Remember those annoying, ugly, blinking grey boxes that popped up only after you’d already clicked the “X” to close the window?
Yeah, remember these guys?
As annoying as they are, it’s important not to be too quick to write off this theory as a whole.
When you take advantage of technology’s ability to predict when someone’s moving their cursor to close the tab, you can break that pattern (the strategy is literally called pattern interrupt) to have them start thinking about something else.
Hold On Stranger practices what they preach.
Hold On Stranger is an exit popup tool, so of course they have to practice what they preach.
But this particular popup does a great job of demonstrating the pattern interrupt technique. It comes up as you’re about to exit and gives you some food for thought… converting 28% of visitors that were about to leave? Okay!
And when this happens, even though more and more exit popups are being implemented every day, you give their brain a sort of jolt and force them to pay more attention to the topic at hand.
And if you do it right by using some of the hacks we’ll show you, you’ll be able to use them to both improve your on-site experience and increase your conversions (like how Digital Marketer got an extra 2,689 leads in just two weeks), so everyone wins.
What You’ll Learn:
What an exit popup is.
A review of different types of popups.
Screenshot examples of what to do and what not to do.
The 15 exit popup hacks you should test.
How to actually delight your visitors with popups. (And not piss them off.)
Tools to use for your popups.
What Is An Exit Popup?
An exit popup is almost as literal as it sounds.
As someone tries to exit your website or landing page, a popup will appear with a different offer or a reason for them to stay around longer.
Keep reading and you’ll learn about the different types of popups you can take advantage of.
The Different Types of Popups
Exit intent popups are really only one kind of popup.
We’ll be showing you tests to run specifically for those, but a lot of the theories and strategies can be applied to other types of popups too.
Just make sure your site doesn’t look like this. Please – Image source
These are by far the most common type out there.
You know when you’re searching the net and reading something when suddenly this popup pops up, kind of blacking out everything else in the background?
That’s a lightbox popup at work.
These are effective because they require some form of interaction to close them out, and if you play your cards right, even if the decision is “no”, you’ll still reap the benefits of it (check out hack #5 later).
A light box popup can be tied to any sort of intent, or simply set to show immediately or after a certain number of seconds. That’s up to you to test.
This popup from Rooster blacks out everything in the background, making the popup the primary focus.
Leslie Samuel, of the site Become a Blogger, said that after he installed a popup plugin that specializes in this type, he saw a 568% increase in conversions.
These popups seem simple, but have huge conversion impact.
Exit Intent Popups
The traditional exit popups we looked at in the beginning of this post are frowned upon by Google, but this is the next best thing (or probably even abetter thing).
In fact, Google has banned the old traditional AdWords exit popup since they do actually hinder people from leaving your site when they want to.
Exit intent popups don’t actually stop anyone from leaving, but they do use on-site behavior and mouse tracking to guess when a person is about to close their tab before you hit them with an exit intent popup.
This didn’t pop up until I put my cursor in the navigation bar to type a new url.
The idea is to hit visitors that would otherwise leave and forget about you with an irresistible offer. It’s hard to imagine anyone would want to say no to 25,000 unique visitors per month, as this popup promises.
Another website, Your Mechanic, used exit popups to help re-engage visitors who’d come in from paid ad campaigns and were about to leave.
In the popup, they reminded them that if they took only 73 seconds to fill out a form, they’d have a quote.
Only 73 seconds?!
Welcome Mat Popups
As the name implies, these are popups (You could also call them slide-ins) that almost literally roll out to greet your visitor the instant they land on your site or landing page.
All a user has to do is keep scrolling to get past them, but they can interact with them as well.
Here’s how Sujan Patel greets you when you visit his blog.
The term is officially an app from SumoMe, but you can use a different plugin or custom coding/solution to accomplish the same.
And even though they’re shown to people that may not have much experience (if any) with your site, they can be quite effective.
Conrad Wodowski, co-founder of Teachable (previously known as Fedora), shared in August that they used the Welcome Mat tool to increase their rate of student signups by 70%.
Social Content Lockers
These are not exactly popups, per say, though they can very well take the form of a popup.
This is a screen-consuming method that some sites/landing pages will put over content they feel is worth more value than other stuff they’ve got on their site, so they make visitors “pay” for access to it with a Tweet, share, or some form of social media follow.
This visual from Social Locker shows you how this particular popup strategy works.
Personally, I have a hard time with the types of content lockers that require a newsletter subscription or a full-on account creation. But if the content I want to read is compelling enough, I have no problem liking someone on Facebook or doing a small Twitter interaction to get access.
