Website Pop-Ups: 5 Ways To Use Them For An Effective Digital Strategy

Pop-Up image

A decade ago, if you asked people what they thought of website pop-ups, they would’ve said they were the stuff of nightmares.

And they really were. 

Pop-ups used to be an intrusive, direct advertising approach. Their aim was to divert internet users’ attention to certain webpages and sales. 

However, pop-ups were almost eliminated when a surge of tech providers developed ad-blocking software. It soon became the norm to disable website pop-ups. 

Finally, internet users could enjoy their online experience in peace. They were free of frustration once more and could browse the internet without interruption.

Fast forward to today though and pop-ups are still in existence. Although pop-ups are nowhere near as common as they used to be, they tend to be far less intrusive now. 

But that doesn’t mean that they should be eliminated entirely. You may have avoided using them on your website so far due to their poor reputation. However, pop-ups can actually have a great impact on your conversions. As long as they are used to bolster your users’ experience.

What Are Website Pop-Ups?

Image: Pop-ups are small windows that pop up (think of your toaster)

Website pop-ups are small windows that ‘pop up’ (think of your toaster) over the top of web pages in your browser. 

Advertisers use them to capture a visitor’s attention and draw them to a particular message. Generally, they spring up just as a web page has loaded. Alternatively,  they’re triggered by an action, such as attempting to exit a website or adding an item to a basket.

Pop-ups can be full-screen and block the entire view of the webpage. Or ‘lightbox’ pop-ups that only hide a portion of the page. 

Pop-ups: A Short History

In the late 1990s, tech entrepreneur Ethan Zuckerman was in search of a new online marketing feature. He wanted a way to build new revenue models for the tech company he worked for.

A major car company discovered that one of their ads was being displayed on an adult website, tarnishing their brand. 

So, Zuckerman’s task was to come up with a way to ensure there was no direct association between the ad and website with which it was being displayed on.

And so. the pop-up emerged.

At first, website pop-ups were hugely popular. Unlike email marketing (one of the main advertising channels of the time), they were much more aggressive. They would jump in front of a user’s screen and capture their attention.

Image: Users inundated with aggressive Pop-ups

However, as the years went by and the number of advertisers using pop-up ads increased, so did user dissatisfaction. There was a brief moment where searchers couldn’t click onto a single webpage without being inundated with pop-ups. 

By 2004, a study found that 95% of web users reacted negatively to pop-ups appearing in front of their browser. So in response, a number of tech companies began to develop and sell software to block them. This led to Zuckerman (the same man who invented them) later apologising for creating the ‘internet’s original sin.’

If Pop-Ups Are So Hated, Why Are You Telling Me To Use Them?

Over the past decade, the rate of which pop-up ads are being used has decreased. Marketers have learned that more doesn’t necessarily translate to better. As such,they have instead diversified the way they advertise.

Large developments in technology have made it much easier for advertisers to target messaging to their audience.  There’s no need to inundate them with pop-ups.

For example, using retargeting to remind users of the products they showed interest in. Or sending emails to visitors who placed an item in their basket but then abandoned their purchase. 


Image: Example of retargeting pop-up e.g. “Did you forget something?”

In addition to this, the rise in content marketing has also had a huge affect. With more and more brands earning their visitor’s loyalty through providing valuable information to their customers. As opposed to shovelling hard sales messages onto their screens. 

Therefore, when pop-ups are used strategically to help support these other marketing campaigns, they can be pretty effective. This is because they can help you to build valuable connections with your visitors. 

In fact, with pop-up ads being one of the cheapest forms of advertising, they’re a good option for smaller brands. In addition to this, they have an average conversion rate of 3%. So they’re definitely a great feature to use on your hardest converting pages. 

Let’s take a look at pop-ups in more detail. As well as some of the other reasons why they can  improve your website. 

5 Reasons Why Website Pop-Ups Can Actually Improve Your Website

Pop-ups, for all their perceived nuisances, can actually have some great benefits if used effectively on your website.  

We’re going to take a look at some of these benefits. And how you can optimise your own pop-ups to make them most effective on your website. 

