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

By Daniel Scocco

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?”

  • 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

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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 🙂

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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!!

  • 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: http://Everything-Everywhere.com/contest/ I promise there will be no pop-ups 🙂

  • 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.

  • Young

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

  • 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.


  • 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

    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

    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.

  • Rajaie AlKorani

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Daniel Scocco

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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.:)

  • Daniel Scocco

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

  • Rarst has cool feed

    It’s curious that I hadn’t yet seen a single report that person tried pop-overs (I think this describes subject better than pop-up) and it was a failure.

    People split in those who tried and those who flame the idea.

    I am seriously considering trying but since I don’t have lots of traffic to experiment with different variations – it’s bit hard to figure out conditions to trigger pop-over and exact message.

  • News Man

    Its good that you created that poll. It can be said that gain outweigh the loss now.

  • Sohail

    Some bloggers are trying to justify it by saying that these pop ups come up only once and when you say you do not want to subscribe they don’t come back. That is right. So you can not compare them with same pop ups which come up every time you visit a site. Still annoying for me.

  • Mike Panic

    @Sohail – Sorry, you are wrong. I’ve gone to John Chow’s site for the last 3 days, I say NO each time and the next day I have to look at them. I’m not clearing my cache or cookies either.

  • Luca – Reach Success Online

    This is great timing and I look forward to the survey results. I was planning to add a pop up with an opt-in form as I don’t get annoyed with sites that have them. If the offer is good then I’ll sign up. You can always unsubscribe.
    I guess it depends on how it’s done and what it’s selling or promoting.
    Great post

  • Bradblogging.com

    @ Mayoo – I completely agree with you on that aspect. The smaller blogs will start using this technique because “The Bigger Dogs” are using it, and wondering why there bounce rate is so high.

    They annoy me so much that I will leave websites because of them. I was mad when Shoemoney offered me the newsletter in the form of a popup..

    The popups are back due to Problogger and Aweber.

  • Adam Austin

    I detest pop-ups, and after using the web for many years, I automatically close them when they appear – I think I’m trained to not even read the damn thing!

    I think pop-ups have there place, but only when they are initiated by the user. As an alternative, I like the floating banner that periodically appears at the bottom of http://www.sitepoint.com. It allows you to choose not to display again, only appears every 5-10 pages, and doesn’t stop you from browsing the contents of the site.

    Would be interesting to see what sitepoint have found in terms of conversion, % who chose not to have displayed etc

  • Jodith

    I usually will overlook one popup if I can get past it and it doesn’t happen again. However, if a popup comes up every time I enter a site, I’m probably never going back after the first 2 or 3 times, no matter how much I like the site.

    One that goes away after I say no, though, I don’t have a problem with.

  • Raghu

    I have been using pop-up and I tweaked few things to see which type of popup works better and still gathering information.

    I’m trying 2 different things

    1) Popup within 5 seconds
    2) Average time on a page + 15 seconds

    So far the results looks like this

    Case 1 – X%
    Case 3 – X% – 2.0%

    Data I was collected for about 15 hours. (Yes, X% more than 2%)

    I asked myself following question

    1) Information I provide to the readers – will it be of vale to them? Yes
    2) Do I want to increase readers base? Yes
    3) Did Darren’s pop-up irritate me? No

    At the end of the day, you have more readers and if they like it, they are going to talk about it, link to it and more traffic in turn.

  • Chris

    Yes and No.

    Being an internet marketer, i understand what their doing, so no i wont leave.

    Yes i will leave if they dont code it properly.
    i have seen websites (one notably that i hate is therichjerk) that every page has it on it (even in the membership area when you have paid).

    If your considering putting it on, i suggest either
    1. only on your homepage
    2. using cookies so that it only displays once.

  • Jack

    If I already have a relationship with a blog/website, I would tolerate ONE pop-up. I would be annoyed, but I would put up with it once.

    If it’s the first time I’ve been to a site and I get a pop-up, I’m going to assume it’s standard practice and I’m outa there. I have been doing it this way for years.

  • TheSimpleStep

    I thought everyone hates pop up, kinda surprised with the poll result … 🙂

  • Fern

    I have a hard time believing that someone would never revisit a website because of a single, internal (i.e. not a third party ad) popup window. A couple of people mentioned thinking that it is invasive to be asked to provide an email address. But if you don’t want to sign up for the newsletter, just close the popup. I think people are acting more outraged now than they would if they were actually to come across the popup window.

    My guess is that Darren and John Chow and others will so zero negative impact (i.e. loss in readers) as a result of their newsletter request popup.

  • Nimble

    I feel very irritated when I leave the website of JohnChow, it presents me a pop up for subscribing and due to this reason I have stopped visiting his website.

    From the day first, I started using internet, popups have been very annoying to me. I am sure there would be many more tricks / methods to increase your subscribers list which are better and you will not lose even one person from your current subscribers.

  • George


    I was about to put out a poll just like this one. I am testing the pop-over subscription on my blog and it is increasing my newsletter subscription rate. I am concerned about the overall visitor experience so I was going to put up a poll like yours. Now I might just wait to see the results of your poll.

    I think that ultimately the answer may be different for each blog. It will depend on your blog’s primary goal. Is the aim to get newsletter subscribers so you can sell your products/services to them. Is it to get loyal readers of your blog, etc. We all have different goals for our websites and blogs. If your goal is to get as many people on your list as possible then pop-overs may be the right thing to do. If your primary goal isn’t about building a list, then it might not be the right thing to do.

    Interested in seeing the final results of your poll…

  • Deb Ng

    One popup might not convince me to stay away, but more than one will. As I said at Performancing, I don’t understand why all the big probloggers are embracing popups because a few years ago we were all trying to abolish them. Even one time is unnerving.

    Now every time I go to ShoeMoney a pop up gets me, sometimes more than once. It doesn’t motivate me to continue visiting.

  • Andre Thomas

    I’ve read through most of the comments here and I can see that most of them are just opinions. These big-time bloggers are using it and are obviously with the result. Even Michel Fortin, a well-known copywriter, also used it in his blog.

    The pop-up improved subscriptions. It increased their pageviews (or they wouldn’t continue using it). And it must have affect their bottomline positively.

    It obviously showed that the pop-up did not annoy a large majority of their readers. They tested it. It’s not opinion, it’s fact.

    You know, there are a lot of successful entrepreneurs who advise their readers not to reinvent the wheel. Copy what already successful people are doing and you’re on your way to success too.

    Am I saying everyone should do it too? No, of course not. That’s just stupid. I’m saying that we should all at least test it. See the results for yourself.

    If it’s bad, remove it. You never know, and thus you never improve, if you never test.

  • medyum

    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!!

Comments are closed.