Pop-up Mania! Will They Come Back To Vogue?


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A couple of weeks ago Darren Rowse posted an article where he shared a technique that increased his newsletter subscription rate by over 700%, from an average of 40 news subscribers per day to 350!

He probably could not have foreseen the mass effect that the post would trigger!

After that post, in fact, dozens of bloggers started using pop-ups to promote their newsletters, from John Chow to Shoemoney and many smaller bloggers, too.

The trend is so noticeable that I often find those pop-ups coming up on random sites that I am visiting over the day.

So what happened to the “pop-ups are the ultimate evil” motto that we had going on around the Internet?

I think it is starting to get questioned (which is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you).

Basically Darren found out by testing that the increase in the conversion rate of his newsletter was huge, while the drawbacks of adding the pop-ups were not so big. A couple of people emailed him complaining about the intrusiveness, but that was pretty much it.

Of course we need to take into consideration the people that got annoyed with the pop-ups and quit the site to never come back again, without letting Darren know about it. But will this effect be eve noticeable on his traffic trends?

Pop-ups remain one of the most intrusive and annoying promotion forms, but are they capable of hurting your traffic tangibly if you provide quality content?

Here is a question for our poll: would one pop-up offering you a newsletter subscription be enough to make you stop visiting a website? Assume you would see the pop-up only once, and not on every visit at that site. (RSS and email subscribers might need to visit the site to see the poll)

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51 Responses to “Pop-up Mania! Will They Come Back To Vogue?”

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Suzanne, yep. On the poll results post I will recommend a plugin that should be able to do that.

  • syringa28

    For me, we should let the visitor read the content of the website than ‘force’ them to feel their email in the pop-ups. If our content is quality enough, so why should we afraid of losing or not gaining any subscribers?Just my 3 cents.:)

  • Money Making Ideas ~ Suzanne

    Is there a way to make a pop-up come up … like fade in … with a message … and then seconds later … fade back out? Just to send a quick message but not require any action on the visitor’s part? Thanks. *SmiLes* Suzanne

  • Brandon Mendelson

    It’s all been said by people more experienced than I, but I can’t begin to stress the fright and alarm I felt when considering the post’s question.

    Pop-ups? God I hope not.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Jacob, you basically saying we should all enable our pop-ups until we can then! 🙂

  • Jacob from Group Writing Projects

    This technique is working because for now, relatively few sites are using it and because it’s javascript-based, typical popup blockers like Firefox aren’t catching it. Yet. But they will soon. When people recognize the success you mention above, these popups will start to appear all over, annoying people until Ffx 3.1 can block them and then we’ll be back to where we were a few months ago.

  • Danny Brown

    I agree with #23 SEO Genius. If there was a way to have a single pop up when you visit a site for the very first time, and that was it, then I’d be fine with this. Even have a message on there saying “This is the only time you’ll see this screen” or somthing (who knows, maybe there already is).

    I’ve refused to go back to many sites that use pop-ups, despite them being by people I respect, purely because of their damn pop-up ads. If you want me to sign up to your newsletter, offer a visual yet non-intrusive option on your website or blog toolbar.

  • SEO Genius

    I think if a website was to use 1 pop up per new visitor and thats all then it would not be enough to make me leave that website and never come back but if they were to use it every time I came back then I would definitely leave and not come back. Pop ups are so damn annoying.

  • Mike Panic

    When John Chow added one and blogged about it, I spoke up against them and questioned how his page views would be affected if more people subscribe to the newsletter and read his articles via email instead of on his site, possibly bringing down his click-rate on ads He basicly said that I should learn a thing or two about marketing.. he clearly missed my point.

    I rarely visit his site anymore, about a year ago he changed the blog theme to focus mostly on ads, slightly on content, thats when I stopped going daily, it’s rare that I go at all now. When I do though, every day, a pop-up comes on the screen. John told me in a comment reply that if you don’t like it, hit the little CLOSE button and it goes away. Thanks for your insight John, but I’m still not a fan of them.

    Yes, the clearly work for Darren on his photography site and for John, but the reality is that they are annoying and even after you do sign up, the pop-up still shows every single day. That does not bring value to your average reader, it hurts it.

  • Daniel Richard

    I don’t mind seeing a popup box, except when the overall site design and the popup thingy blends while stand out at the same time.

  • Rajaie AlKorani

    Seriously, why should popups annoy anyone? I mean, all you have to do to close them is click on simple button!

  • Bilingual blogger

    P.S. This debate reminds me of the debate we had previously in this blog about the super-long internet marketing squeeze pages that go on for an eternity before getting down to the info that most people want: the price of the product. However, those sales pages must be generating their marketers serious $$$$ and €€€€, otherwise they would’ve gone into extinction by now.

    As it has been said before, often times YOU are not YOUR audience. Just because a pop-up is something that you find annoying doesn’t mean that it isn’t widely effective and won’t be found annoying by others.

  • Gary

    I’d be curious if all the big sites that did it saw a spike in subscribers or if it was consistent over time. If I had to guess, I’d think they picked up the readers they were going to get initially, then it died off.

  • Bilingual blogger

    I’ve had a pop-up on my blog for the past five months. It only appears once so if a visitor returns to my blog they won’t see the pop-up again, thanks to the cookie.

    In exchange for giving my blog their email address, I email them an 8-page report that is a good representation of the type of content my blog provides. Seems like a more than even exchange, in my opinion. In the first couple of months, I was getting a decent number of sign-ups, thanks to the pop-up, but it has fallen off in recent weeks, although traffic to my blog, in terms of unique visitors, has increased. So…people are still visiting my blog although they’re not feeling compelled to sign up for the special report.

