Here’s If (And How) You Should Use Website Pop-ups In 2019

Anant Jain
Anant Jain
15th October 2019 6 mins read

You can find just about everything on the internet today, but finding consensus is a rarity. The one thing that all netizens have consensus on is – Everyone hates pop up ads. Several surveys have indicated that pop-up ads are the least preferred way users like engaging with ad content, with some studies saying that 81% of people have closed a web page because of a pop-up. You can run but you can’t hide, not unless you go offline anyway.

Even Ethan Zuckerman, who leads the Center for Civic Media at MIT, says he didn’t realize what he was bringing into the world when he wrote the code for the first pop-up ad more than 20 years ago. “A major car company freaked out that they’d bought a banner ad on a page that celebrated intercourse. I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it” says Zuckerman. Ever since then pop-ups have surged to prominence trying to push content to the visitor with a rather in-your-face approach, which often results in the gag reflex netizens seem to have when they see a pop up. Despite this, most marketers believe that pop ads need not be annoying or disruptive. In fact, if positioned well, it might enhance the overall user experience.

Pop ups are still extremely effective at driving conversions (when done right, that is)

A survey conducted by BuzzSumo showed that having well-timed pop-up ads can result in subscriber/lead conversions of over 40%. Good timing, simple design, and appropriate relevance seem to be what’s working for most successful pop-up strategies. For instance, giving the user some time to settle in on your page before initiating your pop-up is considered good practice. More importantly, making sure that the popup is easy to understand and proceed from (both opting in and closing the popup), is another factor that adds to a good/bad user experience.

And without relevance, you are almost guaranteed a lost website visitor. While you may have terrific content, if placed out of context it might nullify the impact of the pop up. The popup has to offer something of value and has to be unique/novel while being related to the content on that specific page being visited. So having your most attractive discount coupon pop-up for your e-commerce store appearing instantly on your ‘About Us’ page is probably not going to help you get conversions and we’d suggest reconsidering.

Today, with the help of advanced technology, big data, and AI, pop-ups can be customized to make the best use of the content without being dubbed as intrusive or disruptive. “Though pop-ups defy logic and break the UI/UX of webpages, they are still one of the best ways to convert a visitor,” says Navadekar Shankar, Director at Jugmug, a web marketing platform for online sellers, “It’s all about finding the right mix of content, context, and design.”

Knowing When A Successful Pop-up Trend Starts Inducing Customer Fatigue

At the heart of good marketing lies the need to introduce your audience to a new, refreshing style of saying something. If done right, a new style adopted early can bring you more positive user interactions on your website. But most people adopt them too late, by the time the customer is already fatigued.

“The average adult is now spending more than 5 hours online every day,” says Rumit Gambhir, CEO of Mojojojo, a boutique digital marketing agency. “This ends up making the life-span of working trends incredibly short, given how many times the user is being struck by something similar elsewhere on the interwebs. For instance, the trend of introducing a playful call to action buttons on pop-ups to lure people to subscribe was a game-changer when it first started out. But now, the latest studies reveal that users just find it insulting most of the time.”

Google Penalizing Websites That Have Overly Intrusive Pop-Ups

Let’s consider a simple situation. Imagine going to a restaurant to eat a meal and before you can decide what you want to order the waiter comes over and asks you the following questions:

Waiter: “Hello sir, you can now buy a three bedroom flat in New York for under $300,000!”
You: “Not interested, thanks.”
Waiter: “Can we show you how you can grow your business by 10x in three weeks?”
You: “Nope, can I place my food order please?”
Waiter: “Of course sir. What would you like?”
You: “Can I get the chicken parmesan please?”
Waiter: “Sure sir. Would you like a customized wine bottle from our special collection for $299 only along with that?”

Frustrating right?

This is exactly why Google decided it needed to punish websites misusing their space on pop-up ads. Two years ago, Google introduced a pop-up penalty into their core algorithm which penalized mobile websites from displaying pop ups that were overly intrusive. Here are some examples of what ads they initially drew up for penalty:

And since then they’ve just gotten stricter on modifying website rankings based on the websites ad-quality. In July this year, Google introduced a long-awaited filter on all chrome browsers that aims to automatically block out all ads that are not compliant with their ad standards. So while Google may have its own set of problems with antitrust law cases, it’s surely taking measures to better the internet experience for its users.

What will be interesting to see now is how marketers will respond? Will they be willing to take the organic hit in ranks to maintain good conversion rates via disruptive popups? Time will tell.

Anant Jain
Anant Jain
COO COO at Creole Studios and an MBA who is the master Scrum samurai capable of slaying even the most vicious of project management demons.


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