When Should a Popover Form Appear?

Question: Would you ask a visitor to do something right away, or after they’ve had some time to get to know you?

Question: Would you ask a visitor to do something right away, or after they’ve had some time to get to know you?

Pop-up type forms make this something you need to consider. These forms can greatly increase your subscribers for your email marketing campaign. You can set how much time elapses before the form comes up, but the question is: how much time should that be?

Split testing allows you to set up a controlled experiment within your account to test and see when you should have your form come up. We had a couple volunteers try out this experiment, and we’ll be discussing their results and why it may or may not work for you.

Time to set up some tests

South Africa travel

Karen Baker runs the email campaign for this South Africa travel company. She has a pop-over form set up on the site to come up immediately:

South Africa travel company

She decided to set up a split test to see if this was optimal, so she also set up a form that would appear after a delay of 30 seconds.

After several weeks, we took a look at the results. The form that came up immediately had a 45% higher subscription rate than the other form, making it the winner. Satisfied with these results, this is the form that is on her site now.

ministry logo

Tony Kummer runs the email campaign for this site that has online resources for teaching kids about Christianity. He set up a pop-over form on Ministry-To-Children.com:

ministry to children

His pop-over comes up within 10 seconds of landing on the page. Like Karen, he decided to test how a form that comes up after a delay would perform in comparison, and he set up a form to come up after 40 seconds.

Again, we let the test run for several weeks before looking at the results. Tony ended up having similar results in that the form that comes up shortly after landing on the page was the winner with a 50% higher subscription rate.

What does this mean?

Having a shorter delay definitely brings in more subscribers for these examples. This may be because people don’t stay on a particular page that long, as they’ve found and clicked on a link they’re interested in before they’ve even seen the form. Another reason could be they are more likely to close out a form that comes up after they’re already looking at content, and don’t want to be taken away from that page.

It may also just be the visitors are prepared to fill out something that pops up shortly after they land on a page, especially if they’re already familiar with the company and know they want to be on the mailing list.

This is why it’s good to have an inline form as well. The inline form should be immediately visible upon landing on the page, and if possible, on all pages of your website.

When might this not work as well?

While having the form come up immediately works well for our examples, there are some situations it wouldn’t works as well.

  1. The page doesn’t have a lot of information. If the web page doesn’t have a lot of content on it, people aren’t going to be staying on the page long. They’ll be finished reading through the site before the form is scheduled to pop up.
  2. You’ve got some convincing to do. If you’re marketing a new idea or a new product, you may want to let visitors read over your information a bit asking them to commit to your mailing list.
  3. Required reading is your goal. Some businesses only want subscribers that have stayed on the site for a certain amount of time and read all the good stuff that’s up there. After enough time has elapsed, then they get the mailing list offer.

Do a split test to find what works for you!

Does your pop-up come up immediately or do you have a delay? Have you tested delays for your pop-ups? Why do you think your pop-up timing is important?

optimize your pop up forms


  1. Laurent

    5/25/2011 10:01 am

    Very interesting test ! The problem is that unless you set the pop-over to at least a 10/15 seconds delay, it appears on the Google preview.

    I don’t know if people actually use this feature a lot, but I think it could be not very engaging to see a pop-over in this preview, and maybe some people wouldn’t click because of that.

    So, is there any way to hide the pop-over to Google bot ?

  2. Ivan Walsh

    5/25/2011 12:54 pm

    What I do is….

    1. add popups to specific pages/categories on the site
    2. delay it on the home page as i want them to read FIRST and then decide if they want to signup

  3. Aaron Schulman

    5/26/2011 9:34 am

    The #1 key is always . . .

    – Test-

    What works for 1 site / industry may not work for another-


    what works for 1 page on any of our sites may work differently on a different page of the same website –

    Unless we use other user-testing or survey type feedback (or other solicited insight tools) we could guess all day as to “why” one test outperforms another. . .

  4. EM

    5/26/2011 9:40 am

    I all my tests, the popup that pops up right after visitors land on the page gets more people to opt in.

  5. Michael

    5/26/2011 10:42 am

    I have tested this on many of my love, dating, romance websites and have determined that 10 seconds was the best. This was among a test of
    * 0 seconds
    * 3 seconds
    * 5 seconds
    * 7 seconds
    *10 seconds
    * 15 seconds

  6. Dino Jag La Vista

    5/26/2011 10:51 am

    Thanks for the article.. i don’t currentlly use pop ups but this article has inspired me to give it a try & do some split testing.

  7. With

    5/26/2011 2:19 pm

    Interesting as usual. Some interesting results from some of the commenters’ tests too.

  8. RICH

    5/26/2011 5:32 pm

    Great information- thanks

  9. Paul

    5/27/2011 1:46 am

    Does Google punish you for putting popups on your pages, by downgrading the Page Rank, removing the page from their index, etc?

    [I doubt Google will feel that popups add to the user’s experience. Personally, when I’m visiting a website I find popups annoying.]

  10. Crystal Gouldey

    5/27/2011 9:18 am

    Very cool to hear all your results 🙂

    You definitely need to test to find out what works for you.

    And Laurent- that’s an interesting point about Google Preview. If you find any more information on that, or if anyone else wants to comment on that, let us know!

  11. Justin Premick

    5/31/2011 8:39 am


    I can’t speak for Google, but I am not familiar with any specific penalties for adding a popover or lightbox form to a page.

  12. Asim Bawany

    6/1/2011 12:05 am

    I never split tested this and always just assumed that poping up the form after like 40 secs would give me more subs… I guess i’ll have to test for myself …

    great info….

  13. John

    7/29/2011 6:33 am

    But won’t popover form annoy visitors who already subscribed?

  14. Crystal Gouldey

    7/29/2011 2:48 pm

    You can set your popover to only come up once. Step 4 in this article covers how you can do that. You can still include an inline form on the page in case first time visitors don’t sign up immediately, but want to later on.

  15. Jarom Adair

    9/15/2011 6:58 pm

    I didn’t use a popup for years because I was concerned that it would annoy my visitors.

    When I decided to give them a shot, I found that my popup accounts for 60%~70% of my daily signups (which blew my mind).

    Moreover, if you do have it pop up immediately (that had the best results for my site too) the people who don’t sign up tend to X out of it quickly to get to the information they’re looking for and forget 10 seconds later that it ever happened.

    Like you said Crystal, having the popup at the beginning and the inline form at the end of your article is the way to go, but there’s one other thing I’ve found that will send your subscribe rate through the roof. I don’t think I can describe it through text, but I could make a short video showing you how it works if you’d like. I think you’d find it very effective in many situations. Just let me know.


  16. Steven Bammel

    11/19/2011 10:00 pm

    As far as I know, most users block pop-ups in their browsers these days. Doesn’t that mean pop-ups will be nearly useless? Or am I missing something?

  17. Crystal Gouldey

    11/22/2011 11:39 am

    It’s true that pop-ups get blocked, but AWeber allows you to create popover and lightbox forms, which are different.

    Both of these types of forms do not open in a new window. Because of this, they are not blocked by pop-up blockers.

  18. FSA

    6/27/2012 4:13 am

    We started using a pop up on our site last year and saw an immediate increase in subscriber numbers, while seeing no difference at all on visitor time on site.