Optimization Study – Do Opt-in Popups Really Work?

Email opt-ins popups can be a great way for internet marketers to capture an email address theoretically, but does it really work these days? The short answer is yes they do work, but the important question to ask is to what extent do they work.

popups good or evil


What Kind of Sites do Opt-in Popups work well with?


While you can put a popup on any type of site, you generally do not see them on very large sites that people go to primarily for entertainment (Yahoo.com, TMZ.com, etc.). These sites rely on ad impressions and the last thing these kinds of companies want to do is turn visitors off with a popup.

The sites that do well with opt-in popups are ones that work more with affiliate networks for revenue, or websites that aren’t quite as popular but still update often with new content.

build a website for your ebook

The value of a visitor is much higher for the latter types of sites, meaning that everything that can be done must be done to turn them into either a promoter, lead, or paying customer.

Sending emails to these users is a great way to get them to share the site, or re-visit it and the best method of capturing these emails involves making it perfectly clear you need their email address.


Pop-ups vs. On-page Email Capture Opportunities


The majority of people are going to click the “close” button on an email pop-up, but there will be those who enter their email now that they have a clear opportunity to do so. For them, it is like the website is asking them for a bit of information for providing the content that got them there in the first place.

This makes it much more likely that they will fill in their email address, since they have a clear chance to do it right in front of their face.

on page email form captures

Other on-page email capture boxes or links to an email capture page are still useful, but they will not get anywhere near the traffic your opt-in pop-up will. This is because they can be easily overlooked. You can place them as best as you can but they will never be in your face with no distraction like a pop-up will.

You can expect to see anywhere from double the opt-in rate as opposed to before putting the pop-up into place, to over five times the expected number of opt-ins without the pop-up.


Which Pop-ups Work the Best?


Any pop-up that offers the user something of value will convert much better than just a generic form asking for an email address. Another way to use these pop-ups is to have them appear towards the very end of a page. This way, when a user is done, or almost done reading, they will have the opportunity to opt-in, without having it in their face as soon as they get on the website.

what optin plugin to choose

This should negate the negligible bounce rate spike you might receive when you first put pop-ups on your site, and the visitor may feel more inclined to share their email if they gained a lot of information from your content.


What Kind of Conversion Rate can You Expect?


The conversion rate of an opt-in pop-up is going to vary quite a bit depending on the type of website the user is visiting. Conventional wisdom would tell us that a website that would normally convert “well” will see a much higher conversion rate with an pop-up as opposed to a site that would not convert well in the first place.

A website owner’s main concern should be to increase the percentage of visitors who opt-in, which is almost automatic with a good pop-up. Take for example the case of Unbounce.com, they tried out an opt-in pop-up with their blog to see how many more people they could get to join their mailing list.

what kind of conversion increase can you expect

They found that they could get a signup rate of about 14.5%, which is incredible. An important fact to note here is that the blog specifically targets those in the internet marketing niche, and their blog posts can help people earn more money, but the fact remains that a pop-up box really does work.

As far as your personal conversion rate, you can probably expect to see at least double the number of opt-ins that you would usually get. If you optimize your pop-up, you can expect to see an even higher opt-in rate, depending on your vertical.


The Best Way to Use Pop-ups


Shoving a pop-up in the face of a website visitor immediately when they land on your page will increase your bounce rate, and decrease your average time spent on site metric significantly. When someone comes to your site, they want something from you – information, entertainment, etc.

By asking something from them immediately, the visitor will be put off by your website and press the back button.

the best ways to use popups

There are a few of good options to consider when deciding how you are going to use an opt-in pop-up:

  • Time triggered
  • Pageview triggered
  • Scroll triggered


1. A time triggered pop-up relies on you setting a certain amount of time between when the user lands on your site, and when the pop-up is presented to the visitor. Setting this too quickly can result in a lot of people clicking out of it since they are either invested in your content, or they exit your website because of a perceived annoyance.

Set it too long and some visitors will leave of their own accord before even getting a chance to see it. Expert opinions range from 15-60 seconds, but it is generally something that you need to A/B test for yourself.

Every website has a unique audience, and their behavior cannot always be predicted well enough to give a blanket answer. Try out 30 seconds as a starting out point and adjust up and down from there. This should give visitors enough time to get through some of your content, but not enough time to exit the site.

2. Triggering your pop-up based on pageviews is a great way to get people who are very interested in what you have to say to sign up. In this case, a pop-up appears only after a user visits another page on your website.

If your website has a lot of content and gets updated often, this can be an excellent way to grow an email list that sees more engagement than a normal list. If the pop-up triggers on the second page view, you will miss out on anyone exiting the site after the first page.

