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Why you shouldn’t have website pop-ups & overlays

Mark Tomkins
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That includes newsletter sign-ups, offers and ‘oh, please don’t leave here’s a discount voucher’ pop-ups.

We often get asked to add pop-ups, discount or newsletter signup overlays to a website and end up having the same conversation with the website owner or manager.

That conversation ends the same way each time – us explaining the reasons why a website should NOT have pop-ups or overlays of any kind.

To start with, let’s get the facts out there:

  • Google hates them. It announced last year that (read our article from Oct. 2016) that is was going to penalise (demote) websites that had pop-ups or overlays on mobile sites. All valid reasons:
    i) They’re never sized correctly so the overlay or pop-up content goes off the edge of the mobile browser
    ii) The ‘x’ to close them is always too small and impossible to close with the tip of a finger on a mobile.


  • Users hate them. We all hate experiencing them ourselves; they are annoying and if you’re using a mobile they often prevent you from getting to the page you want. User experience is everything – don’t annoy your users a few seconds after getting them on your site. You’re likely to increase your bouncerate and the user may never return.This is not just our opinion but one we hear on a weekly basis from website visitors in all sectors – particularly online retail environments. The phrase ‘oh, go away…’ is one of the most commonly heard when a pop-up appears while trying to shop online.


  • It’s a poor marketing technique. If a website does not clearly offer the user the right experience with the correct messaging and signposting (go here for this, go there for that) from arriving at the site then adding a pop-up or overlay just compounds the issue and you are likely to see a high bouncerate on your site.


  • It’s desperate. Let’s be honest – those ones that appear when the website feels you’re about to do the off and head back to Google smacks a little of desperation. If the user hasn’t committed to the purchase by then, all you’re going to do is leave a bad taste in their mouth.


Newsletter signup & discount vouchers

Getting your visitors and customers to sign up to your email newsletter is a sensible and well-trodden path marketing technique – adding a clear and visible signup panel on the website and also at the checkout is the way to do this.

The pop-up/overlay that displays with a ‘sign up to our newsletter and get a xx% voucher now’ is a common request by website owners. However, statistics gained from website analytics show that;

  1. For every 1000 displays of the pop-up, <1% sign up or click through (whether by choice or accident)
  2. Of that <1% who do click through or sign up <20% of those on average then go through to purchase and use the voucher.

That may sound like a war on numbers and something that should be scaled up, but look at the other figures – 99% of all those visitors probably got a bit miffed about the pop-up and that reflects badly on the brand as the user experience was a bit negative.

Offers and discounts can be well-placed on the site if that’s your thing. We find that actually you are much better off emailing the customer base with the voucher and an expiry date.

So, as you can see, apart from the significant aspect of Google hating them (and demoting sites that use them on mobile sites) it has a more fundamental reason why they should not be used – and that is to make sure the user experience is a good one. Users hate them.

User experience is everything.