1. Newsletter Sign-Ups

One main reason why brands use pop-ups is to try and increase the number of signups to their email list. 

In fact, a recent report by Sumo – an email marketing company – found that out of the 3.2 billion people that saw their email capture pop-ups, the average conversion rate was 1.95%. That’s just over 62 million conversions!

Since data backs the effectiveness for using email pop-ups, you should start to use them sooner rather than later. Especially if you want to capture more user data and encourage site visitors to return in the future. 

But you need to be tactical in your use of them. No one wants to be bombarded with an overwhelmingly large box which flashes ‘sign up here.’

Image: Avoid large flashing pop-ups

Instead, use them in a way which shows the visitor the value they will be receiving by entering their details.

For example, offering email subscribers a free e-book in return for subscribing to your email list. Or by offering engaging, informative content that’s relevant via a weekly newsletter opt-in.  

By giving something back to the user, they’ll feel more inclined to share their information with you. Plus, they’ll be receiving content they actually want. It’s a win-win situation. Never be dishonest about why you’re asking people for their details. 

2. Gain User Feedback

Another favoured use of pop-ups on websites is to gain user feedback and opinions on your brand. And with 33% of users completing online surveys, they can be an effective way of gaining valuable feedback.

Depending on your website’s goals, using pop-up surveys could be beneficial at different stages of the user journey. For example, if your website goal is to sell more of a certain product, you could schedule a pop-up survey. 

By scheduling a pop-up survey to appear as a user exits that particular product page you can understand their actions. Such as, why they didn’t choose to purchase it. You may find that the user is conducting buyer research and may well return later. Alternatively, it could help to identify potential issues with your current product offering. 

Image: Using pop-up surveys to find out what your customer thinks

Similarly, if one of your goals is to improve your conversion rate, you may use a pop-up survey once a visitor has completed a specific goal. For instance, to gain a greater understanding of how they navigated your site and to solicit user experience (UX) feedback. 

You may have noticed that companies also use them at the end of a customer journey. For example, when you opt-out of their newsletter or cancel a subscription service. This is so they can understand what to improve for the future in order to hold onto their customers.

Just like your pop-up, you want to make sure your survey isn’t too overwhelming for the user. Remember to keep the survey as short as possible, and don’t use unnecessary words or phrases. 

It may take a bit of tweaking. But, there are plenty of survey tools out there to help. Some will even allow you to A/B test different questions for optimum completion rate. 

3. Increase Social Media Following

Most brands are now present on the main social media channels, and if yours isn’t, then it really needs to be. 

Creating a social media following is an important way to build your brand. You can generate brand awareness, attract new customers and maintain long-lasting relationships with existing and in particular, engaged customers. 

Developing a substantial social media audience will add to your credibility too. This makes it easier for new customers to enter your website with confidence and place their trust in you. This all results in easier conversions.

Using website pop-ups can be a helpful reminder to visitors that you are present on social media. That they can follow you easily through the click of a button. Making the customer journey that little bit easier will help to boost your social media following. 

Image: Using pop-ups to promote your social media

One effective use of pop-ups and your social media is to use it to promote your content. We know that a huge part of content marketing involves promoting it. However, getting your audience to do it for you can make that process a lot easier. 

For example, adding a small light-box that appears once a user reaches the end of a piece of content suggesting they share it on their own social media. This can be a great way to get your content seen by more people. It will also drive engagement on your social media channels. 

You can also use website pop-ups to appear once a customer has completed a desired user journey with you. For example, making a purchase. You’ll likely retain that customer if you  encourage them to follow you on social media. That way, your content is regularly being seen by them, keeping you relevant and the brand of choice for them. 

4. Provide Customer Service

If you’re concerned about annoying your customers with pop-ups, then use them in a way which offers them genuine value. 

Having a pop-up chat box with one of your advisors can be helpful for visitors who want answers directly. Or a small lightbox with a dropdown menu of some of the most frequently asked questions may offer a quick solution for your visitors. As such, it could even improve your conversion rate. 

