the blog The Art of EntrePreneurship

“To Pop or Not to Pop?” How to Use Pop-Ups to Enhance, Not Hurt, Your List Building Efforts

I’ve found myself doing A LOT of online shopping lately.

My daughter, Olivia, is 2 months old now and she seems to grow out of clothes faster than I can order them. I was recently perusing a new children’s clothing site called Bella Bliss, when a pop-up appeared offering me 15% off my first order.

Now a lot of people hate pop-up’s. But personally, when I am considering ordering from a brand new company, I find a first time discount extremely enticing.

In fact, I had my eye on a certain little eyelet number for the 70 degree Spring weather that we’ve been enjoying in NYC, and though it was a bit spendy for such a tiny little piece of clothing I couldn’t resist.
The discount presented to me in the pop-up pushed me over the edge and I placed my first order to see if it would really be as cute as in the pictures.

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The order arrived promptly and fit Oliva perfectly.

I’m now on their list, and after being sent an email yesterday about some new Spring additions, I placed my second (substantial) order yesterday.

And to think I may not have given the company a try at all if it hadn’t been for that pop-up!

So pop-ups…

Invasive or interesting? Rude or clever? Polished or just pushy?

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No matter how you feel about them, pop-up boxes on websites are here to stay, because love them or hate them, pop-ups are an irrefutable way to increase not only your sign-ups but also your sales.

On average, businesses see between 150% and 1100% increase in email sign ups with pop-ups. (Income Diary)

Plus, businesses have seen an increase in sales by more than 40% when adding a pop-up. (Conversion Voodoo)

I’ve been using pop-ups in both my ecommerce and my information businesses for years and generated thousands of leads and thousands of dollars in sales.

As with most marketing tactics, there’s a right way and an annoying way to use pop-ups on your site. Deploy them politely and they enhance your customer experience rather than detracting from it.

Have I convinced you yet to at least try out and test a pop-up?

What most people don’t realize, is that there are strategic ways to use pop-ups that actually enhance the visitor experience (instead of just disrupting it).

And because we are concerned with every aspect of how our customers experience our brand, we definitely want to find a way to make pop-ups work for us and for our visitors.


One key factor is timing. Timing is any incredibly critical factor when it comes to how your audience will respond to a pop-up.

With most pop-up applications, you can tweak the settings to show the pop-up at different times, or based on different customer behaviors.

Here are 4 Timing Tricks to make your pop-ups more POPULAR!

  • Page Views – after they click to a second page on your website, have a pop-up
  • End of Posts – once they are finished reading your website page, have a pop-up
  • Timing – count 5 seconds before showing a pop-up  (Conversion XL – App Sumo Study)
  • Entry/Exit – when someone enters or leaves your site, have a pop-up

The most recommended tactic for high conversions is to use page views.

Often, people who click to at least 1 additional page on your website are more likely to be a more engaged customer or client.

Plus, to avoid the annoyance factor, there is even a setting available on some software that makes sure a pop-up won’t show again to a person if they’ve already seen it (within the last X-number of days).

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Bellami Hair Extensions uses an exit-intent pop-up, meaning it only appears when the user is about to leave the website.  The pop-up offers a $5-off coupon — but only if you use it right away. It creates urgency and a reason to stay on the website.


Another key factor is what your pop-up looks like and contains in terms of content.

So how do you build the Perfect Pop-Up?

There’s a certain formula to start out with when designing your pop up: It must have a headline, benefit bullets, photo and call to action. Trust symbols, testimonials, and a protection statement (that says you don’t spam or sell emails) are optional.

So let’s break each of these down.


  • Should be less than 16 words
  • Attract the RIGHT customers and clients
  • Keep it Short, Simple, Specific

You can use a tool like the Emotional Value Headline Analyzer to craft compelling headlines. It’s not just for blog posts or articles — try it for your popup headlines too!


  • Limit yourself to 3 bullets
  • Write out your features and finish with “so that” to reveal the benefits
  • Try to limit each bullet to under 10 words

Remember: Features tell and benefits sell, so be sure to get the “why” in each of your bullets.  For example, a feature would be “The shirt features a scoop neck,” the benefit would be “so that you draw attention to your face and look slimmer.”


  • For a deliverable (ebook, video, audio): create an image of the physical item.
  • For a coupon: build a photo replica. Make the number extremely prominent.
  • For general email sign ups for a personal brand, a photo of you is a great option!

Specific is better than general for the photo here, so avoid cheesy stock photos if you can help it and include a specific image of what they get for signing up whenever possible.


  • Be specific:
    • Sign Up for Newsletter
    • Get a % Coupon Now
  • Use an action color that contrasts with the rest of your site
  • Only require email and first name OR just email

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An iPhone and iPad case maker, Dodo Case, has a clever exit-intent pop-up that prompts people to enter the kind of phone they use to receive a 10% off “reward.”

I love that they’re using their pop-up to collect data about their customers, as well as the fact that they call the incentive a “reward” instead of a coupon.

Finally, they also have clever copy at the bottom. To close the box, you click a link that reads, “No thanks, I don’t have a cell phone and I prefer to pay full price.”  Who prefers to pay full price?? No one!

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There is a long list of pop-up tools to choose from. Currently I’m using Pop Up Domination, but had it custom programmed to reflect the look and feel of my brand, for my own website.

**Spoiler Alert** — I’m actually working on developing some pop-up software as we speak that will make designing beautiful, high-converting pop-ups super easy. So stay tuned…

But until then, I’ve outlined some of your best options in the Perfect Pop Up Worksheet, which you can click here to download.It also includes a handy comparison chart to help you decide which tool is right for you.

Amateurs guess, pros test.

One last note about pop-up boxes is that what works for one business may or may not work for every other business. There’s no one-size-fits-all option. Which is why you’ll have to run a few tests.

In website parlance, running two versions of something and comparing how well they do is called split testing.  You might choose to compare two different headlines, different timing, or different colors and see which combinations work the best.

Split testing both the design (copy, color and layout) and the actual Lead Magnet offer is key.

For instance we’ve found that the color red vs blue performs better on pop-ups. (But this is definitely something that you will want to test and see for yourself.)

Some pop-up software includes features that make split-testing simpler, but anyone can run a split test by trying one combination, recording the results, and then trying another.  Remember to only change one variable at a time, so that you can tell exactly which tweak has the most impact.

Taking your efforts one step further like this is the difference between an average business owner, who just guesses at what’s working, and a great business owner, who knows what’s working, because she’s tested it.

Don’t forget to download the Perfect Pop Up Worksheet and get started growing your list with this amazing tool!


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