Get More Subscribers with These 3 Popup Form Split Tests

Do you use popup forms to collect subscribers faster and kick-start your email marketing campaign? While they’re not always the right solution for all sites, some businesses have found they can increase opt-in rates significantly by adding popup forms. Of course, getting the best results from your popup (just like any other aspect of your campaign) requires testing.

Do you use popup forms to collect subscribers faster and kick-start your email marketing campaign?

While they’re not always the right solution for all sites, some businesses have found they can increase opt-in rates significantly by adding popup forms.

Of course, getting the best results from your popup (just like any other aspect of your campaign) requires testing.

Increase opt-in rates for your pop-ups: What to test?

The other day, an AWeber user asked me if I had any suggestions on what he might test in order to increase the opt-in rate for his pop-up form.

(When I say “pop-up,” I don’t necessarily mean a traditional pop-up that appears in a new window. In this case I’m referring mainly to “pop over” style forms that simulate a pop-up window. See this video on web forms for an example.)

I sent along some suggestions that you may find helpful as well.

If you’re using popups now and want to make them better, test these modifications:

Put an image in the popup.

The idea behind this isn’t necessarily to get the visitor’s attention – the popup itself will do that (at least momentarily).

The image should keep that attention long enough to get the subscriber to read your form headline (tip: don’t make the image your entire headline – keep is small and let your text do the convincing).

If you brand yourself on your website, try using a headshot in your form.

Change the popup delay.

You don’t have to have the form appear immediately when someone comes to your site.

To start, test forms with significant (but not ridiculous) delay differences – say, 15 seconds vs. 30 seconds vs. 45 seconds.

Once you have a winner, narrow down – maybe eventually as far as 5 second differences.

Another approach here: rather than starting from 0 seconds, look at your website stats and start with the average amount of time that a visitor is on your page. Test forms with delays equal to that amount of time vs. forms with shorter and longer delays (start with say, 15-20 seconds on either side of your average visit length).

Change how the popup enters the page.

Does your current form pop immediately into the page?

Test it against a form that fades into the page, or slides in from above, below or either side.

Depending where on your page visitors’ eyes are focused when your form appears, how it appears (and how suddenly it does so) may affect whether they immediately close it or read and complete it.

Other pop-up tests: Your suggestions?

Are you running split tests on popups? What have you found?

Share your findings and suggestions below!



  1. Andy Beard

    10/9/2008 4:26 pm

    Lightbox effect
    Headline in popup
    Subhead in popup
    Submit button
    Datafield names
    How much data to ask (phone sms etc)
    Line spacing
    Overall size (some popups are actually impossible to see everything)
    Whether to make it obvious how to close (naughty) – this can be a problem with oversize popups as well.
    Somehow cloaking the popup so Google doesn’t see it (Adwords Quality score factor?)
    The offer / bonus , maybe a OTO
    Triggers such as page closing, cursor position etc
    Include their name in the popup even on their first site visit 😉

  2. Codrut Turcanu

    10/10/2008 3:35 am

    I did not know you could do split testing with pop-ups, until now!

    Thank you for the update 🙂

    I’m launching a product soon, and I’m eager to test this piece of info, will definitely report the results here!

  3. Paul

    10/10/2008 8:40 am

    Can anyone tell me for sure I keep getting conflicting stories from the Gurus:

    Is having an Exit Pop up on your sales page accepted by Google Ad Words?

  4. Justin Premick

    10/10/2008 9:29 am

    Awesome list, Andy – although personally I would shy away from trying to hide things from Google.

    And if you figure out how to pull off that last one, please share 😉

  5. Guy Siverson

    10/10/2008 9:32 am

    My past understanding of pop-ups: They are bad news.

    My current experience with pop-ups: The display/sign-up results are higher than my inline forms.

    Is there a way to make a pop-up display once no matter which page my reader enters my website from? If a pop-up shows on every single page it is my opinion that I will quickly lose face with my audience.

    Once I have a person who has signed up for my newsletter it is my opinion that they should never be bothered by the pop-up again when revisiting my website. Is this possible?

    Thanks for doing an excellent job of covering what some would see as a controversial subject.

  6. Tammi Putnam

    10/10/2008 11:11 am

    Hey Guy,
    One thing I did was put my pop over-hover form on my home page so that visitors could sign up for my newsletter and then on my other pages I put my inline form. I didn’t want to scare away people with all the pop-overs!

  7. Guy

    10/10/2008 12:51 pm

    Hi Tammy

    That sounds like an interesting strategy.

    How is it working for you according to Aweber related stastical data?

