up ads are a double-edged sword. On one hand, research demonstrates that pop-up ads can be highly effective in boosting conversions. The average pop-up is seeing a conversion rate of three percent, and high-performing pop-ups are getting rates of 60 percent or more. If used effectively, a good pop-up ad can instantly make your site more valuable.

On the flip side, a poorly made or poorly placed pop-up ad can harm your reputation and cause distress for your visitors. In some cases, the ad can make users bounce, forcing them to leave before they even begin to engage with your brand. In other cases, users may simply walk away with a worse impression of your company.

Related: 3 Online Marketing Strategies to Kick-Start Stagnant Sales

How to Use Pop-Up Ads Effectively

How can you use pop-up ads effectively on your website, without turning people away?

These are some of the best strategies.

  • Give your users some time: First, make sure you give your users plenty of time. If you instantly hit them with an ad the moment they visit your website for the first time, they're going to have a bad first impression. Instead, only allow ads to pop up after users have been browsing for several seconds, at minimum.
  • Minimize interruptions: Avoid interruptions as much as possible, both in frequency and severity. People are interested in reading your content and browsing your website, so you shouldn't get in the way of that. Make sure you only include one or two pop-up ads per experience and don't make them fill up the entire screen. It's also important that the content is not too distracting to the average user experience.
  • Forget video or sound: Using sound in your pop-up ads is a major mistake. If you automatically play a video or introduce sound effects in your ad, you'll likely irritate anyone currently wearing headphones or with the speakers unwittingly turned up. Simple animations are fine, so long as they're not accompanied by obnoxious noise.
  • Keep your messaging concise: In line with minimizing interruptions, you should focus on making your message as concise and direct as possible. Don't make your users read a paragraph of information. Instead, give them a short and compelling headline.
  • Provide something valuable: Pop-up ads are less annoying and capable of more conversions when they provide something valuable to users. For example, they may offer a steep discount on a product, a free gift for signing up for an email list or enrollment in a giveaway.
  • Avoid sensationalism: Don't make your pop-up ads more sensational at the cost of content or messaging quality. For example, obnoxious flashing lights and big promises (lose 20 pounds fast!!!) will usually end up turning people away.
  • Make it obvious and easy to close: Don't obscure the close button or intentionally make it harder for users to get away from the pop-up. If a user isn't interested, they're not going to change their mind because they were held hostage by a cheap gimmick. In fact, forcefully keeping users in place could end up robbing you of conversions.
  • Rely on exit intent pop-ups: Exit intent pop-ups are ads designed to give users one last interaction before they leave your website for good. It's an excellent chance to win over someone who's about to depart — and it doesn't interfere with the core experience of browsing your website.

If you follow these strategies, your pop-up ads should be considerably less annoying and more effective. That said, every brand is going to need something slightly different. Make sure you accurately and objectively measure the effectiveness of all your onsite ads. And be willing to make adjustments if your results leave something to be desired.

Related: How to Drive Conversions Without Relying on Intrusive Pop-Overs

Timothy Carter

Chief Revenue Officer of SEO.co

Timothy Carter is the CRO of the Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & digital marketing leading, building & scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and driving growth from websites and sales teams.

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