The Problems with Pop-Up Calls to Action

Image source. Creative Commons license.

Image source. Creative Commons license.

No one likes pop-up ads. This fact was established during the early days of Internet advertising, and browser-installed pop-up blockers help manage the problem. Nevertheless, pop-up windows that push a call to action keep showing up everywhere. Often when you visit a blog or a website, a window appears to goad you into downloading an e-book, subscribing to a newsletter, or chatting with a representative.

In content marketing, these pop-ups are generally a bad idea, because:

They annoy visitors When people click though on Google to read an article they think might be useful or interesting, they expect to read that article. When after just one second, a pop-up window blocks the view, it’s as frustrating as a stranger putting a hand in front of the book you’re reading. Annoying visitors the moment they show up to a site does not predispose them to purchase your product or service.

They drive people away When a pop-up blocks an article I intended to read, I typically don’t type in my e-mail address or even search for the magic X to close the pop-up window. In many cases, I simply leave the site and search for information elsewhere.

The pop-up comes way too early Maybe these pop-up calls to action can work in some cases, but most of the time they appear too early in the sales cycle. And yes, right away is much too early. Visitors first need to read and evaluate the usefulness of the content they clicked over to see. Then they might want to poke around to see what other content is of interest. If it’s a corporate website, they’ll want see what the company is all about before chatting with a rep.

Maybe after visitors have eased into the site and have been around for a few minutes, a pop-up asking them to take the next step might be OK, maybe even welcomed. Even still, if the content or site is doing its job, visitors will naturally look for the next step about how to stay engaged or learn more.

When researching this post, I entered a search query into Google about the topic. One link’s description said something to the effect of “Whether you love them or hate them,  Lightbox pop-ups convert at an extremely high rate. One blogger named Dan saw his newsletter sign-ups double.”

Interesting, I thought. So the technology that allows these pop-ups is called “Lightbox.” I didn't know that. I wondered if this article would be credible. I wondered if any of Dan’s sign-ups ever really converted to new business. So I clicked on the link to learn more. Immediately, a large pop-up obscured the post.

I clicked away from the site.