The Psychology of Popups in Email Marketing

The popups and email marketing have a strong connection as far as blogging, content marketing, and online business are concerned. The psychology of popups in email marketing refers to the mind-science. Think about usage, optimization, and split testing of the popups.

Of course, I’m going to talk about design, size, intent, and the message too.

Just before taking that leap, let me take a few small steps.

The vigorous use of popups can spoil your brand’s image. You have probably seen some of the blogs which bombard readers with popups once the reader lands. Not only does it annoy the reader, but it also gives an impression of a no-go site for the next time.

I’ve had so many chances to learn about popups in email list building and email marketing over the course of time — so, I kept on saving the data for this article — just to make sure that whenever I create this article, I would come up with something really useful for my readers.

In this article, I’m going to share a whole bunch of suggestions and ideas on using the popups in your email marketing campaign and list building in particular.

Honestly, list building is one of my biggest online business challenges, but the story won’t end on list building. I’d rather choose 100 active readers than 1000 dead subscribers. The engagement is what I need to LEARN and SHARE it with you.

You know, I sometimes use word ‘TEACH’ in my content — and, I do regret later on.

I didn’t build the relation with readers as an EXPERT.

I’d rather be a friend.

I’m a student and learner too. I prefer not to USE that word, but sometimes I randomly write it down.

Never mind.

What will you learn in this article?

You’re going to get the glimpse of following areas:

  • Introduction to Popups and Email Marketing
  • Why to Use Popups
  • Importance of Popups
  • Types of Popups
  • Popups and A/B Testing
  • Designing the Popups
  • Page loading Speed and SEO
  • Readers Engagement with Popups
  • Email List Building with Popups

Don’t worry. It won’t be the filthy and long notes that you would hate to go through.

I’m going to keep things simple.

If you’ve never seen my blog before, then you probably don’t know my blog post style.

I try to educate people in a light way.

If you start writing content just for publishing on a specific topic, you’d end up writing some boring content with paragraphs to paragraphs. However, if you think to entertain your readers and you have the ability to educate your audience, that’d be so awesome.

This is what I try to do.

You know, I also hate complex, beefed, and dry content which makes you sleepy after three minutes of reading.


Did you notice that?

I’ve given you the secret of readers engagement!

Yes. That’s okay because this is what I do. I share with my readers.

Did you ever visit

It’s a popular blogging tips blog. It’s one of the most recommended blogs to learn about blogging. They use popups too.

A research on ‘students involvement and class participation‘ tells us that engagement is basically an involvement, participation, and commitment to some set of activities.

Before we jump into the popups psychology and its impact on email marketing, let’s take a minute to read out some of the important elements of a popup box:

1. The intention of the popup

In order to make your popup useful, it’s necessary to define the purpose before installing it for the blog readers. The popups are often used for Facebook page likes or email newsletter sign ups. Try to make a purpose of your popups, then proceed to the optimization.

2. The size, design, and style

The properties like size, design, and style come under optimization of a popup. Don’t neglect these factors in order to quickly start using the popups on your website or blog. These are the signals that engage the readers to take the certain action.

3. Behavioral settings

One of the important elements of popups is behavioral setting. It defines when, where, and how many times a popup should appear to the visitors.

4. Customization ability

In order to successfully create and install a popup box on a website or a blog, it’s essential to customize it. For instance, to add the specific text, picture etc. The customization feature is a vital feature in a popup tool if it’s not there, the popup won’t be effective enough.

5. Email marketing integration

Email marketing integration is the ability to connect your email marketing service (such as Mailchimp, Aweber, Infusionsoft) to the popup tool. Most of the popup tools provide this facility to collect the leads directly into your email list.

6 Factors of Popups in Email Marketing

These factors make a difference between a professionally designed popup and unprofessionally created popup. Not only do they tell you the difference, but these factors also tell you that what makes any popup (or popup maker tool) successful.

Take a look at 6 factors which will help you to understand and create your popups for email list building:

1. Script based popup vs. Plugin based popups

The irony is, most of us don’t see any difference between the popups which pop up through a script (which was installed by the admin) and WordPress plugin.