This is why a pageview triggered opt-in pop-up is not very popular among internet marketers, especially for those who see a high exit rate after the initial landing page visit.

 3. Scroll triggered pop-ups are a fairly popular method of initiating opt-ins, especially since it will not distract the user as soon as they get on your site. Typically, a scroll triggered pop-up will appear near the end of an article, after the visitor has had a chance to read what they came there for, but before they have the chance to exit.

These can be particularly effective since the visitor has already gained some value from your site, and now sees a chance to gain even more value from opting in to your email list.


What should you use as your popup content


Designing a good looking pop-up can have a considerable effect on your conversion rate. The last thing you want to do is have your opt-in appear spammy, the best way to avoid this is to stay away from flashy buttons, bright text, etc. A sleek design, or even just a simple design, should be enough to encourage people to put in their email address.

best popup content

One of the best things you can do to increase your conversion rate is to offer something – usually an ebook or coupon, in exchange for an email address. Visitors know your website offers them something of value, which is why they are there in the first place, but not necessarily enough to get them to give you personal information.

By framing it like a trade, visitors will be more likely to opt-in, knowing they are going to get something tangible in return immediately. In a recent case study, going this route helped bump conversions up by 300-400% above the baseline rate.

All from offering a few simple pieces of information that provide real value to visitors.


Implementing the Popup on WordPress


Putting your opt-in pop-up in place does not have to be difficult, especially with a content management system like WordPress, which is used by a little over 20% of all new websites in the U.S. Since there is a good chance that you will be using WordPress for your site, the following list will cover a couple of the most popular free opt-in pop-up plugins available to site owners.

1. Optin Revolution – This free plugin may be one of the easiest ways to get an opt-in pop-up on your site within minutes. There is a step-by-step guide which shows you exactly how to configure the pop-up to your liking.

This includes setting a timer, adding images, video, and integrating with the list manager of your choice. For those starting out with opt-in pop-ups, this is a great way to get your feet wet and help grow your list.

It is missing a few features, such as an easy way to A/B test different pop-ups, but it would work great for those who do not have much experience with lists or pop-ups.

2. Popups – WordPress Popup – another good free plugin, it has quite 9000 installs and a rating of 4.9 out of 5 which is quite high for a free plugin of this kind. It has a couple of interesting features like – show popup depending on referrer, show popup on specific pages, templates, posts.

If you like and want more features it also has a premium version with a couple more options like exit intent technology, track impression and conversions and a couple more.

3. PopupAlly – a nice free wordpress plugin for creating a popup, over 10.000 installs and a great rating. It has exit intent capabilities so there’s no need to upgrade to a premium version to get that. It has a nice visual editor that you can use to create you own popups quite easy and fast.

It’s quite easy to send all the new signups to your list as it is compatible with all of the following: Aweber, MailChimp, MadMimi, iContact, GetResponse, Infusionsoft, Ontraport, and any other email marketing systems that provides HTML opt-in code!

For people that need more instruction on how to set it up video tutorials are provided so it should be quite easy to set your first pop-up really fast.

4. ITRO Popup Plugin – they boast to be the best plugin of this sort, with over 20.000 installs and a rating of 4.5 out of 5, they might just be.  It has a nice user interface and you can design your popup easily, you can also add fade-in and fade-out animations to it.

This plugin also has an age validation feature that you can set if you want only people above a certain age to view your site and you can also set a timer for the popup to automatically close.

5. WordPress PopUp this is a plugin created by wpmudev, with over 30.000 installs but with a lower rating ( currently 3 out of 5). It’s a responsive  and customizable and it has several nice features for the free platform, however if you want to take advantage of its full power you will need to get the pro version – this might be the reason why many people gave it a smaller rating.

You can set when a pop-up appears based on time, clicks, CSS markers and location and you also  control who sees a pop-up including logged out users, search engine visitors and visitors who have never commented.


What should you take from this

As you saw from the above list, the free plugins usually have limitations or fewer features. If you’re just starting one of those will definitely be enough. However if you’re serious about your site you’ll need something more powerful.

getting to a conclusion

Either upgrade one of the free plugins that you used and like ( that’s basically why they offer it for free in the first place) or get a paid plugin that has everything that you need from the start.

Opt-in pop-ups have worked pretty much since the day the first one went up on a website. There is a reason why more websites seem to use them now as opposed to even just a couple of years ago – the results. A good internet marketer is always looking for ways to increase their earnings even just a tiny bit, adding this type of pop-up usually offers a visitor value, without looking like a blatant ad.


