How to Use Pop-ups Effectively

Published: 29-Dec-2021
Last Updated: 29-Dec-2021
How to Use Pop-ups Effectively

Pop-ups are an effective marketing tool that can help digital marketers convert website visitors into leads by gathering their email addresses. However, it's easy to go wrong with popups. When used incorrectly, they can annoy and drive away potential customers. Badly timed or placed pop-ups will increase bounce rates and ultimately result in lost sales. 

That being said, pop-ups work! When used correctly, pop-ups can be a powerful lead generation tactic for businesses. Valuable and well-placed pop-ups result in more email subscribers, more sales, and a higher level of brand-customer interaction.

There's a lot to consider when designing an effective pop-up strategy. First and foremost, it's essential to examine your pop-up strategy through the lens of user experience. To a certain extent, all pop-ups have a negative effect on user experience. By their very nature, pop-ups are disruptive and the fact users aren't able to ignore them contributes to their effectiveness. 

Internet users prefer an uninterrupted experience, but that's not the internet we all use. Pop-ups are prevalent on the internet. We discuss examining competitor websites and observing how they use pop-ups. After you complete your competitor research work on a plan to improve on what they're doing. That's the great thing about pop-ups: you don't have to be perfect, just better than your competitors. 

Here are 5 pop-up types digital marketers should consider adding to their website.

Time-Based Pop-Ups

A timed pop-up appears after a predetermined amount of time (normally seconds). For example, you could set a pop-up to trigger after 10 seconds on a web page. It's based on user activity on a page. If the user is still on the page after 10 seconds, there's a good chance that they're starting to engage with the content.

Where marketers go wrong with this type of pop-up is triggering the pop-up too soon. You want the visitor to have a chance to engage with your content before being presented with another option. We suggest basing this number on your visit duration for a specific page. If your average visit duration for a blog post is 8 minutes, experiment with a few different times (4 minutes, 6 minutes, 7 minutes 30 seconds) and measure pop-up forms completed for each. 

Scroll-Triggered Pop-Ups

A pop-up that shows when a user is scrolling through the site, is working on an activity basis. The pop-up would be set to show at a certain scroll percentage e.g. 50%. This means that once the user has scrolled down 50% of the page, the pop-up will be shown.

Scroll-triggered pop-ups are action-based like time-based pop-ups, although we'd argue to a greater degree than time-based pop-ups. Scroll-triggered pop-ups send a strong signal that users are interested in your web content. 

Page-Based Pop-Ups

Page-based pop-ups will either trigger because the user has visited a set number of pages in their browsing session, or because they've visited a specific page. Page-based pop-ups can be combined with a timed pop-up to show an effective message to an engaged user.

We recommend using this type of pop-up as part of your content marketing strategy. You can do this by placing pop-ups on your blog directory, individual blog posts, or on a category of blog posts. The key is to include relevant and enticing gated content with your pop-up to convince your website visitor to exchange their email address for it. Another common strategy is placing page-based pop-ups on high-buying intent pages such as the pricing or check-out page. 

On-Click Pop-Ups

An on-click pop-up is set only to show after a click action has been taken. In this scenario, the user has requested the information and is therefore expecting something to appear on their screen as a result of the action being taken.

Exit Intent Pop-Ups

Marketers beware! Exit pop-ups can certainly win back customers with the right message but must be used sparingly and with great caution.

An exit intent pop-up is an annoying experience for someone who has chosen to leave a website. This type of pop-up is best used for a limited-time promotion or offer users are unlikely to refuse. 

Creating P.R.F.ect Pop-Ups

Web designers gather around laptop to talk about design.

The Carbon Digital team uses the P.R.F.ect principle when designing a pop-up program. P for placement, R for relevance, and F for Frequency. 


You will want to carefully consider pop-up placement. One of the most common (and jarring) placements is a full-screen pop-up. While these can work, they interfere with customer experience heavily. If you're going to use pop-up placement that is this aggressive, it should be used for a goal that is a high organizational priority and should be consistently monitored and tweaked to increase performance.  

We recommend less aggressive placement options in most situations. Less disruptive options include a modal centered pop-up (not full screen), a banner at the top or bottom of the website, or a slide-in option from the lower left or right corner.


Your digital marketing efforts should center on providing relevant content and offers regardless of the tool being used. Relevance is particularly important with disruptive marketing tactics like pop-ups. There are some offers that are relevant to a wide range of website visitors because they provide value.

For example, a discount is valuable for anyone who is visiting your website. But this discount becomes more relevant (and valuable) to the user the closer they are to purchasing. You can increase the relevance of a discount offer by showing a discount after they visit a product page, pricing page, or add an item to their cart and continue browsing your website. 

Another way to display relevant offers is to add pop-ups to your website's blog directory and individual blog posts. For instance, if you have a blog post about how to use pop-ups effectively, you could add a time-triggered pop-up or scroll-based pop-up to the page that links to exclusive content. This could be an e-book on plugins that make managing pop-ups easier or report on pop-up usage. 

Last but not least, consider placement on mobile. Today your mobile user experience is as important, if not more important, than your desktop experience. With that in mind, always preview your pop-up on mobile before publishing.


Pop-up frequency needs to be carefully managed so as not to overwhelm or frustrate a visitor. A limit should be set on the number of times that someone will see a pop-up during their browsing session. It would also be smart to use a cookie to ensure the pop-ups are not shown for a period of time after the user has specifically closed it.

Considering these factors will help your team design a perfect pop-up program that allows for a positive user experience and is still aggressive enough to convert.

If you're not sure where to start or need assistance with the technical side of setting up pop-ups, our team is here to help!


What's Next?

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We've got plenty of articles that discuss many of the topics that we'll talk about over the phone!

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