When you install a script based popup, you’re likely to use javascript for the popup. I’m not the technical guy as far as coding and javascript are concerned, but over the past few years, I’ve seen things, which is why I think javascript based scripts such as popups, opt-in boxes, and other display features make page heavier than normal which results in the increase of page loading time. (And, it’s not pretty)

I could be wrong here, but in my experience, I’ve seen WordPress Popup plugins are better than using javascript code-based  popups.

List Fusion and OptIn Ninja are popular opt-in popup and lead generation plugins to use for WordPress users.

WordPress plugins have a definitive place of javascript coding in the plugin’s code, but some of the best popup plugins are designed with all these factors in mind in order keep the site blazing fast.

2. Choosing the design and template

The design of a popup opt-in box is the first thing which attracts the readers to take the certain action in the response of a popup display. If the design isn’t attractive enough, it would be ignored straight away.

The popup tools which help users to create those popups offer a number of templates and formats to pick the favorite one. If this feature isn’t available, then the plugin or tool isn’t worth it.

Choose the relevant template, make some editing, add your message, and start testing the popup template.

SumoMe is a popular opt-in box & lead generation tool. It’s a freemium tool. It provides a number of templates in the premium membership.

3. Site loading speed with popups

One of the major factors that has to be taken care of while using the popups on your site or blog is the page loading speed after the installation of the popup box.

The best way to analyze the page loading speed is testing. You should test the speed before activating the plugin and retest after the activation.

Use the tool like Pingdom or GTMetrix.

4. Responsiveness of the popups

The responsiveness is a must-have feature for popup tools, especially in today’s world where mobile-friendliness is one of the Google’s ranking factor, and mobile users keep on increasing every day.

Nowadays, the WordPress developers are quite aware of this requirement. They normally take care of this criteria. They know that if their WordPress popup plugin doesn’t provide responsive experience, then users will provide the negative feedback, and the next buyers will go otherwise.

The famous website development training website W3Schools explained the responsiveness of the websites.

5. Selecting the best tool for popups

As told before, WordPress plugins also require JavaScript to work along, and neglecting the script-based popups and installing the WordPress popups won’t do the job. However, the experience and research will help you to choose the highly-rated and recommended WordPress popup plugins.

Following are the recommended popup opt-in tools:

This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning.

You’ll find a number of tools along the way.

Remember this: Try. Analyze. Decide. 

6. A/B Test the Options

A/B testing is an analysis system in which two cases are analyzed in order to find the best one. Many of the online marketing tools offer A/B testing feature in order to let the users analyze the difference between the two cases.

Leadpages‘ is a famous tool to create opt-in boxes and lead generation funnel. It provides extensive reporting on the popups you’re using.

This feature is a vital tool to analyze the performance of any lead generation tool and specifically the outcome of the popups. It helps the users to differentiate the performance of different opt-in forms, boxes and popups being used using the lead generation tool.

The next part is the cream.

How to Use the Psychology of Popups in Email Marketing

This is the part where I’ll tell you how to use the popups and what they will do for you. Whether you’re a company or a blog, we all want to grow our email list, if you have a static website (ah, that’s a bummer) then you should make your official blog on WordPress self-hosted platform to utilize the power of this content management system.

popups psychology

Here are the strategies that you need to apply while using popups on your website or blog:

The Message that Goes Out

You have to see what you’re saying in that popup. It’s all those words that could trigger the thought to wait and try it.

Just like this: Wait. Let’s see what they’ve got!

All you got to do is to ping them. Make that nudge with the words.

You can’t control what they (web visitors) might do…

What you can control is your MESSAGE.

Make it catching and buzzy.

I liked Ramit Sethi’s popup message on his website I will teach you to be rich. He is a popular online business expert and coach.

popup ramet sethi

Now engagement and marketing trends are changing.

So are the tools.

ManyContacts and ChimpMate Pro have options to show the interstitial ad which actually takes over the full-page for a certain time period and remains on unless the reader closes it down.

Even Picreel has that option too.

Teespring sent out their newsletter and I received it too because God knows when I subscribed to their newsletter or signed up on their website.



The point is, how they wrote their newsletter regarding holiday season offers was a surprise.

