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Should Marketers Use Pop-Up Forms? A Comprehensive Analysis

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Should Marketers Use Pop-Up Forms? A Comprehensive Analysis

As inbound marketers, we care about creating frictionless experiences for our website visitors that will also generate leads. Most of the time we can do both but in the case of pop-up forms, conflict does emerge.

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Over the past few years, pop-up forms have re-emerged as a popular marketing tactic for promoting content, driving blog subscriptions, growing email lists, and fueling lead generation. The question is, do pop-up form work? We’ll cover that and more below.

What is a pop-up form?

A pop-up form is a window that appears while a user browses a website. It can be triggered by a number of actions, including interactions with an element on the page, scrolling, and inactivity.

Pop-ups have become so prevalent that back in 2016, Google weighed in to announce it would start penalizing websites using, what they call, “intrusive interstitials.”

But here’s the thing: not all pop-ups are bad. When executed well, they can be part of a healthy inbound strategy.

However, because of the intrusive and disruptive nature of pop-ups, marketers should be careful of when and how they appear as well as the type of content they present. In other words, context.

When they’re appropriate context mixed in with added value, pop-up forms can enhance website visitors’ experience and boost conversion rates.

Pop-ups come in many shapes and sizes, but here’s a graphic that depicts the most common ones you might see on a web page:

types of pop-up: welcome mat, overlay modal, top banner, slide-in box

Let’s dive a little deeper into these pop-up formats:

1. Welcome Mats

These are full-screen pop-ups that slide above the page content.

The biggest advantage to using a welcome mat pop-up form is that ig brings the offer front and center. Consider doing this if the offer is highly relevant to your content and important to your strategy.

Otherwise, a welcome mat pop-up may be a little too intrusive, as it may not be what users expect when landing on this page.

2. Overlay Modals

As close to the traditional pop-up as you can get, these are center-screen pop-ups that appear on top of page content. do pop-up forms work: overlay modal example

Unlike the welcome mat, overlays don’t block the rest of the content from being shown, but the user will have to click out of the pop-up to continue what they’re doing. While some users do feel that overlay modals are intrusive, they often have high conversion rates if the offer is compelling.

3. On-Click Pop-Ups

An on-click pop-up is a specific type of overlay modal that pops up with a form when a user clicks a call-to-action or other page element.

type of pop-up form: on-click pop ups

They’re perfect for when an in-line form would clutter the page but you want to decrease friction to a particular offer. The UX tends to be easy, which reduces friction on the conversion path.

4. Gamified Coupons

Another type of overlay modal, gamified coupons will let you play a game for a discount or prize of some kind in exchange for the users’ information.

They often come in the form of a prize wheel or scratch-off ticket and are best for fun ecommerce store brands (since the coupon can then be applied at checkout).

5. Top Banners

Also known as sticky bars, these are small banners that manifest as a bar at the very top of the page, asking the user to take action on something.

types of pop up forms: top banners

They are typically a more permanent conversion element than other types of pop-up and are best used for broad offers such as newsletter subscriptions, coupons, or even general announcements.

6. Slide-In Boxes

Slide-ins are small boxes that slide in from the side/bottom of the page, similar to an overlay modal but with less obtrusive behavior. types of pop-ups: slide in pop up

These are great for presenting offers as the user is scrolling through the content of the page.

Pop-Up Triggers

Among the most popular pop-up triggers are:

Now that we know a little more about pop-up forms, let’s get back to the core question: Should marketers be using them? Let’s dig in.

Do pop-up forms work?

I’ll answer this one right off the bat: The answer is yes. Pop-up forms do work, and this is the main reason so many marketers are using them.

In 2019, research conducted by Sumo found that the top performing 10% of pop-up forms convert at a whopping 9.3%.

In 2021, Klaviyo analyzed over 80,000 businesses using its software and found that overlay modal pop-up forms convert at 3.2% and slide-out pop-ups at 2.2%.

To dig into why some pop-up forms perform better than others, we surveyed 100 consumers to learn about their habits.

50% of respondents say what draws them most to a form is a clear indication of what they’ll receive for completing it. I.e. the offer.

The length of the form along with an engaging description will also play an important role in the conversion rate. In fact, 50% of respondents say a pop-up form’s length can cause them to abandon it.

The longer the form, the higher the odds they’ll disengage. 20% say they’ll abandon a form if they feel they’re asked invasive questions.

Although this can vary by form, it’s much easier for users to offer a name and an email than it is to give a phone number and home address.

Knowing which questions to ask is key to how well the pop-up form converts.

Find below additional tips on creating effective pop-up forms.

4 Tips for Crafting High-Converting Pop-Up Forms

1. Offer something relevant and valuable.

The problem with most pop-ups is they get in the way of the visitor’s experience on a website, rather than enhance it.

This is likely because the offer in the pop-up is either not valuable to the visitor or isn’t relevant.

