Pop up CTAs - the good, the bad, and the best practices

Michael Gabrian

by Michael Gabrian on 05/23/2017

Including pop-up calls to action on your site could either really help you or hurt you. On one hand, you want to give your visitor any relevant offerings according to the page they're on, but on the other, do you really want to shove it in their face while they're reading?

Pop-up calls to action have provided some teams with increased subscriptions, but they are also seen as annoying and in come cases, manipulative. This is mainly when you're forced to "submit" or click a line like "No thanks, I like paying extra for services".

So I have to ask; pop-up calls to action, are they good or bad?

“And remember: If it’s not relevant, it’s just noise.”

- Jason Miller

The good

Increased subscriptions

From what I've seen, pop-up CTAs do get a lot of email addresses. Whether you're building a quality list aside, you are building a list. From there, you could make an educated content strategy. You have a contact's email, you know what they were researching, you can send them more relevant content.


You're literally putting your offers in their face. If the offer is relevant to what they're searching for and your message is crafted correctly, the tactic should be effective. I feel like there is always the initial annoyance when a pop-up blocks your content, but while research some marketing topics, if I get an ad for a free ebook on what I'm looking for, I might go for it.

The bad


Word is, a lot of companies that have a pop-up strategy do see an initial boost in subscriptions. I get it. You're putting your offerings in their face. They have to look at it, so maybe they'll give in to the download. My concern is the quality of leads you're actually building. Leads are great, but you have a qualifying process for a reason. Why fill it with random traffic when chances are they might not even be a potential customer?

Bounce rates

It's not a secret that pop-ups are annoying. Often times, if done incorrectly, pop-ups could increase bounce rates. It would be very unfortunate to attempt a pop-up CTA to push helpful content to your visitors just for them to abandon your site because of it.

Breaking the thought process

There are different types of pop-ups, some that trigger based on time, entering the page, moving the mouse to leave, etc. Imagine your visitor is reading an article you wrote and mid sentence POP-UP. It's distracting. Our job is to create great experiences for our visitors, they came to learn, so it's important to think about what triggers your pop-up.

A scroll pop-up could be great if placed at the bottom of your article. You know they are interested in your offer because they read the entire article. The exit pop-up could also be a good idea because it's a way of saying, "before you go, check this out."

Best Practices

If you do decide to try them, just keep these do's and dont's in mind:


  • Make sure the content offering is relevant to what the visitor is looking at
  • Make sure your visitor doesn't see the same pop-up more than once on their visit
  • Make sure the exit is prominent
  • A/B test them


  • Don't use them on your mobile site
  • Don't ask for more than their name and email, keep it short
  • Don't make the alternative something like "No, I don't like saving money" or "I don't like getting new leads" It's manipulative

To conclude:

Again, it's tough. Pop-up CTAs do seem to work if done effectively, but you still might be risking a lot using them. Though you're getting offers out there and may increase subscriptions, you're breaking your visitors thought process and blocking your own content.

It definitely depends on your company and audience as well. There are tons of opinion articles out there, but the best you can do it test it out and see what works for your site.

Calls to action are only the 4th level of priority when optimizing your site. Curious to know the others? Click the button below to view our 7 levels of priority infographic.

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