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Do Pop-Up Ads Actually Work? Should Marketers Use Them?

Pop-up ads! They’ve got a reputation as one of the most hated things on the internet.

They’ve been around since practically the beginning of the web. And, just like anything that’s been around that long, you’ll find plenty of people who say they can’t stand them.

But ... do they work? Should marketers use them?

There are two ways to look at it:

  • Are pop-up ads effective? Do they drive people toward the conversion?
  • Are pop-up ads bad UX? Do they chase off more users than they convert?

Let’s tease out the solutions as we ask some of the key questions on pop-ups.

Are People Actually Seeing Pop-Up Ads?

The situation with pop-up ads has been in flux for a while. ad blockers remain some of the most popular software on the web.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, about 26 percent of desktop users and 15 percent of mobile users use blocking software. About 32 percent of users across both platforms are males age 18-34; 22 percent are women in the same age bracket.

Anecdotally, you might expect the number to be higher. After all, the most popular ad blocker software, ad block Plus, passed 500 million downloads in 2016. However, both major ad blocker suites combined have an estimated total of just 90 million daily users.


The 2017 PageFair ad block Report offers insight into how this affects the marketing landscape.

Among the key findings:

  • Ad blocker usage rose 30 percent in 2016, with desktop adoption growing 17 percent.
  • A full 94 percent of mobile ad blocking takes place in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • 30 percent of U.S. users cited security as a motivating factor for blocking ads.
  • Historically, privacy has been considered the #1 driver of ad blocker use.

The verdict: ad blocker use is widespread, and it’s common enough to make a dent in how many people see pop-ups. Distribution of blockers varies by region, and North America isn’t the “most ad blocked” region by a long way.

Do Pop-Up Ads Work?

The data is unambiguous: Pop-up ads are a powerful lead generation tool.

Live tests show users respond to pop-ups. Properly implemented, they supercharge your marketing, as well as other newer methods like pop ads.

A pop ad appears during a browser session when the user is opening a webpage. The ad displays either from above or pops up from the bottom as the page loads. Simply put, pop-up ads and similar tactics are actually effective at driving conversions. 

Let’s look at some of the numbers from brands that serve millions of websites:

There’s no question about it: When you look at aggregate stats for thousands or even millions of users, a good pop-up becomes a conversion engine that can generate massive leads. Ultimately, that could add millions of dollars to your bottom line.

Are Pop Up Ads Bad UX?

Do pop-up windows drive away more users than they convert? The answer here is clear, too.


Usability research tells us pop-up windows have no effect on bounce rates.

Long story short, people don’t leave a website simply because it has pop-ups.

This makes sense, when you think about it – average users have no way of knowing whether a site will have pop-ups or not. In many cases, users are already on their way out when they encounter a pop-up: That’s what the concept of exit intent is all about.

Some people are always going to hate pop-ups. Heck, I know some who literally avert their eyes when they see one. But those people aren’t your core leads. Good pop-ups add value.

And that, of course, is what it’s really all about.

How Should Pop-Up Ads Work?

Keep these facts in mind:

A Safe Site Means Safe Pop-Ups

Let’s face it: Online security is a legitimate concern for anyone. If users see your site as insecure, they won’t want to do business with you. Focus on fundamentals like encryption and make sure the software that serves pop-ups isn’t a weak link in your security.

Pop-Ups Don’t Have to Be Intrusive

Long story short, pop-up windows don’t have to suck.

Yes, they have to get your attention, but they don’t have to be obnoxious. Low-key pop-ups with a little motion can do the job brilliantly: Just look at this very blog for an example. And, of course, you should always be testing to see which pop-ups work best.

Pop-Up Ads Can Add Value to User Visits

A “one-size-fits-all” approach to pop-ups really can annoy people, so align pop-ups with what each user is looking for. When your pop-ups promote the right list, e-book, or offer to match users’ intent, they’ll feel better about clicking and your conversion rates will rise.

As long as the web exists, there’s going to be text, links, and pop-ups. Use them well, and they’ll make all your other content that much better.

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Rob Steffens

Rob Steffens

I am the Director of Marketing here at Bluleadz. I'm a huge baseball fan (Go Yankees!). I love spending time with friends and getting some exercise on the Racquetball court.