    Thanks for the response

  8. A.C.

    10/10/2008 2:05 pm

    Ideas That Work

    1. Embed audio in the pop-up

    2. Place Video in the pop-up
    a. Youtube
    b. Talking head

    3. Scroll pop upon, user scrolling down

  9. Mitch Tarr

    10/10/2008 2:57 pm

    I have recently tested the popup delay and found a sweet spot on two different sites with two different audiences. I tested in 15 second intervals from 5 seconds to 60 seconds. Before you ask, different times won on different sites.

  10. Brett

    10/10/2008 3:43 pm

    This has really opened up my mind to all the possibilities. I had thought of some of this but Andy’s comment was outstanding. I had no idea that there were so many different thigns to test on. I guess I better get started. 😉


    In regards to your question about:

    Once I have a person who has signed up for my newsletter it is my opinion that they should never be bothered by the pop-up again when revisiting my website. Is this possible?"

    I actually just made a post on my blog about 2 hours ago (depends on how long it takes to get this comment approved though) about a pop-up software that will do exactly this.

    Great post as usual Justin. I’m looking forward to the rest of the comments.

  11. Gelder

    10/10/2008 8:01 pm

    Take the image at the pop-up, it helps!

  12. Ray Johnson

    10/11/2008 3:40 am

    Thanks for the great advice here guys – I’ll be trying these out in the week.

    I find I get better response from POP UPS so I’ll try and tweak to improve results!

  13. Myra

    10/11/2008 10:16 pm

    You can also change the title of the popup (appears in the top bar of the popup)

    Also, you can make a time sensitive offer – they have to sign up to the newsletter in a specific amount of time in order to get it.

    If you need headline ideas, just google "headline swipe file" there are some good ones out there. I have increased my signups by 69% just by split testing different headlines.

  14. Dozie

    10/13/2008 12:07 pm

    Thanks, this is a great information for me to use on my website and i’m going to try it.

  15. Carl Juneau

    10/13/2008 9:32 pm

    The "lightbox" popup (which grays out the screen and leaves just the popup to be read) beat every other I tried in A/B split tests.

    I’d recommend you use the "lightbox" popup.

  16. James

    10/14/2008 7:56 am

    I was reluctant at first to use the slide in form but having had Google confirm that it’s not against their Adwords T.O.S, I thought i’d give it a go.

    I set the form to slide in a few seconds after the average visitors time and set the form to only display once per month per visitor.

    My reasoning for the time was that for a visitor to spend over one and a half minutes on a page, they show that they’re interested in the topic and may appreciate the offer of more information for free.

    If the visitor closed the form because they’re reading the page they can easily navigate to a sign-up form elsewhere on the site. (These sign-ups have increased as a result).

    Having run the form for a month, I measeured the conversion rate to be 61% which is a lot higher than the industry average.
    I have since run various split tests changing the time-to-display and various headlines and copy.

    Every website is different and each market will vary so the importance of testing is huge.

  17. Justin Premick

    10/14/2008 10:01 am


    Is there a way to make a pop-up display once no matter which page my reader enters my website from?

    Yes – when creating the form, set the recurrence to "Display once per visitor." Once someone sees the form on one page of your site, they won’t see it on any other page of your site (unless they clear cookies).


    That’s another good way to handle the form’s recurrence.

    Having it appear once per week/month/several months (whatever you deem appropriate) can be a good balance between only giving visitors one chance to sign up, and reminding repeat visitors that you offer an email subscription.

  18. Jesue

    10/14/2008 7:59 pm

    Thanks a million for this learning opp. I wanted to know what title should a person hold to take care of all of this for us. Right now I’m doing it and talking my designer through it and they’re not that familiar with it so who can I hire folks? hmm? Until then these teachings are the best!

  19. Thomas Jmaes

    10/15/2008 8:50 am

    The only problem I see with popups is that if you are running Google Adwords (PPC) then Google will stop running your ads because they don’t allow popups on the landing page.

  20. James

    10/15/2008 9:08 am

    As I mentioned in my post above, Google confirmed with me that it’s not a problem.

    The slide-in form is part of the page which is hidden until the pre-set peramitors (time, frequency etc), kick-in.

    Also, the the form doesn’t open a new window which means it’s not against googles tos.

  21. Justin Premick

    10/15/2008 9:35 am

    Just to point out: while some of these tests can be applied to traditional popups (those that open new windows) we’re primarily discussing popover (or "hover") style forms that do NOT create a new window.

    I can’t say for myself whether they’re permitted by Google’s TOS or not. James has indicated that he has found they are permitted, which would be great.

    However, if you have the least doubt about whether it’s OK to use a popover form on an AdWords landing page, check with Google directly (after all, if James can do it, so can the rest of us, right?).

