How to Use Popups: A Beginner’s Guide with Best Practices

Popups work.

That’s why many websites use popups as part of their marketing strategy. Still, it is one of the most divisive tools for both marketers and users.

The truth is, many digital marketers are afraid of losing visitors by displaying popups. They believe popups always annoy visitors and create a bad user experience. They’re too afraid to even give it a try. They don’t realize that there’s a good way to use popups.

how to use popups

Are you a marketer who’s not sure about using popups? I’m here to show you the pros and cons of popups and how you can create an effective campaign with best practices that will increase your conversions, without annoying your visitors.

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Why Marketers Have Concerns About Popups

If you’re one of those people who are afraid of using popups, first of all, let me say: I understand. And, I’ve got a good idea why you might feel that way.

It’s likely that you’ve only seen popups which are displayed at the wrong time with the wrong message. Popups like these – entry popups are a good example – are annoying and result in a poor user experience. Unfortunately, these types of campaigns have given popups a bad name.

However, by following best practices you can create popups that display at the right time, and the results will speak for themselves. Here are two examples of actual results from Digital Marketer and

Digital Marketer created five different popup campaigns that advertised their lead magnets. Thanks to these campaigns, they were able to generate an extra 2,689 leads in only 2 weeks. They also decreased their bounce rate by 13% and increased their average time on site by 54%. created two different popup campaigns, one to boost immediate purchases, and one to decrease their cart abandonment rate. They were able to generate 601 new transactions in just 3 months and reduced their cart abandonment rate by over 17%.

As you can see, popups can be extremely effective for online stores & lead generation websites. They give you a chance to re-engage visitors before they leave. Using emails or remarketing ads, you can only reach a small percentage of visitors. Popups help increase the visibility of your messages and offers to all your visitors. A well-timed popup gives you a second opportunity to connect with your visitors, effectively doubling your chances of converting them.

Popups can be extremely effective for online stores & lead generation websites. Click To Tweet

Popups are also helpful because they simplify the decision-making process and reduce anxiety for your visitors. Just think about the number of links and CTAs your visitors find on your website. A popup can guide overwhelmed visitors to make the right decision or find the product or information they need.

Last but not least, like all good marketing, the secret to relevant popups is segmentation. Using segmentation, you can differentiate your visitors and display highly-customized offers to each and every one of them.

Before we get started, it’s worth saying again that popups work so well for some websites because they are following best practices to create user-friendly popups. In this article, I’m going to share those best practices with you, along with a few other tips to get you started on the right foot. 🙂

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Options for “Good” Popups Beyond Exit-Intent

Exit-intent popups are one of the most popular types of popups. But you have so many more options to create a user-friendly popup. In this section, I’ll show you a classic exit-intent popup as well as some examples of other “good” popups you can create on your site. These are popups that are well-timed, and based on the behavior of your visitors, so you won’t annoy them.

1. Exit-intent

“Exit-intent” describes a visitor’s behavior when they are about to leave your site. Someone may move their mouse towards the closing “X” button, or address bar in their browser. This behavior is detected as exit-intent and a popup is displayed right before the person leaves your site.

exit intent

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2. Timed-based

You can display a popup based on the amount of time someone has spent on your site or the amount of time they have been inactive on a specific page. You can grab the attention of these visitors and re-engage them with the right offer.

timed based

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3. Scroll-based

Another option is to monitor how far a visitor has scrolled down a page on your website. For example, you can show a popup after they have scrolled down to the end of a page. This is a great way to grab the attention of active visitors without disturbing them while they are browsing or reading an article.


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4. Onclick-based

You can also display a popup when a visitor clicks on a specific part of your page: a button, box, link or banner.

onclick based

The Best Ways to Use Popups

Popups can help to improve website performance in a few different ways. Creating well-timed popups are important. Now, let’s look at the best ways you can use “good” popups so they provide a benefit to your site.

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1. Drive more sales

Converting more visitors into customers and increasing revenue is the number one goal for all websites.

Well-timed popups can help you capture lost sales and convince visitors to buy immediately.

The best ways to use popups to increase sales are to offer a discount, a coupon or free shipping to visitors. You can also promote your best deals and redirect visitors to a landing page just like in the example below.

drive sales with popups

(Note: If you want a few more ideas about getting more sales and leads from your website, click here and register for our free webinar.)

optimonk webinar

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2. Build your email list

Many visitors are not ready to buy immediately, and that’s okay.

But you need to capture those visitors as well, so you can convince them to make a purchase later. Believe it or not, email marketing is still one of the best ways to monetize these visitors.

Luckily, popups can help you build an email list by offering giveaways like eBooks and white papers, or incentives like discounts. You can promote VIP memberships and email-only deals, and you can also capture lots of subscribers by running a contest.

build email list with popups

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3. Reduce cart abandonment

The average ecommerce cart abandonment rate is nearly 70%. In other words, 7 out of 10 visitors who add an item to their cart will leave the store without buying.

That’s a lot!