Matthew Woodward, who’s really well-known in the SEO and affiliate marketing niches, calls this strategy his “dirty little secret” for getting more social shares.
He uses these lockers for PDF guides, discount codes, and tutorials, and it’s really paid off.
“This has resulted in 43,094 social shares to date,” he said in February 2015,
“all without having to lift a finger.”
Bottom Right Hand Recommendation, Survey, and Live Chats
These are specifically meant to be non-intrusive and helpful (not so much focused on conversions, but can be).
So rather than making them interruptive, a lot of companies opt to place them at the bottom of the screen and pop them up/in after you’ve been on their site long enough.
The popping up action still gets your attention, but it doesn’t get in the way of you finishing what you were reading.
Here’s an example of ConversionXL telling you what to read next.
You can also ask your visitors a simple question to understand more about them and use that intel as conversion research.
This is a bottom right corner popup that acts as a survey.
Last but not least, you can use a chat tool like Olark to help visitors get quick and easy answers and at the same time, learn what questions they ask about most so you can try answering them in your copy.
See that little purple bar in the right hand corner? This is how Olark displays theirs.
VWO installed Olark on one of their client sites, Ez Texting, and saw a 31% increase in conversions.
Hello bar is another one of those nifty online marketing tools.
And while it may not technically count as a popup (there’s no real “pop up” action that it does), it is something that overlays your website while not being a part of it.
It adds a visible, obvious gesture that stays at the top of your screen as someone scrolls down to help you increase the email conversions you get… upping your email list numbers.
(Or traffic to a certain page, your choice.)
This is a Hello Bar on Hello Bar’s site.
DIYthemes used Hello Bar for tangible bribes, sending traffic to a landing page, and traditional opt-ins, and got 1,180 extra subscribers in their 30-day experimentation period.
15 Hacks to Making the Most Out of Your Exit Intent Popup
Now that that quick review’s over, let’s get to the good stuff. The stuff you’re here for.
The hacks that can make your exit popups super effective and help you create a great experience for your visitors.
Blog Post-Specific Popups
If someone’s heavily reading an in-depth instructional blog post on your site and they’re about to close the window, don’t miss the opportunity.
If they love what they’ve been reading, they’ll be super willing (now more than ever) to exchange their email address for a content-specific download that helps them take what they’ve learned from your blog post even further.
Known as a content upgrade, a lot of content marketers are already updating their most popular blog posts with CTAs to prompt their downloads, but adding an exit intent popup on these blog posts can help you capture the emails of those who have gone blind to traditional on-page CTAs.
The bright yellow captures the visitors attention.
These types of yellow, highlighted callouts that work as in-post CTAs for your content upgrade can work wonders.
But even if you don’t have a content upgrade to tempt people with, you can still create a page-specific popup that has bullet points relevant to what the visitor was just reading and prompts them to sign up for more relevant advice via your newsletter.
If they loved what you had to say, they’ll opt in.
Arrows To Guide
The screenshot doesn’t capture the movement, but imagine this arrow moving back and forth.
It’s a simple idea but makes a difference.
This could work to your advantage within your exit popups while making your visitor’s experience even better.
Let me explain.
There’s this thing called decision fatigue that affects all of us every single day, whether we like it or not.
The basic theory is that we as the day wears on, our mental energy wears out, so we’re more and more likely to take the path of least resistance in our decision making later in the day.
And since the average popup usually has a headline, maybe a subheading, bullet point benefits, and a CTA, that can be a lot to look at.
And it feels like even more to look at when you’re doing online research for your boss after lunch, when you’ve already finished all the hard, important stuff for the day.
In this case, tasteful arrows that either point out the main benefit you’re trying to drive home before they leave your page, or to the actual CTA itself, help reduce the friction in the brain.
Make it easy for your visitors to find your CTA.
This arrow on a NicheHacks popup is a directional cue hinting where to go, cutting down on decision-making friction.
Coupons to Reduce Buying Friction
When I was shopping online for Christmas gifts, there were a few times when I abandoned my shopping cart after seeing the final cost plus shipping.
Or when I was browsing Amazon and didn’t have that $35 minimum yet. (No, I don’t have Prime. Don’t judge me.)
So instead of finishing the buying process, I just closed the window and decided to come back to it later… with a plan to either shop around for less expensive options or wait to see if I could think of an item that would fit within my gift list to boost my Amazon amount enough to get free shipping.
Amazon probably doesn’t care if I finish shopping at that moment, because they’re a mega giant eCommerce site, and they know I’ll be back sooner or later.
But those other sites?
I hate to say it, but they can’t be so sure.