  22. Brad Isaac

    10/15/2008 5:18 pm

    Justin and others, I’ve seen other pop ups on the web that will drift down to different locations on the page. These seem to be very appealing and less annoying. Is there a specific way we can do this too?

  23. Candace Sinclair

    10/16/2008 10:10 pm

    –> Justin, thank you for the explanation about how to have the pop up display only once per visitor. Great info.

    –> Carl, I agree with you 100 percent. The lightbox popup (when I did split-testing) brought me twice as many sign-ups as compared to using a slide-in popup.

  24. Vijay

    10/18/2008 3:05 pm

    Yeah it is obvious, I have heard it so many times that test everything….
    but I kept on missing pop ups……

    Thanks guys….

  25. Robin

    10/26/2008 10:33 am

    Hi Guys

    I’m wanting to split-test with one using an image – but I can’t see how to add an image to my pop-overs.

    Can anyone point me in the right direction?

    Cheers 🙂

  26. Scott Ott

    10/26/2008 4:12 pm

    I have been averaging 2-3 new subscribers per day with a subtle form in the upper right corner of my site, and one under each blog post. The other day, I added two elements, after reading about them on this site.
    1) A popup form with my photo, that slides in from the top that appears once ever 10 days
    2) A "Why Subscribe?" page describing the benefits.
    The first option alone has brought me 21 verified subscribers in fewer than three days. Nuff said.
    I have also added an email newsletter which will go out after 10 new blog posts. I’ll report back on how that works. Oh, yes, and I’m also encouraging subscribers to forward the email to their friends. Never say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Thanks.

  27. Guy

    10/27/2008 12:39 pm

    Hi Robin

    Thanks for asking. I’m wondering the same thing. I hope the answr comes out in this post. However, if it does not you could direct your question to the online support options of Aweber. Whatever the case when you find the answer please share it here on this post if it has not already been done.

    Hi Scott

    Would you provide the URL to your website. I’m interested in taking a look at what you have put together as I’m still trying to figure these things out.

  28. Justin Premick

    10/27/2008 12:50 pm


    Our popover forms don’t move down the page as you scroll; they remain at whichever spot on the page they slide/fade.

    One thing you might try would be the lightbox form, which greys out the page content until the visitor either submits the form or closes it.

    Robin and Guy,

    Yes, you can add an image to your popover forms.

    When you are editing your form, click on the headline and you’ll get an HTML editor.

    Click the image tool and you’ll be asked to enter the URL for your image. Once you’ve inserted the image you can move it around within the headline as needed.

  29. Mike

    3/17/2009 11:28 am

    this is all great info, im going to check out some light boxes.

  30. Brandon

    3/30/2009 2:28 pm

    I use the lightbox effect for some sites and for other sites I just have a regular opt-in on a squeeze page. The results vary by site.

    The lightbox is very cool but I try to look at it from a visitor’s point of view and I know when I see the lightbox effect happen on other sites I get annoyed if it happens in the middle of reading something.

    Just my two cents. Testing is the only thing that will tell you the true choice.

  31. Dozie

    6/11/2010 1:18 am

    This is an informative article and a great read. I will certainly try it out on my website. Thanks.

  32. Jamus McKenna

    10/14/2010 6:26 am

    Two years have past and nobody has returned to say how the pop-up trail has gone…

    Maybe they all went bust because of pop-up forms!

    I personally can’t stand pop-up forms that simply replace or duplicate inline forms; nothing makes me leave a site quicker.

    If you are using additional forms make sure they are different. Include more benefits that weren?t included in your inline form.

    If you are doing anything online related then you need to be testing, even if it is things you personally do not agree with test it anyway as you might be missing out something (BIG!).

  33. Gabe

    11/4/2010 7:46 pm

    I am still not clear on one aspect of the pop-ups. (I read thru here 2x, but didnt find the exact answer, but apologies if I missed it)

    (Assume I am using the lightbox popup in this scenario and that I have it set to now show again until 5 days later)
    If a completely new person comes to my site and only clicks on X to close the popup, but does NOT signup, will the popup not show again for 5 more days? Or will it show again if they visit again in less than 5 days?

    Basically, does the delay only apply to people who sign up? Or is there no distinction for clicking X to close or signing up?


  34. Jamie

    3/7/2011 7:38 am

    Split testing pop-ups is key to making the most out of potential subscribers. Different pop-up styles work more effectively for certain niches as well I have noticed.

  35. Isaiaha

    2/9/2013 11:50 pm

    Great article as I’ve been considering putting in a pop-up form to make ti easier for people to subscribe… feels that inline forms are just not prominent and the pop-up gives people an opportunity quickly…

    Still trying to figure out about the recurrence as you don’t want to be a bother.