To boost engagement with your pop-up, make sure you follow these steps:

  • Understand your persona and what they’re expecting from this page.
  • Know which offers will align best with their needs.
  • Ensure the offer lines up with the content of the page

For example, if I were writing a blog post on social media, I would offer a free ebook on the same topic – as seen below.
pop-up form example

Image Source

In this example, the article is all about growing an audience on TikTok as a brand. The pop-up offer aligns perfectly by offering readers a free TikTok growth checklist.

While an offer on social media statistics could work, the conversion rate would likely be much lower as it doesn’t directly target their current needs.

2. Think about the way people engage with your pages.

Another common mistake marketers make with pop-ups is having them appear at the wrong time, which adds to the annoyance factor. ‘

Be strategic about the timing and trigger of your pop-ups. Think about the way that visitors interact with certain types of pages on your site.

For instance, when someone engages with a blog post, they do so by scrolling down the page as they read the content. If you want to catch your visitors while they’re most engaged, then you should customize your pop-up to appear when someone has scrolled halfway down the page.

Similarly, you might find that people who stay on your product or pricing pages for more than 30 seconds are highly engaged because they’re taking the time to read through and consider their options.

In this scenario, you could use a time-based pop-up that appears when a visitor has been on the page for a specific number of seconds.do pop up forms work example

To better understand exactly how your visitors engage with different pages on your site, try looking into Google Analytics data, such as bounce rate and average time on page.

Better yet, use a tool like HotJar or Crazy Egg to record users on your site to build heat maps of where they click and scroll. This will give you a better sense of how people engage with your content.

In addition, consider the tool you’re using to build your form. A tool like Typeform will help you create branded and customizable forms that match your brand identity and will increase conversions.

3. Use language that’s specific, actionable, and human.

Most pop-up forms have a fairly basic layout. You get a headline, some body copy, and maybe an image. In other words, you don’t have a lot of real estate to work with.

This means it’s super important to nail the copy on your pop-up form. In order to do that make sure your copy is specific, actionable, and human:

  • Specific: Specify exactly what a visitor is going to get if they click on your pop-up. Don’t tell them it’s a guide; tell them it’s a 10-page guide with actionable tips. Don’t encourage them to join your email list; ask if they want to stay updated on industry news and trends.
  • Actionable: Let visitors know exactly what you’d like them to do. Instead of “Click Here,” try “Download our Free Guide,” or better yet, “Get my Free Guide.” Craft a compelling call-to-action that will inspire your visitors to take action.
  • Human: Remind visitors that there’s a real person behind the pop-up form. Use colloquial language to make your forms friendly. Instead of “Join our email list,” try “Mind if we email you twice a week?”

4. Don’t ruin the mobile experience.

When building out your pop-up forms, it’s critical that you consider mobile. With most consumers accessing the internet from their smartphones nowadays, that could be a costly oversight.

To ensure a user-friendly mobile experience and avoid being penalized by Google, be sure to exclude your pop-up forms for mobile, or use pop-ups that don’t take up the entire screen of the page on mobile devices.

Most pop-up tools already offer this type of functionality, but if what you’re currently using doesn’t, you may need to find a new solution.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

How long has it been since your marketing team got restructured? 

Wearing our magic mind-reading hat, we’d guess it was within the last two years. 

Impressed by the guess? Don’t be.  

Research from Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds that almost half of marketing teams restructured in the last 12 months. (And the other half probably did it the previous year.) 

Why do marketing teams restructure so often? Is this a new thing? Is it just something that comes with marketing? What does it all mean for now and the future? 

CMI chief strategy advisor Robert Rose offers his take in this video and the summary below. 

Marketing means frequent change 

Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds 46.5% of marketing teams restructured in the last year — a 5-percentage point increase over 2023 when 41.4% of teams changed their structure. 

But that’s markedly less than the 56.5% of marketing teams that restructured in 2022, which most likely reflected the impact of remote work, the fallout of the pandemic, and other digital marketing trends. 

Maybe the real story isn’t, “Holy smokes, 46% of businesses restructured their marketing last year.” The real story may be, “Holy smokes, only 46% of businesses restructured their marketing.” 

Put simply, marketing teams are now in the business of changing frequently. 

It raises two questions.  

First, why does marketing experience this change? You don’t see this happening in other parts of the business. Accounting teams rarely get restructured (usually only if something dramatic happens in the organization). The same goes for legal or operations. Does marketing change too frequently? Or do other functions in business not change enough? 

Second, you may ask, “Wait a minute, we haven’t reorganized our marketing teams in some time. Are we behind? Are we missing out? What are they organizing into? Or you may fall at the other end of the spectrum and ask, “Are we changing too fast? Do companies that don’t change so often do better? 

OK, that’s more than one question, but the second question boils down to this: Should you restructure your marketing organization? 