Marketer and social media expert. I started out doing regular website SEO back in 2005 when things were a lot easier. Adapted to the changes and tried everything myself in order to see what really works and what doesn't. Even if I see all the gurus advocating for a way or other of doing things I always want to see the results with my own eyes so I do my own testing. Be sure that if you're reading my articles what I talk about in them really works. Fell in love with Social media a few years back when I started looking for alternate ways of driving traffic to my sites. The interaction and meeting new and interesting people all while actually working is a great way of doing things.

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Sunday

    Opt-in Popup form still works. It all depends on the where, when and how it is set up. Personally, I am not attracted to any popup plugin that readily becomes distracting.

    The good news is that there are lots of opt-in forms in WordPress that can be customized to achieve set objectives.

    A good opt-in popup form should appeal and offer value to the visitor or viewer so that high conversion would be achieved.

    My takeaway from this post is that we have opportunity to access and share variety of pop-up opt-ins plugins if we readily apply the WordPress program!

    1. Johnny

      Hi Sunday, thank you for your input, indeed it all depends on how well you set your opt-in popup and on what kind of site you do, but the main idea is that it can work wonders if used correctly.

  2. kiran

    nice post …. please can you tell me how can i use pop up for Adsense

    1. Johnny

      Well, that was not the main idea, using it to get opt-ins was, what do you mean by using it for adsense, actually putting the adsense code inside the popup?

  3. Johnny

    Hi Adeel,

    Actually the post was published here and only shared there. Thanks for your input, it’s important to see how people actually use it.

  4. Shamsudeen

    Hi Jonny,

    Nice and detailed, I have tried out optin-revolution – Free version – but confused a bit about it, so I just delete it and move on with other options. From your description, it seems I will give pop-up Ally a trial.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Johnny

      Go for it, do some test runs and see for yourself if it will work for your business.

  5. metz

    Neil Patel, a well-regarded marketer, has indicated he got good results using opt-in-pop-ups. In addition, opt-in pop-ups result in 1,000% increase in conversions if done very well!

    There are different kinds of pop-ups and each converts well if used correctly.

    Well, for me, in your post, “The Best Way to Use Pop-ups” is one of the most important subtopic to read upon. This will lead us to be on the track.

    It’s an epic yet very educating kind of article. I recommend this to everyone! Thanks for sharing this! Opt-in op-ups shouldn’t be underestimated.

    1. Johnny

      Not everybody will reach a % that high, but if used correctly it definitely has the potential to increase the opt-ins like you wouldn’t think possible 🙂

  6. Sherman Smith

    Hey Johnny,

    I use to be so against pop ups when I first started blogging. At first to me they were quite irritating because of course my main goal was to get something out of the blog I went to.

    Now I see the benefits of implementing pop ups. That is, if it follows the guidelines you mentioned in their use. You definitely don’t want to irritate your visitors and also you want to give them the opportunity to opt in.

    The only free opt in product I only knew of were SumoMe and Magic Action Box. I never knew of the ones you mentioned. But like you said, the free ones have their limitation and it’s best to upgrade. Right now I use Thrive Leads, and the one thing I really like most about it is their A/B Testing feature which makes it even more convenient for all of us bloggers.

    Thanks for sharing Johnny! Have a good one!

    1. Johnny

      Thanks for sharing what you’re using Sherman, there are a lot of them out there and not everyone can test them all, some new or lesser known ones could be great, it’s just a matter of testing them until you find exactly what you need.

  7. Johnny

    They definitely got a lot better and that is why anyone that tried them before and disregarded them should give them another go.

  8. Johnny

    Hi Dom, I know what you mean about popups interrupting your reading, they are quite annoying and if the reader is in a hurry he might just search for another source. However the popups have become more configurable, you can set them to show up only for the second page view for example, this will guaranteed that you read what you came for with no interruption and it will only popup if you’re really into it and check other stuff as well, at which point it might not be such a bother.

  9. Johnny

    Hi David, you are right it’s a thin line, but the important thing is that it’s there so you can find it and profit if used the right way.

  10. Ivan Bayross

    Hi Johnny,

    I just purchased PopUp Domination after reading a lot about it on the web. BTW, I’m terribly disappointed in their service, none of my requests for help via their – Help Desk – have been answered.

    I always wanted to experiment with a PopUp to capture a site visitors Email Id to grow my mailing list and hence I invested. Like you, I believe they work if used in moderation so as not to irritate the site visitor.

    I completely agree that the value of site visitor is much higher for websites trying to ensure some affiliate revenue OR increase their affiliate revenue.