I want to highlight the essence of WRITING THE MESSAGE.

See, what you’re writing and sending out to the newsletter subscribers will directly affect the outcome.

John Rampton wrote an article on and shared some research work on the email subject lines from different research institutes.

According to this article, 9 to 15 words are the reasonable number of words to write in the email subject line.

All these examples emphasize on giving out the solid message. Even though, the design of the popup box is quite important in the READERS ENGAGEMENT, but what matters is that ‘WRITTEN MESSAGE’.

The Engagement Method

This means how a brand or blog engages the readers through a popup box. It doesn’t mean how a popup appears or does it have a sound or not.

The engagement method is exactly WHAT YOU WANT from your subscribers. Obviously, you’re asking the reader to take a certain action which is the sign-up, but, what are you saying that can mesmerize him/her to go ahead with your offer?

It could be a sweet thing. It could be an alarming message.

It should be something that makes the reader to STOP and THINK for once.

Take a look at Yaro Starak‘s popup box for email newsletter:

yaro starak

 It makes you think that WHAT WOULD BE THAT #1 REASON?

Why do blogs fail?

And, the reader starts thinking about this.

Readers would be like:

I got to know this, I might start my blog in the future and I should know why blogs fail.


That’s what smart marketers do. They use psychology to make people think that way.


Now, remember that it depends on your product/service and audience type. You know better that who your audience is and what they want.

So, entice them accordingly.

Use the trigger words to make people THINK and TAKE ACTION. Normally, it’s the advice given to the online marketers and bloggers for their email newsletter subject lines to increase the open rate.

Shopify also discussed the pros and cons of popup boxes in this article. They described the importance of popup boxes and shared some interesting research based facts with the audience. According to this test, popups brought 1,375% more sign ups than the sidebar opt-in boxes.‘s pop-up box asks it directly. They asked it pretty quickly. Everyone knows that AddThis is a social sharing buttons service and they didn’t waste the time, and put the message like this:

popup box

The Use of Opt-in Bribes

There is an attraction in the BENEFIT. People love to get free stuff. They like to receive it when there is a value attached to it and they think that it might help them. In this scenario, the marketers use the opt-in bribe strategy.

It’s a strategy to offer something valuable for free just to get an email address. The bloggers and online marketers use this opt-in bribe strategy to build their email lists. And, this is probably one of the most popular list building techniques out there.

Readers don’t really hate it and experts start the engagement process by taking them into their email marketing funnel.

Help Scout did this beautifully. They added the popup box + opt-in bribe. They actually offered a PDF version of the article to provide the readers the downloadable version of the article:

opt in form

Another example of Opt-in bribe was seen at Digital Marketer‘s website.

This opt-in bribe asks for your email address to provide you the ‘free training to double your sales’.

Who doesn’t want to double the sales?



You got to give something to the subscribers. This is how it works.

Even Brian Clark agrees with this.

He wrote an article on Copyblogger and emphasized on the incentives like a free report, webinar, audio content, or other freebie stuff.

Jenna Dalton also talked about Subscribers Bribe and the funnel creation through offering something valuable to the subscribers.

The more value you add into your bribe, the more you make the visitors incline towards taking the gift.

The Design and Customization

It’s true that a well-crafted message could get vague if the design doesn’t work really well. The design is so important in the popups that you can’t ignore it. What if the color (of the popup) matches with the layout of the site and doesn’t appear perfectly?

Things could get worse if you buy a subscription of a popup service and it doesn’t have the option to change the design or color of the popup box.

Every blog or brand wants to use the popup box according to their theme and color combination.

In some cases, the customization options to write a different text message, adding a specific picture or icon, and pre-made templates do the job.

popup box

Content Marketing Institute also uses the popup box which has an amazing design as far as engagement is concerned. It has to be eye-catching enough to grab the attention.

popup psychology is a popular online marketplace in Pakistan. They also use opt-in form through a popup box. I liked their popup design because it stops the visitor and tends to focus for a few seconds.

The Irresistible Offer

This option describes the importance of making an undeniable offer. When an OFFER is irresistible, it becomes harder to ignore.

Now this could be either a FREE GIFT or a HEAVY DISCOUNT.