A genius way to reduce the buying friction your visitor might be feeling is to offer a coupon for free shipping or a certain percentage off their order to complete the order right now.
This is a great offer and the CTA copy is perfect.
Here’s another one from WPMU DEV that tries to catch me as I’m leaving with a limited-time 60% off coupon.
Since 60% is a huge amount of savings, they’ve definitely got my attention. And the best part is, they don’t even require me to BUY NOW!! because all I need to do is give them my email address.
In fact, the strategy is so important and effective (especially for eCommerce sites) that Shopify offers a free trial of their Exit And Leaving Coupon Offers app, letting the data from the trial speak for itself.
“Studies have shown that 8 out of 10 visitors who add an item to their cart never make the purchase and the main reason is price…
If they were to leave and a coupon that makes the price of the product more acceptable for them appears, you can make an additional sale from a visitor that you would otherwise lose forever,” they say.
Full-Screen Eye Patterns
It’s pretty much fail proof. When people read websites, they ready with an F-shaped eye pattern.
See the F pattern? – Image source
And again – Image source
And here too – Image source
See what I mean?
So don’t think it’ll be any different with your exit popup, especially if you’re using a lightbox that takes up the full screen.
Notice how Freshbooks is doing it with their text & placing white space between the “F” lines?
So, the left side of your popup carries more visual weight than the right side. (Maybe better to keep your image on the right side so you can get more attention to the weight of your words.)
Also, especially if you’ve only got one CTA button, you might not want to put it in the bottom right corner.
You know, the basics.
Be a Jerk in Your “No” Option Language
I’ll try to set my harsh judgements and steaming, hell-fire condemnation aside for a moment and look at things objectively here.
I’m sure you guys know what I’m talking about. *cough* *cough*
Maybe I have a lot on my plate and not choosing you is not simply lazy procrastination.
Doesn’t this just totally rub you the wrong way?
It does me. Come on, Popup Domination, I am not that simple-minded.
Lance Jones calls it “scuzzy.” And I agree. Though I might not choose such a nice word.
But as much as I’d love to say other people hate it as much as I do, the data says something different.
Because, trying to see the bright side of this, I have to admit it does create an easy, no-brainer “yes”, and when someone does click on that “yes”, it builds their momentum towards actually converting.
According to OptiMonk, adding the “No” option can increase conversions by 30% to 40% that using an exit popup that only provides the opt-in option.
“This is especially the case when you add a reverse call to action to your ‘No’ as a subtext,”
said Csaba Zajdo on OptiMonk.
“For example, the opt-out or ‘No’ link can read, ‘No, I’d rather not receive free deals in my inbox.’
In this case, seeing this link, the visitor will reconsider their option to opt-out and think,
‘Ok, why not? I like free deals, I can read the emails when they arrive and decide later, ok I’ll signup.’”
“A choice can leave doubt in people’s minds if they did make the right decision or not,” said Krista Bunskoek.
“If someone said ‘No,’ that choice can linger on in their minds and there’s more likelihood of them coming back to your site anyway.”
“If you let yourself fall to the dark side,” warns Lance, “which is basically outright trickery – you may see some positive initial results, but you’ll be found out eventually, and in the end, your newfound customers will be pissed.”
Urgency That Doesn’t Feel Cheap
Let’s learn a little lesson about urgency. It does not have to look like this:
Please, please, please don’t do this anywhere on your site.
Today only! Except when I come back tomorrow, and see that it says exactly the same thing…
Not at all.
What you can do, though, is politely remind something that a certain deal only has a certain amount of time left.
Or give them a nudge that they can have something right now if they’ll just take the 60 seconds or so needed to fill out your request forms.
Here’s what I mean for both of those examples:
Using this in your popup creates urgency but in a classy way.
This countdown available in the WordPress Countdown plugin doesn’t fake urgency and keeps you accountable to only offering your time-sensitive offers during your set time periods, and not having it “start over” just because a new person comes to your site.
Create urgency by showing the visitor your CTA will only take a few seconds.
Remember this example from above? I’m using it again. It creates urgency (only 73 seconds!) without employing the scarcity mindset that pisses us all off so much.
Urgency with your exit popup can be classy, folks. And you don’t even have to employ the scarcity mindset that a lot of scammy online tricksters use.
But Wait! More from Billy Mays, Discount Style!
Anyone else here grow up with a childhood guilty pleasure of mindlessly watching Billy Mays infomercials?
I don’t know why I liked watching them so much, I don’t ever remember him advertising any product I actually cared about. But he was just so excited about all of it, and even though I didn’t do much house cleaning at that age, I had to admit, OxiClean could really take care of business.
