Skip to Main Content

Let's Talk Popups and Chat Boxes


Few digital marketing tools irritate customers quite like an intrusive popup. It’s the online equivalent to interrupting a conversation and then not leaving the room after you’ve annoyed everyone in it. Popups don’t just disrupt the flow of a good user-experience, they actually cover up the content consumers are ready to read or watch. So why add them to your marketing efforts?

Well, there is strong evidence that particular kinds of popups work. Although Google announced  an update in January 2017 that would down rank websites for using intrusive interstitials (popups) on mobile devices, they don’t down rank every popup, and therein lies the key.

Be Thoughtful About Your Pop Ups

WallStreet oops

In a study of nearly 2 billion pop ups, Sumo found that the average popup sees a 3.09% conversation rate. So, while it pains most marketers to say it, popups work. Now, if 3.0% doesn’t seem like anything to write home about, consider the fact that the median Google Ads campaign sees only a 2.35% conversation rate.

If you’re hellbent on including a popup, it’s important to consider the format. HubSpot breaks down the most common styles into four categories:

  1. Welcome mats: Full screen popups that slide above page content

  2. Overlay modals: Center screen popups that appear on top of page content

  3. Top banners: Small banners at the very top of the page

  4. Slide-in boxes: Small boxes that slide in from the side/bottom of the page

There are also a variety of triggers that make these popups appear:

  • Element/Click popups: Appears when a user must click on a link or hover over an element

  • Entry popup: Appears immediately when user reaches the page

  • Exit popups: Appears when the cursor reaches the top pixel of a page

  • Scroll popups: Appears when a user scrolls a specified amount down a page

  • Timed popups: Appears when a user stays on your page for a specified amount of time


You won't be penalized for all popups, just those types that make content less accessible to users.Thankfully, when Google updated their ranking signals, they also provided a few examples of what not to do to ensure your site isn’t down ranked. These examples included:

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.

  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.

  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Then there are times when the popup approach is not only a good marketing technique but is actually necessary for login dialogs, legal disclaimers, or age verification. Google has been clear that when popup techniques are used responsibly it will not affect their new signal, techniques such as:

  • Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.

  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.

  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app that installs banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.

But just because popups work doesn’t mean they aren’t loathed. According toNNgroup, “pop-ups in front of your window” were rated the single most hated advertising technique with a staggering 95% of respondents answering “very negatively” or “negatively” to this marketing design element. Most people who were surveyed shared similar sentiments to: “Ads that popup in the way, force you to close them, or flash for attention just make me hate the product being advertised.” So keep in mind that going after a 3.09% conversion may risk alienating a much larger segment of potential customers.

As you’re trying to strike the balance, there are ways to improve the user experience with popups. If you decide to use this design element, be sure to:

  • Allow people to easily navigate away from the page

  • Differentiate the popup from the background page (size, shape, color, etc.)

  • Ensure the pop up is contextually relevant

  • Include a clear call to action (CTA)

  • Present useful information

  • Provide a clear “close” command (“X”)

The real problem is that popups can seriously cheapen your brand image, alienate potential customers, and cause an interruption that actually pulls people away from the content you’ve worked so hard to provide. If you’re considering this approach, consult with a digital marketing agency that can give you insights into what will be more beneficial for your particular business.

Chat Box Popups

Proposify chat

These are a unique class. Like all popups, even chat boxes interrupt the user experience. However, the benefits often outweigh the risks with this approach, especially because chat boxes allow businesses to reach out and engage with people in real time.

While most consumers don’t like interruptions, most will appreciate help when it’s offered. When integrating a chat box on your site, carefully consider two elements: pages views and time on-page.

To put this into perspective, imagine you’re walking through a store and you can’t find the product you’re looking for. Suddenly an employee comes up and asks you, “Can I help you find anything?” Would you let them point you in the right direction?

This is similar to a user fervently exploring your website without converting. If a potential customer is reading multiple pages and spending a significant amount of time on your site, chances are he or she is searching for something.

This is the prime time to ask if he or she needs help. A survey by eConsultancy found that 31% of online shoppers from both the US and UK said they would be more likely to purchase after a live chat. Moreover, 65% of American online shoppers having engaged in a live chat.

Moreover, if you use a “reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible” your search authority shouldn’t be dinged. In addition, Google has always been a “user-first” kind of company, which means if you’re offering lightning fast customer service through your chat box, chances are your site is still going to be in their good graces.

Keep in mind that you can learn from these tools and adapt the site to make them less necessary. If your customers seem to be consistently having difficulty finding a specific piece of information, you may want to consider adding this content to your site in a more user-friendly location. Afterall, adding quality information is really the crux of good SEO.

Call Up About Pop Ups

Not all websites should use popups. In fact, most businesses should steer clear of this marketing technique. But like we said, there are cases when it’s completely necessary, especially in the case of age verification, legal disclaimers, and login dialogs. If you’re trying to determine the best approach for your site, give Werkbot a call at (814) 461-1322 or click here to contact us today.

top of the lap 

Business & Inquires (814) 461-1322