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The do's and don't of website pop-ups

Updated: Aug 20, 2023

To pop up or not to pop up? What's the purpose of a pop-up? Do they actually work? And what can you do to make them not suck?

There is much debate about whether pop ups are a necessary at all or if they're conversion gold. In my experience as a web designer and SEO specialist of 8 years now, I believe there is a formula for a successful pop-up, and some absolute don'ts for them.

But first...

What exactly is a pop up, and what's it actual purpose?

A pop-up is some kind of informational or promotional offer that displays on top of your website content, designed to capture your users' attention quickly.

The purpose of a pop-up is to draw attention to your promotion or offer and get the user to perform an action, such as:

  • Click a button that takes you to a landing or sales page

  • Sign up to your email list

  • Quickly buy something

website pop-up ettiqute - the do's and don'ts of website pop-ups by website and SEO specialist, techno bird

Do pop-ups actually work or are they so annoying that they actually turn people off your website?

It depends on:

  • The type of pop-up you create

  • The value you provide

  • The timing your pop-up... pops up

  • The design of your pop-up

Here's some common negative feels of pop-ups:

  • They’re rude

  • They’re insulting

  • They make you want to leave a site immediately

  • They ruin the user experience

  • They can feel super spammy

And what about pop-up conversion rates? According to Campaign Monitor:

  • The average conversion rate for pop-ups is 3.09%, the top pop-ups have almost 10% conversion rates.

  • Of those top-performing pop-ups, 92% of them have pop-ups that display after 4 seconds. The lowest-performing displayed their ads between 0 and 4 seconds.

  • Well-designed and properly timed pop-ups can lead to conversion rates as high as 60%.

OK, so what are the benefits of a pop-up?

  • They're a quick and easy way to promote a new product/service on your website and draw fast attention

  • They can help drive/increase/improve website conversions (if done well)

  • They can initiate customers purchase journey

Alrighty, now that we've established what a pop-up is, what it's purpose is, things that suck about pop-up and things that don't suck...

What's the making of a "good" pop-up?

According to Sumo (an email marketing platform), there are Eight Bulletproof Elements that increase or decrease your pop-up conversion rates of which I agree of all eight:

OK, so here's MY top tips for a 'good' pop-up that won't piss off your website users:


Put some effort into it, don't use the basic template that your website platform offers you. The more unique and branded pop-up the more we'll appreciate the effort you went to, which will *hopefully* persuade us more to engage with it positively


The more value you provide your target website user in the pop-up the more change they will act on your pop-up.

For example, "sign up to my mailing list" is not enticing or motivating enough to hand over my precious email address. Give us context - why should I sign up to your mailing list? What value will I gain from it? How often will you email me? What's so good about your mailing list? Give me reasons.

It doesn't necessarily mean monetary reasons either - you don't have to offer a discount to get people to subscribe to you, there are many things you can create or provide that have nothing to do with money. For example, a how-to video tutorial on something your target audience struggles with, like 'how to write a compelling Instagram bio', or a 'How to write a great blog post checklist', or 'Download my free guide on creating an e-book'.


Don't activate your pop to appear within the first 3 seconds that we land on your website - that's the number one pop-up killer! It's invasive, annoying, and a total turn off.

There is no 'sweet spot' when it comes to the timing of your pop-up, but there is a way you can take a good guess and trial the timing - take a look at your Google Analytics and look at the average amount of time a user spends on your website; if the average amount of time a person spends on your website is 1 minute and 30 seconds, I would set the pop-up timer to about a third of that time - so about 40 seconds.

Mailerlite have a similar formula - they say:

"Find your average time on site and multiply it by 0.3. For example, if your average time on site is 3 minutes, set your pop-up to appear after the first minute (roughly 30% into their visit)."

Is this a proven tactic? Nup. Just something I've trialled it on my own website and have read a bunch of articles that share my thoughts, so don't take this advice as bible, just a general guide.


If your pop-up covers important content on your website such as your primary CTA (call to action) or a new product you have just launched, then it can distract people and move them away from that content, which means you may miss out on a possible conversion.

Where you place your pop-up is extremely important. People tend to put them right in the middle of the page which usually covers up other important content. Consider placing your pop-up in the bottom right corner of your page, or along the base of your page so that they'll see it when they scroll.

Or if you want to stick to the middle of the page, don't create a large box that covers the entire page - instead, create a smaller box and make sure it's painfully obvious how to click out of the pop-up. Which leads me to my next point...


Don't hide the X or the 'close' button to try and keep them on the pop-up for longer - this WILL backfire! In fact, people will get so annoyed by this that they'll exit your entire website. Trust me.


Google posted to their blog back in 2017 the following - "pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high."

That's enough for me to disable any pop-ups on my mobile site. But, they do also offer some great advice on how to do mobile pop-ups well, that may not offend the website user, check out their advice here.


Good ways/words to let people chose not to engage with your pop-up:

  • "no thank-you"

  • "close"

  • "Not this time, but thanks anyway"

Shitty words to use when people don't want to engage with your pop-up:

  • "No, I don't want to grow my business"

  • "I know everything about xyz"

  • "I don't want to be healthy"


I'm going to end this post with this final advice by Mailerlite regarding pop-ups

"Pop-ups, when appropriately used, can be a significant boost to building both your email list and your business. When pop-ups provide value to your visitors without hurting their browsing experience, you’ve achieved pop-up nirvana."

Got a question about pop-ups or found this blog post helpful? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and if you feel so inclined, please share it with your own audience or followers!
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