And if the quality of the product in and of itself wasn’t good enough when the call to action came around and you had to call in with your credit card, he always threw in another container of OxiClean and some other awesome product to help you with your laundry. (Or something like that.)
And there was one thing I knew: if I was 18 and had a credit card, I would have been all over that.
What a deal!
Not only did Billy Mays cut the price of the OxiClean tub in half from $40 to $19.95, he gave away a squirt bottle, a shammy, and Orange Clean. Whoa.
The moral of that story is this:
No, you don’t need to offer them double of anything for the same price, but you can do an extra month free if you’ve got a SaaS business, a percentage-based discount on their order, or free shipping.
You know, whatever’s appropriate for your business model.
This is a great example of offering a discount your visitors would love.
I love this popup Shopify shared of one of their customers. You’ll notice that this strategy (of offering an extra offer in an effort to get people to convert) really doesn’t have to be much more than letting them save a little money, like in hack #3.
But, for example, rather than a 10% discount, Green Mountain Mustard could have offered a free recipe card if they processed their order at that moment.
Cart Item Notification
Maybe your visitor was shopping along, added something to their cart, and then got totally distracted by the other amazing content and products you have that they totally forgot to check out.
If someone’s about to close your tab but they’ve got an item in their cart that they haven’t purchased yet, by all means, remind them of it.
The practice of placing a popup notification about someone’s shopping cart as soon as they add in an item is pretty common.
Like this one from Popup Full Cart.
But imagine if this came up as an exit intent popup… especially with the 20% discount reminder.
Matthew Woodward outlined a case study with this strategy.
When ShoeMe.ca wanted to recover brand new customers that were about to abandon a shopping cart full of products, they create a 15% off exit intent popup.
But since they didn’t really want to offer the coupon to everyone, they filtered out any returning visitors, it didn’t show to people who were about to purchase, and had a higher sensitivity towards exit intent.
By doing that, they turned nearly 7% (6.87%) of brand new visitors that would have otherwise been gone forever into full-fledged customers with the probability of a lifetime value higher than just that of their first order.
When To (Not) Use An Exit Intent Popup
If someone comes to your site, spends five seconds looking around, and then quickly decides what you’re offering is not for him, an exit popup, no matter how wonderful the offer is, is not going to delight him.
It’s going to piss him off.
Because while exit popups can be some of the most effective ways (besides retargeting) to recover lost visitors, it’s certainly not going to work if they simply do not care.
One way to do this would be to calculate how long it would take a person to digest the gist of your page and only show an exit intent popup if they start to leave your site after that certain amount of time.
A MarketingSherpa study found that 60 seconds was the best-practice for a popup delay for effectiveness, so if people are bouncing off your site before one minute, you might want to avoid showing them an exit intent popup meant for more serious readers.
A lot of times, people will come to your website to read what you’re writing, and not much more.
They might love what you’ve got to say, but they’re not really at the point where they want to do much more.
But a chance to passively keep up with what you put out online?
The Facebook Page Promoter Lightbox, can help you gain social media followers that were happy with your site’s content.
If you make your Facebook like / Twitter follow an option upon exit, you could see your social influence growing quickly for no extra work than the time it takes to set up one of these bad boys. (Which is not much.)
Why Are You Breaking Up With Me?
This one in particular won’t necessarily contribute to a wild increase in conversions… or any increase in conversions for that matter.
But while quick wins are definitely important, I’m guessing you’re also in this online business thing for the long haul, so pulling off something like this right as new visitors are about to leave could be incredibly valuable.
iPerceptions does this on their own site.
Pictured is not an exit-intent survey, but their technology is smart enough to pick up on behavior-based triggers, letting you show the popup for a survey request at the most critical moment.
Careful though, too much of this could make you seem whiny and needy. (And no one likes to hang out with the whiny needy type.)
Using personalized chat popups can help answer any visitor questions.
This popped up on when I went to the KlientBoost site on another browser. Lord knows I’ve been here more than 5 times. But I have to say, very well played Johnathan, very well played.
Best to keep it up for a certain amount of time and then take it down. Get the info you came for and go. Or maybe even only show it to new visitors to figure out creative ways to keep people on your site.
Employ Launch-Centric Scarcity
If you’re launching something soon, and particularly if a visitor was just on a landing page talking about the particular product that’s being launched, use exit-intent based scarcity to get people to think twice about opting in.
You could offer a pre-launch sales rate at a discounted price… but only for the first several who opt in or for a limited time.
For example, if you decide you’ll sell an e-course at 40% to the first 250 people who opt-in and buy it, you could show a countdown ticker within the popup itself that shows how many copies are left at that price, and how quickly they’re going.
