Popup Forms: The Truth Behind The Controversy
You either love them or hate them and for the most part, bloggers seem against them. So was I, until my research brought a few interesting stats to my attention.
More on the numbers later, but if I were setting the scene on popup forms, I’d say they are mostly used by Internet marketers as a strong list building technique. However, nowadays this is a short-sighted misconception as some of the most respected websites online use them.
In today’s post, I reveal the truth behind popup forms by considering a range of sub-topics including which websites have successfully used popup forms, case studies and best practice to ensure you give this strategy the best shot before reaching your own informed conclusion.
What are Popup Forms?
If you haven’t explicitly heard of them, modal popup forms can emerge anywhere on a web page but generally in the middle or the top of a page where visitors have the option of closing the box or filling it out. What is the rationale behind using these forms? Here are just a few reasons:
- They allow your visitors to focus their attention on the form alone. Some types will even grey out the rest of the web page.
- It prompts your visitor to take action whether they sign up or hit the close button.
- Popup forms are relevant to the visitor given they’ve landed on your page in search of information relating to a topic. On the contrary, pop-up ads are often disconnected to the content presented on a website.
Which Websites Use Popup Forms?
The list includes LewisHowes, Social Media Examiner and Quicksprout to name a few. I would recommend having a look at firstly how they position their form and secondly, what are they offering in exchange for your details.
Popup Form Case Studies
Case Study 1: Social Media Examiner
Aweber released a report in 2012, which concentrated on the key lessons from Michael Stelzner (founder of Social Media Examiner), on how their email list grew by 234% in one year!
While the popup form alone didn’t attribute to this figure, Stelzner estimated that nearly 70% of their email subscriptions resulted from their form.
Wondering how they didn’t annoy their visitors? Social Media
Social Media Examiner used cookies meaning the form would only appear once per user and the design was almost identical to the site-wide opt-in form, which sits in the sidebar.
Case Study 2: Nikki, In Stitches
Nikki McGonigal, owner of Nikki in Stitches, uses both a lightbox and a static sidebar form. The lightbox appears every 60 days per unique visitor (within 2seconds), and like Social Media Examiner, the static form permanently sits there.
Both the static and lightbox went live in August 2012 and the results after 8 months were compelling.
The lightbox resulted in an astounding 1,375% more sign ups than the static form, which goes to show that sometimes you need to be nimble with your visitors when wanting a particular action undertaken.
Case Study 3: Matthew Woodward
Matthew Woodward tested an email popup form on his self-titled blog in February this year, however, his observation makes for an interesting discussion.
Matthew specifically looked at his site engagement levels pre and post popup and his analytics were not exactly kind. The numbers showed a drop of 9.5% across key critical engagement metrics.
Before the popup, Matthew’s conversion rate sat at 0.85%, and once the popup went live, his rate went up by 44.71% to 1.23%. Sounds decent, right?
In March this year, Matthew received 13,487 unique visitors and based on the above percentages, he would have gotten 114 subscribers (without the popup) and 166 with it. That’s an additional 52 subscribers based on the same traffic levels.
The difficulty with this stat is that it comes at a cost with his visitors dropping 9.29% pages/visit, 10.2% visit duration and a drop of 9.02% off the bounce rate.
Does the increase in conversions by 44% negate the 9.5% drop in site engagement? That’s for Matthew to decide…
Best Practice For Popup Forms
Now that you have a foundation of popup forms, I’ll take you through a few general rules for optimization, and while these can be deemed as best practice methods, you should still test to find what works best on your visitors.
1. When should your popup forms appear?
Knowing when your popup appears is half the battle to getting the results you’re after. Based on my research, I would suggest having your popup appear at least 60 seconds after your visitor lands on your website.
Having it appear any earlier could significantly risk putting your visitor off and therefore enhancing your bounce rate. If you leave it too late, your potential subscriber my have already left.
2. Leave your popups to the end
The readers who go through your content from start to finish are generally hooked to what you have to say – a good opportunity to convert them into subscribers.
As a caveat to this strategy, please be mindful that your conversions will rely heavily on the quality of your content. If you produce content which leaves your audience begging for more, the chances of obtaining an email address is high.
I wouldn’t use this strategy if you already have an opt-in form at the end of each post which is common these days.
3. Consider page views and time filters
If the first date goes well for him, chances are the girl will want to see more of you and this analogy is no different with your blog. If your visitor is opening up more than one page on your blog, they are interested in more thus increasing the likelihood of subscribing.
Having your popup appear after one page view will boost your conversion rate, but this means your impressions are lower.
With popup forms, try and set page views and timing as filters given some visitors have a tendency to open several pages at once and these filters will only allow your form to appear for people who read your content.
4. Attention grabbing headline
As a blanket whether it be post headlines, landing pages, your popup forms have to feature a prominent headline to entice your visitors into providing their email address.
I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines of this nature before..
“Want more traffic, leads and sales?“
“Receive a flood of more leads and sales on Linkedin!“
Work on a headline that will make it hard for your visitors to not give in. Try different variations every so often and keep track of the sign ups or lack of sign ups to see which headline works best.
5. What’s in it for me?
Time and real estate on a popup form is scarce so you really have your work cut out. Make sure you write your value proposition in an easy to read manner so your visitor can quickly skim through to see if what you offer is of value to them.
Bullet points and a catchy image usually works best as opposed to a long-winded paragraph which can be cumbersome.
WordPress Plugins: Popup Forms
If you are running your website on WordPress, I figured it would be worthwhile listing a few recognised plugins to test out popup forms on your own site:
OptinSkin, developped by Glen Allsopp (owner of Viperchill), is the clear leader in terms of features and flexibility (which is why I recommend it in my list building guide). It is used by many major online marketers such as Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. Some of the key features are:
- A/B split-testing
- Fully customizable designs
- Eye-catching visual effects
- Analytics to track every popup
- One-click installation of forms
- Full integration will all the major email list providers
PopUp Domination has been around long enough and is used by a few well known marketers such as Lewis Howes, Yanik Silver and Gideon Shalwick.
PopUp Domination includes a number of key features which can be found in other popups as well, such as:
- A/B testing
- Target which pages and categories you want your popup forms to appear on.
- Enhanced customisation to get the look and feel which suits your business
Pippity seems to be gaining some traction recently. It is used on sites such as Duct Tape Marketing and Content Marketing Institute. Some of the key elements within Pippity include:
- Built in analytics to track every popup
- Track conversion rates to determine which popup works best for you
- Set your popup forms to appear at the end of posts
- Have your popup appear after a specific number of pageviews
In summary, the use of popup forms is an effective strategy for increasing the size your mailing list, but you have to be cautious with your approach in order to avoid any obvious consequences such as lower levels of engagement or simply turning them off completely.
Most business owners still consider the use of popup forms as annoying but realize the effectiveness of this strategy because it works!
My advice would be to test and keep testing, as this is the only way to discover which approach works best for your niche and website.
Given the controversial nature of popup forms, it’s only fitting that we reach out to hear your feedback. What are your thoughts on this strategy and if you have used them, have you witnessed an increase in subscribers?