There’s a time and a place for strategic website popups — just like a street vendor selling umbrellas on a sunny day that quickly turns grey, your customers won’t engage unless it makes sense.

In other words, a pop-up should feel like a well-timed solution, not an unwelcome interruption.

With that, let’s dive into pop-ups: what works, what doesn’t and, more importantly, the most appropriate times to display them. If you check all the boxes on the “when” — then this could be a sound digital marketing tactic for your brand. If not, you may want to save those pop-ups for a rainy (or better targeted) day.


What is a Website Pop-Up?

Simply put, a pop-up is a form of online advertising or user engagement tool. It “pops up” and displays content in a new window or overlay on top of the content the user is currently viewing.

The primary goal is to capture the user’s attention toward specific actions, such as signing up for newsletters, grabbing an offer or getting more information about a product or service — and it works, when executed well.

In fact, one iPaper study assessing more than 2 billion pop-ups found 28% of the top performing ads led to a conversion. Now, when it comes to variety, let’s explore the different types of website pop-ups:


Entry Pop-Ups

As soon as a visitor lands on a website, these pop-ups appear. They’re beneficial for immediate offers or crucial announcements.

Entry Pop-Ups

Take a look at Skullcandy’s approach to welcoming visitors. Right off the bat, it lays down a simple offer: “Unlock 10% off your order.” It’s casual, inviting and suggests a benefit without any heavy lifting; asking for nothing more than an email address.

It shows an understanding of today’s online shopping environment, in which users are more likely to engage when the ask is easy and the reward is immediate. Minimizing user effort, Skullcandy enhances the likelihood of conversion, demonstrating that sometimes less is indeed more.


Exit-Intent Pop-Ups

Triggered when the user’s cursor moves toward closing a tab or window, an exit-intent pop-up is a last-ditch effort to capture attention or offer value.

Exit-Intent Pop-Ups

In The Vintage Kitchen tailors their exit-intent pop-up with the timely phrase “Thank you for stopping by…”

This approach, combined with a dash of brand personality and the clever addition of a phone number field for SMS engagements, underscores how strategic engagements can foster user loyalty and interaction.


Scroll-Based Pop-Ups

These appear when a user has scrolled a specific percentage of a page. They’re great for further engaging readers who are consuming your educational content and may be ready for something more actionable.

Scroll-Based Pop-Ups

As users navigate Help Scout’s article on customer service scripts, an intriguing pop-up emerges: “The Supportive Weekly: A newsletter for people who want to deliver exceptional customer service.”

Beyond the immediate value of the blog, Help Scout also instills a sense of belonging. It entices readers with the prospect of joining a vast, like-minded community, eager to excel in customer service and support.


Timed Pop-Ups

These show up after a user has spent a predetermined amount of time on a site or page, effective for users who are engaged but might be on the fence about an offer or subscription.

Timed Pop-Ups

After a calculated 26 seconds on HubSpot’s site, visitors are presented with a strategic pop-up: “Join 600,000+ fellow marketers.” Like Help Scout, HubSpot highlights their community and taps into a desire to be part of a greater collective.

Paired with the promise of “expert marketing tips straight to your inbox,” the pop-up effectively offers both belonging and expertise, compelling visitors to sign up and enhance their marketing prowess.


Floating Bars

Not quite the traditional pop-up, floating bars stay either at the top or bottom of the browser window and move along as users scroll. They’re less intrusive but remain consistently visible.

Floating Bars

ActiveCampaign uses a floating bar opt-in positioned subtly at the top of their site. The seamless integration of the bar aligns with best practices for unobtrusive yet effective list-building tools, proving that simplicity, when done right, works.

Now, let’s explore when it makes sense to use website pop-ups.


When Timing Aligns with User Engagement

The first few moments a visitor spends on your site are crucial. It’s like the opening chapter of a book — it sets the tone. But the timing of pop-ups depends greatly on your brand and website. Show a pop-up too soon, and you might deter a potential reader. Wait until they’re immersed, and your pop-up can add value, like a helpful footnote.

