Should I use Pop-Up ads on my website?

Should I use Pop-Up ads on my website? Stats show it increases conversion rates but we all hate them. I actually spent the better part of a day looking into this so thought I’d share what I found out and ultimately what I decided to do.

Great article here:

on “the good the bad and the ugly of pop up ads”. In a nutshell, it says we all hate them but it has been shown to be effective.

I have subscribed to many lists in the past year, probably over 60 different email newsletters and blasts, mostly dealing with entertainment, pro audio and business. When I thought about why I signed up to these groups I came up with these basic reasons:

  1. To free download (book or pdf, an “email for widget” or “email for download” exchange)
  2. To receive first news of product discounts (one company alone converted me to a $7,000 sale)
  3. To receive security and/or product updates
  4. To be informed on upcoming shows and album releases by an artist or performance venue

But there’s one thing in common with most of the lists I signed up with: Most of them did not have pop-up ads. Now the ones  I signed up for that DID have popup ads were products I was already very familiar with and was going to sign up any way. An excellent example of this is Universal Audio which had a popup to signup for discount offers. In that case I had already spent months researching their product lines and was considering a major purchase.

The problem with pop up advertisements is they usually hit the consumer too fast. Even if it’s an action based pop up (like a 5 second delay or action based on page scrolling), it usually hits before the consumer has time to digest the information and make the decision to engage in a truly permission-based exchange.

Sure, if you had a top pro you hired then they could create a perfect ad campaign for you where the popups happen at just the right moment for top conversion. One example might be where a pop-up happens when the mouse is tracked to be leaving the page (and I really hate those by the way, makes me feel like a trapped mouse).

For the rest of us just running our websites who want to still retain our air of human decency, don’t use popups. I have an additional reason for thinking in this direction. In the above article they mention Dan Zarrella – – who did a test and results showed that popup ads increased conversion with very little change to drop rate.

Here’s what I love about older tech articles: You can check a year or two later and see what those people are actually doing now (How many times have you been reading a post on the WordPress or tech site where someone has finally figured out a cool new widget, only to visit their website two years later and find out they abandoned it or there is no website at all).

So I visit the Dan Zarrella website and notice that, as of today, he is not using any pop-up advertisements at all. In fact, there’s a very classy signup on his sidebar that gently says “Get my 22 page report….” with an email signup. I signed up! I like his website, I like him and I like his product download. Heck, I even like his picture.

In my book, Dan Zarrella is applying best practices to a permission based customer exchange (email for widget). In the classic four stages of marketing (I’m taking Business classes with Berklee Online and feeling pretty smart right now) there is:

  • Awareness
  • Acquisition
  • Engagement
  • Monetizations

Acquisition is the step of getting contact info so you can move to the stage of engagement. The Acquisition stage needs to be permissions based. In other words, the contact needs to willingly give you their contact info without any tricks (In screenwriting the beginning of the Hero’s Journey is when the hero makes a sober and willing choice to take the journey, and one of the rules is that the hero cannot be tricked into, because that defeats the purpose of the journey making him into a hero – but I guess that’s a whole different post subject).

Short of a top professional actionable campaign, I don’t see where immediate popup ads are successful if you want genuine interaction. It does make sense to me to use them sparingly on specific pages. Let’s say I have a page with an order form to license one of my projects, so the person on that page has some interest, I might put a pop on that page saying “Do you have questions?” with an easy email link.

Even saying all this, I’m probably not going to be able to resist experimenting with those evil pop up ads at some point. So if you’re on this page and you get a pop up advertisement, I’m probably doing a comparison test.

Let me know your experience and insight into popups and if you’re into analytics and tech check out “The Social Media Scientist” Dan Zarrella at

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