    When the PopUp offers something of real value to the site visitor the chances of them offering their Email Id in exchange is really high, then when the PopUp offers nothing in exchange for their Email Id.

    I’ve offered different things via the PopUp I use Free E-Books, Free responsive WordPress themes, A Free 1 hour Skype consulting call and so on. I’ve found Free E-Books work well for me, especially since the E-Book is of really great quality with a lot of useful, actionable information.

    PopUps are really great because of being – In your face – as you’ve pointed out in your Blog post. They grab the attention of the site visitor in a way that a template embedded newsletter / freebie form just cannot.

    I signed up on UnBounce using their PopUp. I’m pretty sure I’d have ignored any signup for they would have embedded in their site template. After their reading content for a bit I was actually looking for a way to sign up and the PopUp appeared – Great timing.

    I personally like PopUps to trigger on scroll, i.e. when the site visitor reaches more than half way down the page or on exit, when the site visitor indicates that they are about to exit the page by moving their mouse cursor upwards to the Browser Address bar. I’ve found these triggers work best for me. As you’ve pointed out, throwing the PopUp immediately when a site visitor hits your page is an effortless way to increase your Bounce rate.

    I really liked the way you’ve delivered excellent information about WordPress popup plugins at the end of your Blog post. Thanks Zoe. Great post, I enjoyed reading through it.

    1. Ivan Bayross

      My sincere apologies Johnny, I really dropped a clanger on this one and I cannot fix it. I thought that the Blog post was written by Zoe. It was only when I read David’s comment I realized my mistake. I would have fixed this if an Editing option was available. Really sorry.

      Ivan Bayross

      1. Johnny

        No worries Ivan, I have edited it for you and even if I wouldn’t have your input was of real value that it wouldn’t have mattered anyway 🙂

    2. Johnny

      Thank you for another great and in-depth comment Ivan, really love having you on our blog and the added bonus that you find the information that we post helpful is definitely pleasing.

      Sorry to hear about your trouble with Popup Domnination, haven’t tried it myself so can’t say anything about them, though I had some problems with a couple of other paid plugin and I was surprised to see how low the quality of customer service is for some of them, which was quite irritating especially since I was providing them advice on how to improve.

      I guess the only thing to do is let them be and look for something better, there are always better alternatives so hope you weren’t discouraged by that one mishap.

  11. Johnny

    Always glad to be of help Chery, hope you’ll have time to try them and they will work for your as they’ve worked for others!

  12. Ivan Bayross

    Hi Johnny,

    Pop-up or not to pop-up the dialog goes on. I’ve read a number of articles on this topic. I think the number I’ve read are all equally balanced 50% for 50% against. Really strange this.

    Personally I use a pop-up form on my Blog and it has helped increase my registrations hugely so I definitely belong to the 50% that are for pop-ups. I’ve set up the form to show up once when the site visitor decides to leave my Blog post page.

    I’ve purchased pop-up domination and was very disappointed with the after sales tech help of this product. It was non-existent. I asked for and got a full refund promptly. Kudos to them for making full refunds painless.

    I then purchased a pop-up form from Envato and I’m hooked. Swift, concise service all my tech issues resolved with a 24 hour window.

    Giving a valuable freebie if the site visitor offers up there Email Id is a sound bit of advice, thanks Johnny.

    I loved the list of WordPress opt-in plugins that you’ve delivered in this Blog post. That is real icing on the cake. Thanks for the sharing this Blog post Johnny. It was of real value to me.

  13. Johnny

    Hi Ivan, thank you for the feedback, indeed views are split on this one, some try it and don’t succeed, for some it’s simply not a great idea but there are also those that manage to figure it out and it helps a lot. I think everybody should decide by themselves on this and test it for their own first.

  14. liefefourcu.science

    I haven s seen this feature a lot, but is so cool. Basically it s a small button on the side of your screen which, when you click on it, triggers a popup or just reveals an opt-in form on the side. Cool ha? There are few tools that can help you do that

    1. Johnny

      Sounds interesting, will check that out.

  15. Justin G

    As annoying as they are. Popups really do work. I recently starting implementing an opt-in popup offering a 5% off over $50 coupon. Our order value increased by about 5%, sales by about 10%, and most importantly our email sign ups increased by 350%. Only about 1 in every 8 orders actually use the coupon, so we aren’t giving away too much profit. I wish we tried it years ago (others in the company were anti-coupon so we never even trialled it). So worth it though. I’m using Popup Domination which is really cheap, super easy to integrate and has quite a lot of advanced options, AB testing etc.

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