But popups are highly effective for saving these visitors and convincing them to complete their purchase. Often a simple cart notification can work, but offering an incentive at checkout will improve your chances for an immediate purchase. You can increase the sense of urgency even further by adding a countdown timer to your popup.

reduce cart abandonment

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4. Upsell and cross-sell

Popups can also boost your revenue by increasing your average cart value through upselling and cross-selling techniques.

Intelligent product recommendation is the best way to ensure the products you recommend are relevant and provide a benefit to your customers.

upsell & cross-sell

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5. Improve customer experience

Unlike annoying and spammy popups, well-timed popups can actually improve your customer experience. For example, you can give your visitors a chance to voice their opinion by asking for feedback.

improve customer experience

(Note: Would you like to learn more about creating “good” popups? Click here to download our free eBook with over 100 pages of tips and best practices for engaging and re-engaging your customers with onsite retargeting to boost the revenue on your site.)

optimonk jb ebook com - How to Use Popups: A Beginner’s Guide with Best Practices

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Best Practices for Using Popups

Now that we’ve looked at “good” popups and the best ways to use popups on your site, let’s take a look at some tips to make sure you stay on the right track. These are some “do’s and don’ts” to make sure your popups won’t annoy your visitors and will benefit your site.

1. Don’t use entry popups

If you would ask me to describe bad popups, I would probably say, “the ones that appear immediately when you enter a website”. A smart marketer will only display popups based on engagement – when visitors are ready for another message. Even if you use a time-based display, you should wait at least 5 seconds, and much longer in most cases.

A smart marketer will only display popups based on engagement. Click To Tweet

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2. Segment your visitors

A one-size-fits-all strategy is never good for marketing. And it’s true for popups as well. You need to divide your visitors into segments, and provide each segment a relevant experience.

Here are the best ways to segment your visitors:

  • Engagement-based targeting – use multiple variables to determine the level of engagement, e.g. new or returning visitors, how many pages they have seen, time spent on each page, whether they’ve visited specific subpages, and more.
  • Geo-targeting – create different messages for all your target countries.
  • Traffic source – segment visitors based on whether they come from Facebook, Google, your newsletter and other targeted sources.
  • Cart value and cart content – this is a great opportunity for product recommendations.
  • Campaign-based –display popups based on the campaigns which visitors have already seen.
  • Exclude visitors – segment those who have previously subscribed.
  • Custom variables – create even more personalized messages. With this segmentation, you can even thank people by name when they sign up.

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3. Don’t communicate the same message for everyone

With all the different options for segmenting your visitors, you should definitely not display the same message for every visitor. You should at least differentiate between existing customers and prospects. But you can create more groups based on the stages of the buying process, from awareness to purchase.

You can also use Dynamic Text Replacement. This helps you show more customized messages to your visitors. You can automatically change the message of your popups based on variables you choose, for example, geo-targeting by country.

dynamic text replacement

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4. Focus on only one goal

You shouldn’t overwhelm your visitors with too much information on your popup. Focus on only one goal and your CTA should embrace that goal in a clear and straightforward way.

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5. Less is more

In the case of popups, the “less is more” theory is 100% true. The less information you ask about your visitors, the more conversions you will get. In most cases, an email address and a first name are enough, like in the example below.

popup forms

But if you don’t need to personalize your messages in the future, you should only ask for an email address.

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6. Follow a minimalist approach in design

Your popup should have a minimalist feel to be up-to-date with the latest design trends. Use bright and bold colors that fit the design of your site, simple and clear text without a lot of content and only one main image. Too much distraction on a popup can reduce conversions.

This is a great example of a simple, clear & minimalist design.

minimalist popup design

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7. Update your campaigns regularly

Testing and optimizing your popups will help you to achieve better results and improve conversions. Take the time to create Holiday-focused campaigns and end-of-season sale campaigns. Update your designs to reflect each campaign.

Check out how this ecommerce store focuses on the change of seasons and Holidays, as well as the latest news and events. Here’s a campaign they created for Halloween.

halloween popup campaign

And here’s another one they created to promote their Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals.

black friday popup campaign


Looking for more ideas for your campaigns? Here are 65+ examples to get you inspired when you create your popups. Click here and enjoy!

exit intent gallery

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I wish I could say everyone is using popups in the right way, but – if I’m being honest – that’s not the case. I understand why many marketers and site owners are hesitant to use popups. Unfortunately, a few bad popups have spoiled the bunch 🙂

If you weren’t sure about using popups, I hope this article showed you how “good” popups can increase your conversions and actually improve the user experience on your site. The important part is to create well-timed popups with relevant messages aimed at the right people. It takes a little effort, but I assure you, the results are well worth it. Don’t forget to use the 7 best practices I mentioned to stay on the right track, and I’m sure you’ll be seeing amazing results just like Digital Marketer.

What do you think about popups? Have you used them before? Let us know in the comments! 🙂


  1. Emma says:

    Thanks for sharing such a useful article. I just started to use OptiMonk a few days ago but I can already see the results. I’ll try to implement your best practices.

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