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4 Best Practices for Using Popups Effectively on Your WordPress Website

Popups have something of a bad reputation, and it’s not always unearned. Historically, they have often been used in disruptive, frustrating ways, and as a result, they’re often linked with spam and other malicious practices. So, how do you utilize them successfully on your site without alienating your visitors?

The fact is, despite what many believe, popups remain an effective marketing tool. For instance, they have a higher Click-Through Rate (CTR) than most types of ads and can also help you boost conversions. The key is to use them the right way.

In this post, we’ll look at why popups get a bad reputation. We’ll then discuss the best practices for using popups effectively, such as avoiding disruptive popups, ascertaining when and where they’ll have the most significant impact, and targeting popups to different users. Let’s take a look!

Why Popups Don’t Deserve Their Bad Reputation

If you were around the internet in the pre-broadband era, you might not have fond memories of popups. It was originally used to open a new browser window featuring an ad in order to not directly associate it with the contents of the page. However, while the intentions were good, the technology was frequently misused to create spammy, malicious, and annoying content.

This has saddled popups with a bad reputation, but a lot has changed since those days. In fact, popups are very much still around, and for a good reason – they work. Popups have proven to increase email opt-ins, and they have a higher Click-Through Rate (CTR) than other ads. They can also boost your conversions, with one company seeing a 162% increase in sales after using a popup.

Using popups effectively can help increase your sales by over 150%! Click To Tweet

This drastic difference between reputation and reality might seem strange, but popups of today are a different beast from those of old. The takeaway is to make sure you use popups well and avoid the bad practices that made them the scourge of the early internet.

4 Best Practices for Using Popups Effectively on Your WordPress Website

We’ve discussed the importance of using popups effectively to avoid alienating your users. Let’s now take a moment to look at some of the best practices for doing so in a way that can help you create more effective popup campaigns. We’ll also show you how you can use Popup Maker to help you with each step, including which extensions can be especially helpful.

1. Avoid Disruptive and Obscuring Popups

The most important lesson we’ve learned since the early days of popup marketing is not to frustrate users. Popups should not obfuscate vital parts of the page, such as the header or the navigation elements. This is especially important when it comes to mobile pages, as it can not just affect your users’ experience, but also hurt your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

You should also rarely cover the entire page behind a popup. Unless the popup contains important legal information or displays a sign-in form, it should clearly hover over your site. If you obscure the site, it will immediately turn off many users, which will increase your bounce rates. Forbes is a good example of a bad way of doing this, by using a popup to cover the site for several seconds before seeing the actual content:

A full-page popup used on Forbes.

It must also be easy and obvious to dismiss the popup. Make sure your Close button is easy to use and don’t force users to interact with the popup in any other way just to dismiss it. You should also avoid using ‘confirmshaming’. This is a type of manipulative language sometimes used on links to close popups. For example, instead of simply saying “Close”, you might use the phrase “No thanks, I like ignoring great deals”. Another example is this popup from Investopedia:

A popup from Investopedia with the Close text "I'd rather make a poor investment".

This won’t stop users from closing the popup, but it will put them in a negative frame of mind as they start browsing your site. Naturally, this is something you should avoid.

2. Trigger Popups at the Right Time and Place

When and where you trigger popups is an important consideration. For example, you should avoid displaying popups immediately upon entering your site. These can be frustrating for users, given they haven’t even had time to see any of your actual content before you start marketing to them.

Screenshot of the scroll trigger extensions which says "Scroll-triggered popups are a great way to display popups unobtrusively".
Scroll-triggered popups are a great way to display your popups unobtrusively.

Instead, try to use popups based on engagement. One good way is by deploying a popup when the user has scrolled down the page, which implies they’re already interested in your content. You can also use timed popups for this purpose, as it gives the user time to browse your site before they’re shown the popup.

It’s also important not to overuse popups. If users see the same or multiple popups frequently, they’re likely to avoid your site altogether. You should, therefore, use popup cookies to avoid giving the user a sense of déjà vu.

3. Use Targeted Popups for Different Users

Another common mistake is using the same popups for every user. While this can certainly work, it’s not the most effective approach. Instead, you should tailor popups to match different niche markets and user segments.

Segmenting your audience means categorizing them into groups based on various factors. This enables you to create messages targeted to different groups based on these criteria. For example, you could present an exclusive offer to users from a specific region, such as free shipping. This could be as simple as showing popups based on their current location or how they accessed your site:

Screenshot of a popup that says "Hey Facebook User!".

Popup Maker provides an extension, called Advanced Targeting Conditions, that enables you to do this. By delivering specific messages to different user segments, you’ll likely see a rise in conversions, as you can speak directly to their needs and wants. You can even use this to exclude visitors who have already converted.

4. Be Concise and Clear in Your Message

Popups don’t have much time to deliver their message, so you need to be efficient. Your popup should be as brief and concise as possible with a clear message. Users should ideally be able to absorb your message with a quick glance, like this example from Curiosity Pack:

Screenshot of an example popup with a clear headline of "Learn 5 high-leverage teacher tricks every parent should know!"

To this end, you should also use a prominent Call To Action (CTA). It should be immediately clear what you want the user to do and how this will benefit them. Avoid vague promises and be straight with them about what you’re offering.

It’s also essential you don’t ask too much from the user. The more information you request up front, the less likely they are to give it to you. Ideally, you should only ask for their email address. Remember: you can always gather more information later on if needed.

Finding the right balance when using popups can be difficult, but a good way of seeing what works is by performing split testing. This involves randomly displaying different versions of the same popup. You can then use Popup Analytics to track each popup and see which performs the best and optimize your strategy accordingly.


Popups are here to stay, and we’ve got the data to prove it! Regardless of their somewhat sordid past, popups remain an effective and popular marketing tool, as long as they’re used right. If you avoid spammy, disruptive, and otherwise frustrating practices, popups can help you increase conversions and opt-ins.

In this article, we’ve covered some of the most important best practices for using popups effectively on your site with Popup Maker. These include:

  1. Avoiding disruptive and obscuring popups.
  2. Triggering popups at the right time and place.
  3. Using targeted popups for different users.
  4. Being concise and clear in your message.

Do you have any questions about these practices or any suggestions of your own? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image by Pixabay.

John is a blogging addict, WordPress fanatic, and a staff writer for WordCandy.co.

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