Popups: Definitive conversion guide – Fatality

a camera image popups over another camera image

The definitive research on popups

I took this specific topic to heart and I did months of research on this topic on how to use popups effectively. Here is all you need to know about popups that include how it relates to trust, brand building and best practices.

Updated 2017/02/12 Google has an algorithm that will negatively effect your rank if you use popups that cover the entire screen or force your user to click on it to get to the content. This is especially the cse with mobile devices but also desktop computers. My advice stick to pop-up bars.

The main difference between a lightbox modal and a popup, (in the context on collecting emails), is that a lightbox darkens the background when it appears and a popup does not. The pretty much the same thing and can be designed and timed in the same way besides for the background behind the popup. The one you choose to use, if any is purely based on preference.

Popups is a very controversial topic, that has taken a lot of flack by expert marketers, at the same time other expert marketers defend it just as intensely.

Many people blame popups for a bad user experience on a web page. Marketing thought leaders like Seth Godin think of it as interruption based marketing and denounce it, aiming to replace it with permission based marketing.

The vast majority of popups are interrupting the user's core experience at the wrong time, they often are triggered when the page loads or when the user is half way through a delicious article. This poor user experience leads to a higher bounce rate and people never returning to your website ever again.

The other major issue with the popup is that it is often hard to ‘decline’ and to carry on with your business on the website you on. There are many marketers still not making the “no thanks” option clear. Many users are completely disorientated at the site of a surprise popup and when this happens, if you do not aid them they will not want to continue on your website, and rather find their answers somewhere else. A poorly designed popup can create a negative experience on your website but a poorly thought-out popup can lose customers for life.

According to the AdWords Editorial Guidelines, "We allow interstitial pages without ads, as long as they don't hinder a user from exiting a site. Though similar to a pop up, an acceptable interstitial is a type of graphic that appears within the landing page instead of opening a new browser window, and it does not hinder a user exiting a site.”

This basically means no popups on ppc landing pages. It also means you can have popups on pages that are SEO based provide they do not prevent the user from exiting the page.

In addition to Google having some rules and regulations about popups such as a ppc based landing page should not have any form of exit rate popup, making it hard for the user to leave the website, they do allow exit rate popups on seo based landing pages.

Popups are triggered primarily in five ways:

  1. As the page uploads
  2. After a certain period
  3. Once you have scrolled to a certain point
  4. Once the user tries to leave the page or close the tab (Against googles best practices)
  5. tracking the mouse movement and once the mouse has moved to a certain point.

The preferred 3 popups that google also does not penalise, (with exception to adwords), is popups that trigger after a certain period and not when the page uploads, once the users has scrolled to a certain point, (ideally at an end of an article) and tracking the mouse movement to trigger an exit popup without hindering the user from leaving.

In addition to this you should keep you popup relevant, consider the timing, try to keep the interruption to a minimum, ideally when a user has got to the end of an article or tries to leave the website. The design matters and should be very easy to navigate.

The big question you may be asking yourself is if there is any real upside to popups after hearing all the bad news? The answer is an emphatic YES. Many businesses see a direct increase in conversions when they implement a well designed and thought out pop up. Many business have reported an increase in conversions on certain ‘key’ pages of more than a 1000%.

People on your email list tend to be more active on your blog than people who aren't on your email list, these people are also more likely to buy products from you, and guess what you have them all at your fingertips thanks to a great pop up. You may be asking yourself why not just have an optin form at the bottom by your article and on your sidebar. The biggest reason to include a popup is inattentional blindness that users face.

You need to consider the user experience for indirect SEO. Other factors worth considering relating to user experience is the purpose of the popup and how it is implemented. Some great examples of modal pop up use as ‘exit popups’ would be the following:

  1. Build your email list
  2. Recover abandoned cart instantly
  3. Redirect traffic to other relevant content on your website
  4. Surveys, getting feedback from the users on your website

How do you create an exit pop up that does not hinder the user's experience and complies with the best practices of Google (i.e. does not hinder the user from leaving the website)?

The first thing I need to make clear, you do not want to have an exit popup trigger when the user tries to close or leave the page. This is against googles best practices and you could be penalized, lose your SEO rank position or be removed completely from google search altogether. The right way to do it is based on observing where the mouse is moving and when the mouse reaches a certain point on the page in the direction of the tabs then a pop up is triggered. If you wondering how to technically do this without buying some overpriced software and you have or are a developer then click here. Otherwise contact your webmaster and ask him to assist.

The key to doing this right is trigger speed, ‘speed matters’. You have just under 200 milliseconds to show the user your message before they actually leave the page. Real time is to slow, you need to preload the code to make it in this period. This may require some serious technical know how, you may need to avoid special effects and impressive graphics so that your message will be displayed as fast as possible. Additionally you should aim to get it uploaded including lag-time near 50 milliseconds.

You ideally want to avoid using popups/modals on mobile devices as some mobile devices don't support them. The exception to the rule is if you want to move traffic from your website to a mobile app then you might consider using a popup that loads when the page loads. Mobile devices work slightly differently in the way we use them. The best solution forward for mobile would be when the user scrolls up with their finger.  

I predict popups will be a big deal for mobile devices but the 80/20 rule currently lends itself to the wrong end of the spectrum. That being said a great popup automation software plugin could go a long way to increase conversions on your SEO based landing pages. The big technical issue is that all the different screen sizes makes the implementation of this very difficult and time consuming to get it right. The only option if you considering this is to keep it simple.

The final thought about popups is that you should not only test it but split test it nad keep this research "All you need to know about popups." in mind. You need to continuously improve upon it and enhance it to make it better.

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