Are Your Pop-ups and Overlays Pushing Away Potential Customers?


People hate being interrupted. Whether they are in the middle of a sentence or in the midst of their favorite TV show, nobody enjoys being interrupted. Yet, it’s become a fairly common practice on some websites to interrupt people while they are browsing. This happens when a site has a pop-up or overlay that covers either part of or the entire page. This, in turn, forces a visitor to click something to make the interruption go away so they can return to reading whatever content they actually wanted or resume whatever they were doing.

Before we delve in, this isn’t a blatant condemning of overlays and pop-ups. They have a place and time on websites where they can be extremely useful. What this article will cover, though, are some of the worst practices and best practices for using them for your site.


Ruining your first impression

Visitors bouncing away from a website is already a problem that plagues many a business. It just takes a singular distraction or annoyance and people will leave a site. A site has to capture their visitor’s attention right away and not let it go for a single second, or risk losing them.

Yet, so many sites think that within the first few minutes, or even seconds, of being on their site, that they need to have a pop-up or overlay interrupt their experience. All people want to do is start or continue enjoying your content, but instead they have to now deal with your ad, typically for something they aren’t interested in.

It can be especially frustrating if the overlay slowly crawls down to cover the whole page, or forces you to take additional steps to make it go away. This not only pushes people off a site, it can also leave negative impressions of a website. Don’t repel your visitors with a jarring and obnoxious overlay.


How to fix it

Instead of having the overlay show up within a first few minutes and interrupting a visitor, give them time to enjoy your content. If somebody is going to bounce away in the first minute anyways, your overlay and pop-up isn’t going to be what keeps them. Instead, set your overlay to pop up after long enough for your visitors to enjoy your content or after they have scrolled down to a specific point on your page.


The same overlay on every page

It a pretty common goal, especially on a business’ website, to keep your visitors on your site as long as possible. You want them to move from page to page, moving down your marketing funnel and eventually making a purchase.

Yet, if your overlay happens on every single page, it becomes annoying. That constant interruption as a visitor tries to make it through your content is aggravating. Not only does that ruin impressions, it could lead to consumers not making a purchase with you, just because they are upset with the constant overlays.


How to fix it

Set up your site and overlays to not occur for people going to multiple pages on your site. If you have the capabilities, try to avoid giving the same offer over and over. Have multiple overlay offers that could work for different people, and try to match up the right offer to each persona you have.

If you must have multiple overlays on pages, it would also be beneficial to match up the overlay to what is happening on the page. For example, if a person is on a product or sales page, it’s likely they aren’t interested in your mid-funnel e-book. Instead, have an overlay or pop-up talking about your free demo or trial period for your product. Strong overlays give a specific offer your visitor wants, related to what page they were on.


Chat support

Having the ability to chat directly with a representative from a business is one wonderful addition to doing business online. It’s an instant tool to get answers to questions and concerns, and many websites benefit from having a chat box popping up on their site. Not only is it smart to address issues immediately, it builds your brand as a business who has great customer service.

It’s just important to know which pages can benefit from having a chat support box opening up on, and which ones it’s just a distraction on — especially if your chat box automatically opens and several messages are sent, possibly including notification sounds with each message. An unnecessary distraction at the wrong time can lead to losing your visitors.

It can also be annoying if that voice chat opens on every page you go to, even if it’s all part of the same session. These little annoyances can lead to people moving on from your site and finding another site with a more friendly UX.


How to fix it

Look through your analytics and see if you can determine what pages people are looking at when they interact with your chat. If there is a very low amount of chat support requests on things like blog articles or specific pages, maybe don’t have notifications for the chat go off on those pages. On the other side, if there are pages that result in a much higher use of the chat function, be sure your pop up is very visible without becoming obnoxious.


The last ditch effort

Another common use for overlays is that when a visitor’s mouse leaves the window or heads towards the close window button, an overlay pops up. Usually, this includes some sort of last-ditch attempt to get them to stay, or to at least get something out of their visit, like an email address.

The mentality of this is “they are already leaving the site, so there’s no harm in doing one last pitch to keep them around.” While this tactic isn’t the most offensive or off putting, it is commonly not employed very well. The visitor is already in the act of leaving, so any additional annoyance won’t have much effect. The only possible way you can make things worse is by giving out false promises or misleading your visitors in your overlay.

The major failing in most last-ditch effort overlays is what you are presenting. If a person is leaving your site after a few seconds, it’s likely they aren’t interested in your e-book or subscribing to your newsletter because your initial content wasn’t good enough.


How to do it

If you are going to do a last ditch effort, try to make it as personal as possible. Don’t just have one broad overlay anytime a person’s cursor heads off the page; customize them for specific pages. Think about why people might be leaving that page, and make your overlay something that might speak to them.

For example, if you are looking for an overlay on a blog article and have written similar content, your overlay could point them in that direction. This would be in case the article they clicked on didn’t have the information they were looking for, but maybe something else you’ve created does. This could also work on product pages for e-commerce sites, pointing visitors to similar products they sell.


Use research and data

As with any decision in marketing, get data to back up your choices. If you don’t have any data, perform A/B tests to get some. Don’t put up overlays just because some other marketer told you to — find out what benefits it can bring you. What worked for some other person might not work for your site. So many people jumped on the overlay and pop-up train, but haven’t thought through the impacts it can have. Perform marketing research yourself and then corroborate your findings with outside data.

Overlays and pop-ups need to work both from a UX and marketing point of view. You can have great content, but if the user experience on your site is terrible, it won’t matter. The opposite is true too. You can have an awesome experience, but it will just seem pointless without good content.

Proper and intelligent use of overlays can lead to lowering bounce rates and converting more visitors, but only if done right. Abusing your visitors with bad pop-ups and interrupting their experience can only hurt your site. Take time and find ways they can work with your site or whether you need to rework your current overlays.


Are your pop-ups and overlays pushing away potential customers?