Welcome! Now go away

Welcome! Now go away

You’re sitting in a coffee shop after work. You’re at the laptop, trying to catch up on email. Suddenly you feel a tap on your shoulder. It’s a little boy, trying to get your attention. “Yes?” you ask.

The kid just grins his goofy 7-year-old grin and holds up a page of his coloring book. “Look what I did,” he says proudly. “Very nice,” you reply, and after a little polite chit-chat, you try to go back to work.

But just as you’re opening the next email, he does it again. “Look at this one!” he yells, shoving the coloring book in front of your face, blocking the monitor. You nod politely, then try to explain that you’re trying to work, so please don’t interrupt. But he refuses to listen. In fact, every time you open a new email or Web page, he does it again.

So let me ask you. How long would it be before you packed up your laptop and went somewhere else? Not very long, I bet. Well, guess what.

You may be doing the very same thing on your company website.

You know those pop-up and drop-down windows, the ones with the customer sign-up forms? They’re a lot like the annoying little boy. They’re constantly blocking a visitor’s view while they’re trying to read. Every click brings another one, just like the coloring book. No matter how many you close, another one always springs up on the next page.

They’re relentless. Soon you either give up and flee the site, or enter an email address. Maybe a real one, maybe a BugMeNot email.

I know, your high-priced marketing consultant promised those pop-up windows would increase opt-ins. Maybe they will, too. But at what cost? How many other visitors will get so annoyed they leave before they even see your great content? Why spend all that time and money on great copy and SEO, only to chase away potential customers?

Look, the old saying is still true. People like to buy from people they like. Many of us only buy from people we like. And it’s pretty hard to like someone who’s annoying.

Think about it. The logic of pop-ups is totally illogical. Most open within a few seconds of landing on a site. Hey, Mr. Marketer, why would I sign up for your newsletter or free e-book before I’ve even had a chance to look around?

As a longtime online marketing consultant and copywriter, I have learned what goes through people’s minds. When someone lands on your website from a search engine, the first thing she wants to know is, is this the right place? Is this where I wanted to go? Does this site have the answer to my problem? Does it have what I’m looking for? Do I feel comfortable here?

Pop-ups give your website visitors little or no chance to answer those questions.

Exit pop-ups — the ones that appear when you try to click away from a site — make more sense, at least. They’re less an interruption and more like conventional business. Like exchanging business cards (or getting a girl’s phone number). The message is, Now that you’ve had a chance to look around, want to keep in touch? Then sign up here…

If you’re considering using pop-ups to capture visitors’ contact info, I recommend exit pop-ups. But frankly, there are more effective ways to motivate visitors to fork over their email address. More about those next time.

Agree? Disagree? Am I way off-base? Do you love pop-ups? Sound off in the comments.

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