Image: Pop-up chat box

In fact, marketing influencer Neil Patel found that using a live chat service pop-up can improve conversion rates by up to 45%!

There’s a lot of advantages to having your customer service and FAQs readily available to visitors. Not only does it improve their user journey, allowing them to have all their questions answered within a single page. But having a chat with another human (or even AI robot) could be the final push they need to convince them to spend their money with you.

Having this pop-up feature is also another way of proving your credibility to any new visitors to the site. Giving a searcher the option to speak with a real-life member of your team is a good idea. This is because they’ll be more confident that you’re a company they can trust. Especially when it comes to making a purchase with you. 

5. Offer Promotions

Another way of using pop-ups to add value to your user’s experience is to share your website’s promotions with them. 

Offering 10% off a certain product range? Place a pop-up on your homepage to let customers know. Providing free delivery on all orders over £50? Entice your customers to spend more by adding a pop-up every time they add an item to their basket. 

Pop-ups have also been found effective in stopping customers from exiting your site without making a purchase. Some marketers suggest website pop-ups have an average of 35% of lost visitors saved by exit-intent offers.

Discount pop-ups to entice customers

Consumers love getting a good deal on an item. So, even offering a small discount code can convince them to make a purchase. 

In fact, discount codes have become an important part of consumers’ shopping habits. So much so that 27% of users regularly abandon their shopping carts in search for a discount code. 

So, if you’re in the position to offer one, I’d highly suggest using pop-ups across your website to highlight your promotions. Even if you don’t have a particular code, using a pop-up can be an effective tool to draw people to the area of a site you want to direct them to. 

Using Pop-Ups: A Warning for SEO

Before launching yourself into the world of pop-ups, there’s just one last thing to note. And that’s about how they can impact your SEO

We know that search engines like Google are all about creating the best possible online experience for users. When pop-ups are used, they can also make the user experience difficult, leaving searchers frustrated. 

Image: Pop-ups are bad for mobile optimisation

Pop-ups can be particularly obtrusive for mobile users, who – with their small screen space – often struggle to close them. So in response, Google announced in 2017 that it would penalise the rankings of sites that use ‘intrusive interstitials’ (pop-ups). 

Therefore, if Google detects a pop-up on your mobile site and considers it  obtrusive, your site will be penalised. In other words, if your pop-up leads to a poorer experience for site users, then your pages will rank lower. So, avoid pop-ups on your mobile site at all costs. 


Pop-ups, if used effectively, can be another great marketing tool for companies. Especially those looking to divert their site visitor’s attention or convey a particular message for them. 

Their versatility means you can tailor them to target almost any online goal. Whether you’re looking to improve your conversion rate, or to increase the numbers of people looking at your content. 

They’re also easy to create, allow for A/B split testing and can be easily monitored to track their success. So, if you’ve not tried using them on your website yet, I’d recommend having a think about how you could. But remember, use them to add value to your users’ experience in order to help you to reach your goals.

Looking to create an effective digital strategy?

As we’ve discussed in this article, pop-up ads can be an effective form of advertising. Even more so when used in conjunction with other marketing avenues, such as content and e-commerce discount codes. 

To see real growth in your brand, you need to have an overarching marketing strategy. One which aligns all your channels with your goals, ensuring consistent, relevant and valuable messaging for your audience. 

For many new start-ups and small businesses, they lack the time and resource needed to create a comprehensive marketing strategy. Often, they may turn to a marketing consultancy, such as my own, for guidance. A marketing consultant can be the most effective way for these businesses to reach their goals. 

With over 10 years’ experience working with brands to build and implement results-driven strategies, my team and I know exactly what it takes to make a website succeed in today’s virtual marketplace. 

See how we could help you by getting in contact for an obligation-free chat. It’d be great to hear more about your brand. And I’d love to talk about how we can help you to reach your online goals. 

About Murray Dare

Murray Dare is a Marketing Consultant, Strategist and Director at Dare Media. Murray helps UK businesses find better ways to connect with their audiences through targeted content marketing strategies.