Reorganizing marketing 

Centralization emerged as the theme coming out of the pandemic. Gartner reports (registration required) a distinct move to a fully centralized model for marketing over the last few years: “(R)esponsibilities across the marketing organization have shifted. Marketing’s sole responsibilities for marketing operations, marketing strategy, and marketing-led innovation have increased.”  

According to a Gartner study, marketing assuming sole responsibility for marketing operations, marketing innovation, brand management, and digital rose by double-digit percentage points in 2022 compared to the previous year.  

What does all that mean for today in plainer language? 

Because teams are siloed, it’s increasingly tougher to create a collaborative environment. And marketing and content creation processes are complex (there are lots of people doing more small parts to creative, content, channel management, and measurement). So it’s a lot harder these days to get stuff done if you’re not working as one big, joined-up team. 

Honestly, it comes down to this question: How do you better communicate and coordinate your content? That’s innovation in modern marketing — an idea and content factory operating in a coordinated, consistent, and collaborative way. 

Let me give you an example. All 25 companies we worked with last year experienced restructuring fatigue. They were not eager creative, operations, analytics, media, and digital tech teams champing at the bit for more new roles, responsibilities, and operational changes. They were still trying to settle into the last restructuring.  

What worked was fine-tuning a mostly centralized model into a fully centralized operational model. It wasn’t a full restructuring, just a nudge to keep going. 

In most of those situations, the Gartner data rang true. Marketing has shifted to get a tighter and closer set of disparate teams working together to collaborate, produce, and measure more efficiently and effectively.  

As Gartner said in true Gartner-speak fashion: “Marginal losses of sole responsibility (in favor of shared and collaborative) were also reported across capabilities essential for digitally oriented growth, including digital media, digital commerce, and CX.” 

Companies gave up the idea of marketing owning one part of the customer experience, content type, or channel. Instead, they moved into more collaborative sharing of the customer experience, content type, or channel.  

Rethinking the marketing reorg 

This evolution can be productive. 

Almost 10 years ago, Carla Johnson and I wrote about this in our book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. We talked about the idea of building to change: 

“Tomorrow’s marketing and communications teams succeed by learning to adapt — and by deploying systems of engagement that facilitate adaptation. By constantly building to change, the marketing department builds to succeed.” 

We surmised the marketing team of the future wouldn’t be asking what it was changing into but why it was changing. Marketing today is at the tipping point of that. 

The fact that half of all marketing teams restructure and change every two years might not be a reaction to shifting markets. It may just be how you should think of marketingas something fluid that you build and change into whatever it needs to be tomorrow, not something you must tear down and restructure every few years.  

The strength in that view comes not in knowing you need to change or what you will change into. The strength comes from the ability and capacity to do whatever marketing should. 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:  

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

2. Understand topical authority: Keywords vs. entities

Google has been talking about topical authority for a long time, and in Discover, it is completely relevant. Traditional SEO includes the use of keywords to position your web pages for a specific search, but the content strategy in Discover should be based on entities, i.e., concepts, characters, places, topics… everything that a Knowledge Panel can have. It is necessary to know in which topics Google considers we have more authority and relevance in order to talk about them.

3. Avoid clickbait in titles

“Use page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion.” This is the opening sentence that describes how headlines should be in Google’s documentation. I always say that it is not about using clickbait but a bit of creativity from the journalist. Generating a good H1 is also part of the job of content creation.

Google also adds:

“Avoid tactics to artificially inflate engagement by using misleading or exaggerated details in preview content (title, snippets, or images) to increase appeal, or by withholding crucial information required to understand what the content is about.”

“Avoid tactics that manipulate appeal by catering to morbid curiosity, titillation, or outrage.

Provide content that’s timely for current interests, tells a story well, or provides unique insights.”

Do you think this information fits with what you see every day on Google Discover? I would reckon there were many sites that did not comply with this and received a lot of traffic from Discover.

With the last core updates in 2023, Google was extremely hard on news sites and some niches with content focused on Discover, directly affecting E-E-A-T. The impact was so severe that many publishers shared drastic drops in Search Console with expert Lily Ray, who wrote an article with data from more than 150 publishers.

4. Images are important

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you look at your Discover feed, you’ll see most of the images catch your attention. They are detailed shots of delicious food, close-ups of a person’s face showing emotions, or even images where the character in question does not appear, such as “the new manicure that will be a trend in 2024,” persuading you to click.

Google’s documentation recommends adding “high-quality images in your content, especially large images that are more likely to generate visits from Discover” and notes important technical requirements such as images needing to be “at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting.” You may also have found that media outlets create their own collages in order to have images that stand out from competitors.

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

One of the most important parts of having a website is making sure your audience can find your site (and find what they’re looking for).

The good news is that Google Search Essentials, formerly called Google Webmaster Guidelines, simplifies the process of optimizing your site for search performance.

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