Are Pop-Ups the Ultimate Evil? A Guide to Feel-Good Pop-ups

Dec 9, 2016 | 4 comments


You think you have to use pop-ups.

Everyone uses them. They say pop-ups convert. They say there’s no way around it. So you use them, too.

But… does it feel right? I mean, no one likes pop-ups. A pop-up has never made anyone happy.

Now, tell me the truth. One of the reasons you became your own boss was that you didn’t want to do things that were against your nature. Right? Maybe not – maybe it was my reason. Yeah, it was my reason.

So, how do I solve this pop-up dilemma? Is there such a thing as a feel-good pop-up?

Let’s find out.


Selling vs. Manipulation

It’s not that I’m 100% against pop-ups. It’s just that I believe in good copywriting more than in shouting at people.

Words are stronger than manipulation and dirty tricks. Yes, you can force people to join your list. You can force them to buy your product or service. But the people who will give you exceptional testimonials, come back for more, and bring their friends aren’t the people who were manipulated.

Selling, by its nature, isn’t evil. It’s neutral. If you feel bad or guilty about selling, you have a money mindset issue. But that’s a topic for another day.

Marketing tools and hacks are just tools and hacks. You can use them as a means of helping people, or you can misuse them to rip people off. And the same goes for pop-ups.


Is there such a thing as a feel-good pop-up?Click To Tweet


What are pop-ups good for, anyway?

I don’t know. I tried to google it, and the results included things like “the ultimate evil,” “the most annoying god-damn thing in the world.,” and “the best excuse to watch porn.” (Okay, it wasn’t Google. It was Urban Dictionary.)

But seriously.

The purpose of pop-ups is to capture email addresses. We all want email addresses of our web visitors.

The harsh truth is that most people visit our websites just once – no matter how good our stuff is. The online world is just too noisy.

And that’s why we need the email addresses.

Luckily, pop-ups aren’t the only way.

The less aggressive form is a good old opt-in form.

Opt-in forms don’t move, pop up, slide in, or yell at you. They just sit there and quietly wait for you to subscribe.

And that’s the trouble. Nowadays, opt-ins are everywhere, and we’re becoming blind to them. We often don’t see them unless they do something to catch our attention. Fly in. Scroll down. Pop up.

And that’s what pop-ups are good for.


Do you really need pop-ups?

Short answer: No, you don’t. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t force yourself to do it.

Now, I don’t want you to feel guilty for using pop-ups. Pop-ups are okay as long they’re okay with you. I just want to ensure you that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. It’s your business; do it your damn way.

Don’t want pop-ups? Here are some alternatives:

  • Make your static opt-in forms unignorable. Make them pretty. Make the free gift irresistible. Create a mock-up of the gift so that people can see what they’ll get. Put the forms in unexpected places. Put them everywhere – sidebar, footer, about page, homepage, inside blog posts, and more.
  • Promote your list. On social media, within your content, in communities, and everywhere else.
  • Use your free content. Make it part of your strategy to convert your blog readers, even the random ones, into subscribers. How? Offer content upgrades, lock parts of your content, and promote your freebie through the posts.
  • Concentrate on good copywriting. Words are stronger than anything else.


Looking for alternatives to sleazy selling tricks? Strong #copywriting is one of them.Click To Tweet


Feel-good Pop-ups – The Rules

☆ The first rule of feel-good pop-ups: Don’t be a blackmailer. What do I mean?

Well, when I’m given two options – “Yes, download an e-book” or “No, I want to remain stupid,” then I’d rather remain stupid than give you my email address. Don’t do this to your readers. It doesn’t feel good.

Also, not giving them any option to decline your offer is just… I don’t know. Let’s say it isn’t the best way to build trust. You may get some subscribers, but it isn’t fair play. It’s a manipulation.

So, what to do instead?