  • Gary

    @Daniel I think you probably could get away with it. I am familiar with the site and if I saw a pop up, I might annoyingly click it closed, but then move on to what I want. The benefits to you (more subscribers) would be big. The downside to me is a slight annoyance. That annoyance factor may be enough to turn someone off to an unknown website, however.

  • Young

    You will be wrong to use the pop up if you are not as big as darren.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Gary, yeah this is a valid point. I think established and authority sites and bloggers can “get away” with the annoying factor, while smaller ones would be shooting on their own feet.

  • Gary

    One thing which hasn’t been mentioned is that the sites you mention in the article are sites with an established base of readers and tens of thousands of subscribers. I assume the popup wasn’t their first exposure to the site or their first visit (maybe it was for a small few). The gains in subscribers was capturing people who were already readers and familiar with the site and its content, not new users discovering it for the first time.

    To say that “because Darren Rowse does it, therefor you should” is a big stretch. If I go to a site I’ve never been to before and the first thign I see is a pop up, they are instantly in negative territory in my mind and I might not go further. You have to earn my trust. Throwing a pop up in my face as your welcome to me isn’t putting your best face forward, and seems like a bad way to get your blog off the ground.

    Marketing for Budweiser isn’t the same as marketing for a microbrew.

    In conclusion, help me win the Blogging Idol contest:

  • AroJoy

    Daniel i already though this post will be posted soon by ‘U’

    I see pop ups in websites in just few seconds i go there…it brings a bad impression.. at least after staying for 10 min if the pop up comes then they are going to make real readers….

    Daniel as satish said don’t use this technique to the ATMOST!!

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Satish, never say never, but I am not planning to use it anytime soon 🙂 .

    @Ajith, yeah I am also wondering when they will start using ads on the pop-ups. I don’t think Darren will, but John might 🙂 .

    @SlamBlogger, yeah it is a tricky thing.

    @Mario, good point.

  • Ruchir Chawdhry

    @ Daniel: The reason people stopped using traditional pop-ups was because most browsers blocked them all by default. They hardly got viewed by anyone and so people stopped using them.

    But the new type of pop-ups (which aren’t pop-ups really, technically speaking) are unblockable and are much more user friendly than normal pop-ups…

  • BryanK

    OK, here’s the issue that got me to make my first comment here after being a long time reader……

    was it really that long ago that popups were associated with viruses slipping their way onto your computer?

    I know, logically, that popups are mostly an annoyance and not a real threat. But I still find myself, if ANY popup gets past my popup blocker, I backpedal out of that site in a hurry, no matter what that site is.

    Perhaps this is just a ridiculous reaction I have to this situation. But if ANY site tries to “sneak” a popup past me, no matter what the purpose, I am reflexively out of there, no matter how reputable the site might be.

  • Mário Andrade

    I really don’t think that’s the way to go.
    After such a long struggle agains popup windows a few years ago now top bloggers want to bring them back because it’s good to get readers?
    Maybe if they use it for a very short limited time it would be OK but still…

    Maybe in the future they will use splash pages for their blogs because it will attract more readers to their newsletter.

    I prefer a better user experience to marketing strategy any time…

  • Chris

    Popups are an insult to readers.

    It might work in the small self-contained world of ‘Bloggers Who Blog About Blogging’, but in the real world of the average Joe cruising the net looking for interesting stuff, it won’t work.

    If 50% of ‘pro bloggers’ are annoyed by popups, then you can guarantee that 99% of ‘normal’ web viewers will be annoyed. Just like 99% of normal web users don’t use RSS.

    The fastest way to see what works and what doesn’t is to look at the high-traffic sites, especially news-focused sites, and see how they structure and promote their content. Not the pro bloggers feverishly searching for the next magic spike in their Feedburner counts.

  • SlamBlogger

    Personally, I would still come back to a site if the content was worthy.

    I find it hard to believe that if a site offers quality content that you need and/or want, that one popup is going to stop you from ever coming back.

    However, this is a question I would like to know the answer to as well. I’d prefer not experiment on my own sites.

  • Ajith Edassery

    A popup subscribe form is as irritating as a popup ad… I don’t know how many of these subscribers will end up as real readers of the content! Just having numbers is not sufficient, there has to be good quality readers base. Many of them, after signing up, must be marking the newsletters/mails as spam as well.

    (I am sure people like John Chow will soon start putting ads on that popup subscription form as well for a pretty big amount. Probably that is the trend they want to start)

    I personally feel that if somebody really wants to subscribe to the stuff that we are promoting, they will do it from the landing page itself.


  • SATISH — Technotip.org

    BIG no to popups.

    As Mayooresan said, I get annoyed when such unwanted popups come on my way and ask my email ID!

    Please Daniel, let anyone use this technique, but you never promote your newsletters like this. I know you won’t 🙂

  • Mayooresan

    I think, new blog users will fall victim to this pop-up newsletter request. but most of the people will get annoy by this and leave the web site.

    personally I have left several sites because of this pop-up request to sign-up for a news letter. They are simply abusing my privacy by asking my email address.

    I’d say a BIG NO to pop-up newsletter promotion campaign.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Ruchir, that is the question I am trying to find out, if the gains are always bigger than the losses.

    If they ever were, how come people stopped using pop-ups then?

  • Ruchir Chawdhry

    You shouldn’t really care if 100 visitors of your 100K visitors a month felt annoyed by pop-up hovers. There’s an opportunity cost to everything. If you’re gaining 3000 newsletter subscribers a month and annoying 1000 people with your pop-ups, well you’re still the winner.

    “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone.”
    -Bill Cosby

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