Make sure you also mention the regular price for comparison, and when that will be available for purchase and download.
This popup labeled the beta access as “limited”, but is also very specific with its deadline.
Matt Kremer employed this strategy when he launched a side project. Not only has he labeled the beta access as “limited”, but he’s also put a very specific deadline on it.
“Scarcity works because it forces action,” said Yaro Starak.
“You can’t be a fence sitter if the product is coming off the market tomorrow. If you want it, you have to decide now.”
In fact, scarcity is so influential that it’s the sixth of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence.
“When our freedom to have something is limited, the item becomes less available, and we experience an increased desire for it,”
says Cialdini of scarcity in his book.
“However, we rarely recognize that the psychological reactance has caused us to want the item more;
all we know is that we want it.”
This works particularly well if you choose a popup plugin that not only has exit-intent prediction, but also takes into account how long someone’s been on the page and how much scrolling they’ve done.
If they’ve spent enough time and done enough scrolling to read whatever it is that they’ve landed on but have finished and are trying to leave, suggest another blog post that’s incredibly popular and that readers of the given topic are also really interested in.
For example, if on my post about classy vs. tacky copywriting and a visitor’s finished reading it but is moving toward the tab’s “X”, I might put in an exit-intent popup that leads them to a previous blog post about how to write better blog posts intros.
Maybe I should try this on my site to see how things work out?
Shared on SitePoint, this is a suggested reading popup that goes straight for the kill with an ebook optin. But if someone were reading about early morning rituals to boost productivity, they might also be interested in nighttime rituals for better sleep.
And particularly if your product opt-in is a little pricey, you might want to spend some time educating and buttering up your visitors with quality information before going for the kill.
Free recommended content is even better.
Test a Two-Step Popup
Ever notice that when some popups appear in front of you, they don’t have a direct CTA?
Like, the ones with the “Yes” and “No” options that some people tend to be jerks with?
This is the first step in the Copy Hackers popup for a free ebook.
This is the first step in the Copy Hackers popup for a free ebook. Only when I click on the “Yes” option do I proceed to the next screen of the popup, the actual opt-in, building my momentum towards conversion.
And here’s the second step.
I’ve already said yes, so of course I’m going to be more likely to give them my email ID in exchange for a 100% off coupon code.
Those can actually work for your benefit by getting more conversions when you use them as an exit popup, too.
In theory, when someone answers “Yes” to the question you’re asking, they’re building up more momentum to help them push through the conversion, so when the second step pops up, they’re more likely to enter their email address into the blank box, than if you just shoved the blank box in their face from the get-go.
It likely has a lot to do with the Zeigarnik Effect, which basically states that if you initiate something, you’re more likely to finish it.
Even the people at LeadPages, who specialized in optimizing conversions, were able to bank a 60% conversion increase when they employed a two-step popup over the traditional single-step one.
This isn’t so much a tip exclusive to exit popups as it is for copywriting in general.
But if you want your exit popup to work for you, this is no time to be using generic language and generalized promises.
While offering an ebook download to help your readers get more traffic might work, an ebook offering advice to help them get 15,000 new visitors within a 50-day time frame will be much more effective.
Free book of what?
Here is a Welcome Mat that popped up as soon as I visited Pushing Social’s website. Of course, it is important to start a business blog the right way, but I’m a little unsure of what they mean… the backend setup? The content strategy? Generating traffic to my first posts?
The subheading in this popup is much more clear.
And though this is only a dummy popup from Designrazzi, the headline does a great job in delivering a specific promise, not just a generic one.
“What it mostly comes down to is the context and how the numbers are used,” said Neil Patel on ConversionXL, citing a study published in Science Direct.
“For example, many cultures around the world are conditioned from a young age to infer that larger numbers means more of something.”
Use a number to grab visitors attention and show them why they need to sign up for your newsletter or purchase your product.
The Popup Toolbox: Anything & Everything You Need to Make These Popups Possible
So you’re pretty much convinced that an exit intent popup is something you need to try on your site, right?
Right? Yes – GIF source
Well don’t worry, we’re not going to leave you hanging with a bunch of good reasons to try an exit intent popup and then not even tell you how to get started with one.
If you already use a popup tool or plugin, check to see what kind of timed or behavior-specific features it’s got. You might already be sitting on exit intent gold without even knowing it.
If not, check out some of these:
Picreel – These guys actually focus solely on exit intent and converting abandoning visitors. They specialize in overlays that pop up exactly when someone’s moving their cursor to leave and in those surveys we mentioned.
Optimonk – Optimo