Pop-ups are one of the trickiest marketing tools out there. They can either help improve your conversion rate or hinder it, depending on how you use them. Case studies show that pop-ups can increase conversion rates by 1000% or more, when they aren’t intrusive or annoying.

Luckily pop-ups have been around for a long time, so wise marketers already learned what strategies do and don’t work. Here are 5 common mistakes you should avoid in order to build an effective pop-up marketing strategy.

Mistake 1: Using a Full Page Pop-Up

Using a pop-up that covers the entire page will definitely get your audience’s attention, but not in a good way. Pop-ups are supposed to be a little disruptive, but not to the point of annoyance.

Stick to using pop-ups that grab attention but don’t completely block users from the content they’re consuming. There are many different kinds of pop-ups you can use that don’t cover the whole screen, such as floating-bar, sidebar, inline and side-in pop-ups.

Here’s an example of a floating bar pop-up from Salt Strong that captures attention but doesn’t take away from their blog content:

Floating Bar Pop up example

Sticking with a minimally intrusive pop-up also helps ensure good user experience on mobile devices, where even smaller pop-ups could potentially cover a whole page on small screens. Google has made note of this and actually penalizes sites that display intrusive pop-ups on pages listed in mobile search results. So, avoiding full-page pop-ups has double benefits for user experience and SEO.

Mistake 2: Messing Up Your Pop-Up Timing

The most effective pop-ups appear when site visitors can benefit from them the most. But most sites don’t get the timing right.

The most common mistake you’ll see is a site bombarding visitors with a pop-up call to action (CTA) before they’ve had a chance to consume any of the content on the page. That causes people to either close out the pop-up so they can go back to reading (therefore missing the pop-up content entirely), or navigate away from the page in annoyance.

There are two main ways you can control when a pop-up appears on your site:

  1. User behavior
  2. Time delay

For example, you can trigger a pop-up to display when someone clicks on a page element or tries to exit the page. You can also set a pop-up to appear after someone has scrolled a certain amount down the page (e.g., 25%).

This pop-up example from the Backlinko blog triggers when visitors scroll up the page:

scroll pop up example

Setting a pop-up to display after a five- or 10-second delay is another smart idea, except when people like to open tabs to read later. They always come back to see a pop-up before they’ve read a word of the content.

Pick a pop-up timing strategy that makes the most sense for your site, content, and audience. Then test it with your site visitors to see what works.

Mistake 3: Forgetting to Highlight Your Value Proposition

Pop-ups are effective because they’re disruptive and offer a strong CTA, showing site visitors what to do next. But they’re not particularly effective if they don’t illustrate why along with the how.

You’ve probably seen plenty of pop-ups that say “Sign up for our newsletter!” and leave it at that. But most people want to know what kind of value they should expect before offering up their email address.

To increase your conversion rate with pop-ups, try to include key details that show visitors why they should take action. Here’s a good example:

pop up example

If you’re promoting a free guide, highlight what they’ll learn from it. If you’re encouraging newsletter sign-ups, explain what kind of offers and insights they’ll receive. If you’re promoting a sale, use large bold lettering to draw attention to when it starts and ends.

Even if you think the benefits are implied, spell them out with your web copy to help encourage more conversions.

Mistake 4: Using Generic or Irrelevant Pop-Ups

Many marketers make the mistake of creating generic pop-ups for their site. These fail to provide a targeted message, and conversions suffer as a result.

Instead you should always design pop-ups specifically to match the pages they’ll appear on and lead to. Our blog, for example, targets marketers and agencies who want to improve their strategies with the help of marketing automation. So this software comparison guide pop-up that displays is super-relevant to that audience’s needs, and it leads to a page with more relevant info:

SharpSpring pop up example

When creating targeted pop-ups, you should also make sure you don’t mismatch them with the wrong site content. For example, if someone’s browsing your e-commerce store for bathroom accessories, don’t serve them a pop-up for discounts on living room furniture.

Mistake 5: Using Too Many Pop-Ups

Pop-ups are a powerful, effective marketing tool, but only if you use them sparingly. If you treat every site page and blog post as an opportunity to display pop-ups, you’re bound to annoy many more people than you’ll convert.

Here’s an example of a site that highlights their daily promotions in a full-page pop-up:

full page pop up example

Highlighting your daily deals is a good strategy, but it would be better served as a sidebar or banner instead of a full page pop-up every day.

Instead use pop-ups only on key pages that get a lot of traffic or where visitors are likely to convert, like your homepage or cornerstone blog content. Try to minimize the chances that a site visitor will encounter multiple pop-ups in their browsing session. You can also track your site visitors to ensure you don’t keep displaying the same pop-ups to people who’ve already converted.

Follow the Rules, Optimize Your Results

Pop-ups are effective at capturing your site visitors’ attention, but actually driving them to action is different story. Effective pop-ups strike a balance between offering value at the right time and in the right places to help you capture leads and drive conversions. Avoid these 5 common mistakes, and you’re guaranteed to get the most out of pop-ups for your marketing goals.

Koertni Adams