I am in the process of implementing website pop-ups on several sites, including this one. I haven’t done so until now because I haven’t had the time to invest and I’ve been hesitant because of usability concerns.

The problem is, in part, historic. Most people’s experience with pop-ups are in the form of annoying as hell ads:

Annoying Ad Types [CHART]

According to MarketingCharts:

  • A poll of Americans’ attitudes to bad ads by InsightsOne finds that more Americans are annoyed by irrelevant pop-up ads (70%) than by male (66%) or female (54%) enhancement ads, and even emails from deceased African leaders who have left them money (64%).
  • 88% have been inundated with “online ad spam” and 9 in 10 respondents say they take action in response, such as
    • Unsubscribing from future emails (60%)
    • Leaving a website (36%)
    • Stopping use of the product advertised (14%)
    • Completely boycotting the company doing the advertising (13%)

Still, I know they work. It’s a matter of implementing them properly so that visitors to your site don’t reflexively close them like they do most pop-ups or, worse, simply leave yours site out of aggravation.

Website Pop-Up Best Practices: Timing

My instincts are to implement them in time-delayed fashion so they don’t immediately pop up upon a visitor coming to the site. My rationale is that for new visitors especially, you need to give them some time on site in order to build up enough trust to give up their email address. Also, for return visitors it’s better to interrupt their experience as little as possible.

The name of the game with implementing pop-ups on your site is balancing user experience with the goal of building your email list.

It’s typically best to rely on research rather than instincts but in this case, the research seems to support my instincts.

Apart from an actual case study published at MarketingSherpa, I couldn’t find any hard and fast statistics that nail down benchmarks for optimal time-delay for website pop-ups. This shouldn’t be surprising. Results should vary due to the fact that websites have different audiences with different expectations and experiences. Marketing-savvy people such as those who visit this site, for instance, are probably more likely to close pop-ups quickly because they encounter them all the time.

Nevertheless, the consensus seems to be give your visitors time to experience your site before showing them a pop-up (most say about a minute) but base your timing decisions on your site analytics and then test, test, test.

The following is a survey of my research of the website pop-up best practices I found:

Prestashop – Using Pop-Ups For Your Online Store – Best Practices & Examples For 2015

  • Set the pop-up to appear after one minute or two page views. Setting parameters such as these lets the visitor gain a better understanding of your website before being asked to perform an action.
  • Don’t display pop-ups too often; otherwise you may be indexed as spam.

KISSMetrics – Three Risky eCommerce Techniques

  • Show your popup infrequently.
  • Time the popup to appear at least 1 minute after the user lands on the page or after the user scrolls 75% of the way down the page. Setting up the popup with parameters like this is a good way to qualify a likely level of on-page engagement.

ProBlogger – How To Drastically Increase Subscriber Numbers To Your Email Newsletter

  • Test subscription rates on forms that have a short time before appearing versus forms that have a longer time before appearing.
  • Forms that take longer periods of time to appear have a slightly higher signup rate. However these forms show to less people as some navigate away from the page.

Unbounce – Are Email Subscription Pop-Ups Worth The Risk?

  • The best time to show a pop-up is 60 seconds after your visitors enter your site.
  • If you time your pop-up before 60 seconds, there will be a significant drop off in conversion rates.
    • If you wait too long, your pop-up will miss a large number of visitors.

Emailaudience – Email Pop-Ups From Worst To Best

  • Worst type of popup: Show in your face asking for email address before even knowing what the website is about. They are ugly, annoying and they pop up every time you enter the website.

GetElastic – Excuse Me: When Is It OK To Interrupt With Pop-Ups?

  • The biggest mistake I see is pop-ups that deploy far too early. My first visit to a site, I need time to look around before I’m ready to join a Facebook page, download an e-book or sign up for a newsletter.

Dan Zarella – My Data Shows Email Pop-Ups Work & Don’t Hurt

  • Zarella finds a significant effect on signups with no effect on bounce rates/time on page.

 WebMeUp – Do Your Pop-Ups Annoy Customers?

  • Most successful pop-up use cases I’ve come across involve just one instance of the dialog box appearing every 24 hours or even less frequently.
  • The time delay (or no time delay) that you create for the pop-up can either make it or break it.
    • Some websites use no time delay at all and display their hover messages right away. Perhaps this is what works for them.
  • Pay attention to the analytics to watch at the bottom of the article