  • If you use a pop-up, always give your readers a chance to decline your offer. It doesn’t mean they aren’t going to join your list. If your stuff is good and if they’re a good fit, they will do it, anyway.
  • Don’t make your readers feel guilty for saying “no.” It’s not a good feeling, and you want them to feel good, don’t you? “No thanks” or “not now” is everything you need.



☆ Consider less intrusive kinds of pop-ups:

  • An exit intent pop-up that only appears when the web visitor is about to leave
  • A fly-in pop-up that slides in from the bottom corner and doesn’t cover the content
  • Triggered pop-up that only appears after the reader clicks on something



☆ Don’t settle for the default setting – the same pop-up on every page. Instead, think about every page and ask yourself: Is this a good place to convert subscribers? If it is, what’s the best way to do it?


☆ A/B test your pop-ups (meaning, create two versions and test them towards each other – most premium pop-up plugins can do this) to improve the copy and your strategy.


☆ Remove pop-ups from sales pages and landing pages. Here, you aren’t converting subscribers. You are selling to people who are already interested. Don’t distract them and yell at them while they’re making a buying decision.


☆ I’d also be careful with pop-ups on the homepage. This is your first chance to make a good impression. How do you want your first-time visitors to feel about your brand?


☆ And please, never use more than one pop-up. It’s super annoying.


How to create a pop-up that converts and feels good (yes, it's possible).Click To Tweet


A few words about pop-up copy

My reflex when I see a pop-up is to close it as fast as I can. I can’t help it. And most people are the same. We’re tired of pop-ups.

If you want people to read the pop-up before they manage to close it, you need a big, fat, short, and attention grabbing headline.

“Subscribe to my list” won’t do. Be original. Be funny. Shock people. Mention the benefit right away.

Under the headline, specify the benefit. What do people get when they subscribe?

You can also build trust by adding social proof. “Join 2k woman who read my newsletter every Monday” sounds kind of tempting, doesn’t it?

Keep the form as short as possible. Only ask for the necessary information. People are busy. A name and email address should be enough.

As for the button copy, make it clickable. “Subscribe” isn’t clickable; it’s dull. Use an action verb (“Download your e-book”), or ask yourself – what do my readers really want? “Improve your accent” sounds better than “subscribe,” right?


Okay, here’s what to do now:

Decide if you need a pop-up. If pop-ups aren’t your thing, concentrate on other ways to get subscribers.

If you decide to give pop-ups a shot, make sure that your pop-ups are feel-good pop-ups. Play with the words. A/B test. Study analytics. If pop-ups don’t work, change them, tweak them, or, you know, get rid of them.

Don’t do things that don’t feel good just because other people do them. It’s your business. Give yourself permission to listen to your gut and do it your way.


  1. ElenaMutonono

    Veronika, this is excellent. I used to always feel guilty about popups, and still one always get into this trap of, “but everyone is doing that.” I thank you for speaking some sense into me and getting me back into my place of comfort where I no longer have to lie to myself that since everyone is doing it I’m just going to do it, too. I do agree with you that no matter what people choose I don’t think using humiliation is right. I’ve been to websites where you can’t close popups or people call you names for not signing up – this is just degrading. Thank you for this!

    • Veronika Palovska

      Elena, thank you so much for your comment. I think it’s a default reaction to look around you and do what everyone else is doing. But, like you said, it can get you into a trap.
      It was such a huge relief for me to realize I didn’t have to do things that didn’t feel right. There are people who will tell you that you’re leaving money on the table. And maybe they’re right. But I believe that aggressive marketing is a temporary solution, while listening to your audience and your own intuition works in the long term.
      I’m glad that you feel the same way about it.

  2. patricepalmer

    Thanks for providing balanced information about whether to pop up or not. I keep reading conflicting information about this. I had a pop up on my homepage and took it down after a few days. It was annoying me so I could only imagine how visitors to my website felt. I do like the idea feel good pop-ups. I might try it again.

    • Veronika Palovska

      Patrice, thank you. I’m glad you found it helpful!


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