After analyzing 513 million pop-ups from 2021-2022, Wisepops discovered that the best time to show a pop-up on a website is about four seconds. Specifically, welcome pop-ups with offers, appearing at 4 seconds, achieved a 3.88% conversion rate (CVR).

From there, 5-9 seconds got 1.60%, 10-14 seconds 1.30%, 15-19 seconds 1.74%, 20-24 seconds 2.29%, 25-30 seconds 3.14% and more than 30 seconds, 3.18%. The takeaway? Being quick off the mark wins, but if you’re a tad late, aim for when readers are truly engaged. However, one size doesn’t fit all. Leverage website analytics tools to discern how visitors engage with your site. Identifying when they’re most receptive is key, but remember, the right timing varies from brand to brand.


When You Understand Your Brand & Audience

Every effective marketing strategy begins with understanding the audience. Think of a pop-up as a conversation starter. To be successful, it must be relevant to the listener. As you craft your pop-up, consider the following questions:

  • Who are you targeting? Dive into your audience’s habits, preferences and pain points. Tools like Google Analytics can offer a detailed breakdown of who’s visiting your website — and their search intent.
  • What are they trying to accomplish? Align your pop-up with the user’s journey. If they’re reading a blog, a related post or whitepaper download might pique their interest.
  • What do you offer? The pop-up should encapsulate the core of what you offer to cement a consistent brand experience and provide an extra value-add beyond what’s typically available on your site.


When Offering Relevant Value

Modern website visitors are savvy — they know their worth and aren’t easily swayed by glittery but empty offers. It’s not enough to dangle the word “free,” what matters is offering relevant value — something that feels tailored to their needs.

Consider what your audience truly seeks. Are they hunting for insights? A special discount that feels exclusive? A guide that solves a common problem? Tune into their needs and craft pop-ups that address those directly to be a helpful voice, rather than another online noise.


When the Context Demands Attention

Imagine you’re delving deep into insights about inventory management, and at the peak of your interest, a pop-up appears, offering an in-depth guide. It’s as if the site anticipated your need.

Relevance is the name of the game. If a visitor lingers on the “Pricing” page, perhaps they’re contemplating a decision. Introducing a pop-up with an offer for consultation or a discount could be just the nudge they need.

And with the advancements in today’s analytics, it’s even possible to predict when someone is on the verge of leaving. Seize that moment. Present a compelling offer, a webinar or whitepaper, and turn a potential exit into a meaningful engagement.


When Tailored to Specific Pages

Each page on your website has its own purpose and narrative. It’s vital to understand that a pop-up fitting for an in-depth article might not suit your homepage, but rather a more in-depth, internal one. Aligning pop-ups with the intent and content of each page allows you to enhance the user experience.

A pop-up on a product feature page can offer supplementary details or case studies, enhancing their research. Conversely, on a contact page, a pop-up might simplify their outreach by offering a direct live chat option or a callback feature.


When Adapted to the Device at Hand

Pop-ups demonstrate a higher conversion efficiency on mobile, boasting a rate of 5.8%, compared to 3.1% on desktop. This highlights the growing need to prioritize and perfect mobile pop-up designs without sidelining desktop.

To do this, consider the habits of modern users. On mobile, they might be on the move, seeking quick answers. A concise, visually engaging pop-up can catch their eye.

On desktop, where users might be more inclined to explore, a detailed pop-up offering further insights or extended offers could be the ticket.


When You’re Ready to Deliver on Your Promise

Every pop-up is, in essence, a pact between you and the visitor. If you promise a special offer, a valuable piece of content or a unique experience, the route to realizing that promise should be crystal clear. Stumbling blocks like broken links, tedious sign-up steps or vague instructions erode trust.

On the other hand, when a user finds that the journey from pop-up click to promise fulfillment is seamless and as expected, it doesn’t just validate their click, it bolsters their confidence in your brand. The key? Automated emails sent directly to their inbox immediately after requesting the offer, signup or download. So, before unveiling that pop-up, double-check that the entire experience is seamless from start to finish.

Ready to make your pop-ups, well, pop for all the right reasons? Our team of marketing experts are here to help. Explore our full suite of inbound marketing services.