Something which attracts the customers to take action and get engaged.


Jeff Bullas uses the popup box too. He offers an ebook to the email subscribers to sign up and download the ebook. The ebook named “8 Key Steps to Blogging Mastery”.  That ebook is his OFFERING.

An irresistible offer is something people can’t ignore.

They want it or at least want to give it a try.


Elegant Themes uses the popup box on their official blog. They offer free WordPress resources and tips for their subscribers in the newsletter. And they are quite active with their email newsletter.

They often use the popup box to display the discount offers too.

The wording, design, and call-to-action buttons matter in the popup box, but you have to work on the offer to make it impossible to ignore.

The Last Part

This must be more exciting.

Let’s squeeze the every bit of lesson of material written up there.

The popups are placed not to get sales in real. The purpose of popups is REALIZATION and OFFERING something valuable.

If you got so many daily visitors on your blog, and you’re not sharing useful information with them, not even publishing content for them, they’ll stop coming…

On the flip side of this, if you regularly publish content on your blog, readers and subscribers start knowing that you’ll publish content regularly, they will start coming back and forth to check the fresh content.


Yes, you have to. We all have to.

But how to build that list.

I guess, using the popups for list building could be a huge thing.

I suppose you’ll use the psychology of popups in email marketing to start building your email list. There is nothing wrong with it, in fact, readers love it when they get a chance to read their favorite content via email subscription.

You might be collecting subscribers on your blog. You have placed sidebar opt-in box, under-post opt-in box,  and top bar on your blog.


Have you ever noticed to put a little psychology using the popups to attract the visitors?

It’s the challenge. Tell me something about this.

How would you add some psychological thing in your popup?

It could be anything, a buzz word, an interesting line, or an offer.

What would it be?

Let me see what you got.

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Hassaan Khan is a blogger, freelance writer, and an entrepreneur. He helps brands identify and meet the target audience. He writes in-depth content for online marketing. Find out why you should hire him for Content writing or send him an email inquiry on Freelance writing.

Latest posts by Hassaan Khan (see all)


  1. Well written Hassaan, I apprecate your article and i strongly agree with engagement and building relationship part, though I may prefer to become an authority in my subject, but all in all you have linked email marketing with popups very well thumbs up! though some may disagree with immediate pop ups citing down the poor user experience so its always a good idea to put a timer to delay the pop up.

    • Thank you so much, Mr. Ali Raza!

      I’m so glad that you liked my article. I appreciate that you’ve given your time. Your viewpoint is legit, it has to be taken care of, I mean, no one would love to see a popup after a few seconds of landing, which is why I discussed the ‘Behavioral settings’ as one of the important elements of popups.

      Thank you again and keep visiting my blog.

  2. Hello,
    Have you tried icegram? It is a free wordpress plugin and contains more options than most popup plugins. Would love to know what you think of it.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Hi, Sanjida!

      Thank you so much for your comment. I know about Icegram plugin. I bookmarked it long ago and almost forgot it, but I will use it and see how it works. Thanks for the reminder and nice input.

      I think you occasionally visit my blog. Thank you for being an active subscriber and reader. Keep adding your feedback, now you’ll see some regular work on the blog as well as the newsletter.

      I liked your page on Facebook. Are you in graphic designing?

  3. Hi Hassan

    This is so awesome that I have to bookmark it and read again. You discussed about Popups in an entertaining way and it was educative to read this post.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Hello Ikechi,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad you liked it. I thought I should write something that really helps and pop-up is something which we can’t ignore.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

  4. Hey Hassan,

    I got some great ideas from this post. I am currently writing my document for my subscriber bribe – and I like the idea of 15 words and something colourful to catch the eye.

    Before I had pop ups, I used to find them annoying but I got with the program. Now I find the full screen pop ups so in my face and I have made a conscious choice not to use them. Thanks for an informative post.


    • Hi, Rachel!
      I’m glad you found it helpful. Opt-in bribe is a fantastic idea to use for list building. I believe that the text (message) of such pop-ups and opt-in bribe banners is very important.

      What would be that one sentence that will convince the reader to take the certain action?

      This is the key. I wish good luck for your opt-in bribe copy.


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