Popup Or Die!

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*** POPUP OR DIE ***

In defense of one of the most hated marketing mechanisms on the Internet.

I’ve actually seen several morons claim popups were unethical.

They also happened to be bloggers who blogged about blogging and those guys always give shit business advice. But calling popups unethical?! That’s just stupid.

Ask anyone if they like popups and the answer is no. I don’t even “like” them most of the time. Some people claim they hate them. I’ve seen loads of discussions on the topic and I’ve asked dozens of the “hate popups” crowd whether they ever bought from blogs without popups. They hadn’t. Most turn on ad blockers too.

The people who are actively against popups also lean towards never supporting the producers they consume from in a monetary way. Oh, they’ll pay with social currency they say. Social currency and $5 will get you a latte at Starbucks.

Here’s another aspect of hypocrisy around “liking” popups. Everyone says they don’t like them, but ask any frequent Internet user if they’ve opted in through a popup and the answer is yes and they probably have done so several times in the past 30 days.

Why did they do it? Because they wanted what was offered to them. Does that make them a bad prospect? Maybe. Did it make you a bad prospect? Are you a bad prospect? A lowest common denominator prospect?

Another complaint to not use popups goes like this, “I don’t care if I’d make more money. I’m not going to use them.” This typically goes with the illogic that since many people get annoyed by popups I’m not going to have them because I don’t want to alienate my audience.

What this translates to is “I want people to like me.” They want to feel that strangers on the Internet actually care about them. They are afraid to run a business because that might make some people not be their friend.

But no matter how hard anyone tries there will be people on the Internet who hate you and your work so you might as make money from those who love your work and want to support it.

There are a few other nonsensical complaints about popups, but here’s one that is real…

The technology behind popups is weak sauce. If I opt-in to your list, I shouldn’t see a popup again — I’m on your list you should be emailing me, not showing me more popups.

If I’m on mobile (probably 80% of the time on more and more sites) then the popup shouldn’t exceed screen size preventing me from hitting the X or even the opt-in submit button.

If I’ve opted in on one platform I still shouldn’t ever see your popup again when I come back to your site on another device.

These things annoy people who are likely to pay you and do love your work. We need ways to do awesome things for these people.

Annoying people who don’t love your work and won’t ever give you money, that’s just a bonus.

But this is a defense of popups and not just another place for me to rant about how idiotic the blogging about blogging crowd is.

Popups almost always bump email opt-ins on a site by hundreds of percent over an email opt-in in the right sidebar (or nearly anywhere else on a site).

Popups can (if the messaging is right) get a third of visitors to opt-in. I’ve briefly had over 40% of traffic opt-in on Foolish Adventure, but as with all ads their pull declines over time.

Popups, if the message is right, can be a reward for your best readers. They may not know that you’ve got a great guide about ‘X’ that you’re ‘advertising’ in the sidebar (Ad Blindness) until your popup interrupts them.

Getting more email signups should be a high priority for nearly every online business. If you’ve got something to sell you need email addresses since email is still one of the top sales tools available (#1 for most sites).

Popups are the number one way to get email addresses for businesses that aren’t ecommerce or software.

Maybe someone will develop a method to onboard website visitors that’s better than a popup, but until that day you need to popup or die.


Tim, I’m awed by your genius, dashing good-looks and magnificent mane, but even as magical as popups are, they can’t possibly be universally applicable.

So when shouldn’t popups be used?

I’m glad you asked as I cover when and why you shouldn’t use a popup in Part 2: Popups Must Die!

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