The Do’s and Don’ts of Pop Up Advertising

by    |    Sep 12, 2016    |       7 min read

The aggressive approach to pop ad advertising, which was a huge trend in the early 2000s thought very little of user experience. Getting in people’s way, its reputation became very poor, very fast. And that’s putting it mildly. That’s how we ended up with stats like this one, which says that pop-up ads trigger more than two-thirds of users to leave websites.

But the fact of the matter is that pop ad advertising works. It can be very successful and yield great results without hurting the user experience – but it is imperative that you do it right.

Sure, this type of advertising, as we know it, can be annoying, useless, bandwidth-consuming, malware-ridden digital shirt-tugger. But most advertisers get it wrong, which is why people quit the sites that serve them, and fast. But it’s 2017, and we’ve found a few methods that work, and when properly executed, they can reward you with amazing conversion rates. Here we’ll list some of the things you should, and some that you shouldn’t be doing, when preparing a pop ad advertising campaign.

User experience, both online and on mobile, is of utmost importance nowadays. Anything and everything that might create friction in user experience will have visitors fleeing your page faster than Justin Bieber running from his fans. So let’s take a look at what you should be doing:


1) Modernize

The first, most important thing, is to modernize your approach to pop ad advertising. Back in the days of the Wild Wild Internet, pop-up advertising used to be this animated, flashing window that popped up everywhere, getting in users’ way, asking them to meet cute single ladies nearby.  No wonder ad blockers are booming.

The modern internet is all about user experience. Everything, even pop advertising, needs to be relevant and needs to be as unobtrusive as possible. Everyone loves relevant content, presented in a nice, beneficial way. ‘Screaming’, flashing animations will get you nowhere.

2) Personalize

pop up advertising

Image Credit: Marketing Charts

It’s no secret that personalized ads yield much better results than serving anything, to anyone. Tailoring content increases conversions reduce page and cart abandonment. Users find it more engaging, time-saving and memorable.

Even though content personalization often draws with it the question of privacy, research has shown that users are more than willing to give out certain information about themselves to get better offers in return. Things like time spent on certain sites, keywords used and ads they clicked on in the past are some of the elements that can be used to create personalized offers.

Obviously, targeting specific audiences is on the publisher side of things, but what advertisers need to ensure is that the copy of the ad, including the CTA or any offers they might have, don’t sound or feel generic. Consider this: if your ad sounds relevant to a larger audience, you’re not doing personalization right.

 3) Get creative with creatives

Pun definitely intended. Check out these two cool solutions:

pop up exampleswalmart example.png


Image Credit: Ambitionally

There really is no reason to be boring, bland, or go with the same calls to action with a gazillion exclamation marks. Being funny, witty, interesting, different, or straight to the point goes a long way. After all, you’re in the ads business – people are being paid a ton to be creative, so go execute that crazy idea you had last weekend.

4) Question Everything

Publishers can do a lot to make sure your ads yield amazing results – but so can you. Advertisers need to question everything they’re doing, and they need to question it frequently. Everything, from creatives to the calls to action, to the slightest of nuances such as the color palettes used in the ads. Test your ads with the A/B approach, and don’t be afraid to take a few risks. The success of a pop ad depends on multiple factors, one of which is your buyer’s persona.

5) Offer stuff

The pop ad is the perfect way for the site owner to offer a bit of extra value to its visitor, and if it’s your ad that’s doing it, all the better for you. Pop-up ads are literally in visitors’ faces and they can’t miss it. You can either annoy them with it or surprise and excite them. By offering stuff, you’re increasing your chances of creating the latter effect. Newsletter subscriptions, premium content, early bird offers, whatever works. One of the above-mentioned examples does a great job of offering premium content.


1) Hide the close button

If users can’t find the button to close the pop ad straight away, they won’t even bother looking. They will just close the tab, or the browser altogether, and poof! There goes your visitor and a potential buyer. What’s even worse is that those that do try to find the button and fail, will leave the site in frustration, and you definitely don’t want your ad to be remembered that way.

2) Manipulate your visitors into clicking the CTA by being condescending

Let’s take a look at an example:

Landing page

Image Credit: Web Design Ledger |  Ambitionally

An interesting thing about this ad is that it lacks a “No” button with an accompanying message. Now consider this ad with “No” button that says something like “No thanks, I would rather be an average manager” and “No thanks, I don’t need more clients”. This condescending tone that is trying to manipulate visitors into clicking “Yes” isn’t doing anything good for the site. A well-built pop-up ad will refrain from trying to manipulate its visitors into clicking.

3) Serve the same ad multiple times

This is what serving the same ad to the same person multiple times does to your business. This is a big no-no. Serving the same ad multiple times can seriously hurt the user experience, especially if the ad server has the same message. Maybe you can afford to interrupt them once, but doing it twice or more times really is asking for trouble. Whenever possible, stress to your publisher that you don’t want your pop ad to appear more than once per visit, per person. Everything else leaves a dent in user experience, which is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.

4) Use templates

This might be a bit of a long stretch but bear with me. If there is any chance to take a step away from template pop ads, do it. Having the same look and feel as the next guy will not make you stand out in a crowd, will not excite or interest people. It is best to go with a custom option, whenever possible.

Closing comments

Some fifteen years ago, during the Wild Wild Internet days, pop-up advertising was annoying, intrusive, irrelevant and misleading. Those were the days when the image of pops as a sinister practice was created. Unfortunately, it’s still present. However, numbers also show that pop advertising is a great tool, but only, ONLY, if done right. Keep in mind the tips we wrote here and you should be good to go.