How to Use Pop-Up Ads, Slide-In Ads and Opt-In Forms for More Money without Totally Disgusting Your Visitors

Pop-up ad on website
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Have you ever tried watching 2 or more TV shows on 2 or more televisions at the same time?

I’m not talking about watching sports which you can scan among multiple games.

I mean a show with a story to follow.

If you have, I bet it wasn’t easy or enjoyable.

It would drive me nuts.  I’ve never tried it but I imagine it’s distracting and annoying.

Our brains can only process so much at a time.

Whether watching TV, playing a game, writing, reading, talking on the phone or enjoying a website, we can only effectively do one task at a time.

Which makes me wonder why some sites, when as soon as they load, bombard visitors with two or more popups.  One pop up is fine.  Two or more at the same time or within a second of one another is too much.  As a visitor I get trigger happy and hammer away to close them all.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t use pop-up ads (or opt-in forms).  I use them.  In fact, you can use two or more pop-ups, you just need to do it right.  It’s simple.  I set it out below.

What’s a pop-up ad?

You can join ad networks that provide ads that pop up in the middle of the screen at the bottom (or top).   Monumetric offers bottom oriented pop-up sticky ads.  Another type is the slide-in ad (often video ads).  And yet another is a pop-up that blocks much of the screen.  These are the types of pop-up ads I’m talking about.

As for pop-up email forms, these are like ads, but instead of hoping for a click, you want visitors to submit their email in the form, usually in return for some form of an incentive (free report, free trial offer, discount, information, etc.).  Thrive Leads is the plugin I use.

How to use multiple pop-up ads and opt-in forms effectively

1. Pick a priority

What’s your priority? 

  • Email subscribers?
  • Revenue directly from your website via display ads? 

Pick one.  Whichever it is, that’s your first pop-up.

But wait, if your priority is revenue from your site, there’s another consideration.

If you’re all about ad revenue or affiliate clicks, chances are you have some of those goodies above the fold.  They can be very effective.  My best earners are above the fold.

You must test whether an immediate pop-up ad cannibalizes above-the-fold ad revenue.  It may be that the pop-up distracts visitors from your above-the-fold ad(s).  Visitors close the pop-up ad and then ignore the above-the-fold ad(s).

The opposite may be true.  Visitors may close the pop-up ad and then the above-the-fold ads get their attention.  This could be the case if your above-the-fold ads take a touch longer to load than your content and the pop-up ad.

How do you test whether a pop-up ad cannibalizes above-the-fold ad?

You test it by tracking revenue from it instantly popping up against a delay in the pop-up.  Many ad networks that offer a bottom middle content pop-up can set it so there’s a delay.

I set my middle content pop-up ads on a 35 second delay.  I want visitors to be settled in, enjoying my content and then see the pop-up ad.  By that point the visitors are below the fold and won’t click above-the-fold ads.

2. Multiple pop-up ads

Perhaps you love ad revenue so much that you have 2 pop-up ads.  The second could be a slide-in ad.  If both pop-up ads show up at the same time, neither gets attention.  The visitor gets annoyed.  It’s too much too fast.

Fortunately there’s a solution to this problem.

What you do is stagger the delay.  The first pop-up could be set to a 15 second delay.  The second (slide-in) could come in at 30 seconds.  By the time the second ad comes flying in, visitors will have closed the first pop-up ad (or clicked it and are gone).  FYI, you can just as easily set the slide-in to pop up first followed by middle content pop-up.

This way each pop-up makes an impact and doesn’t totally annoy your visitors.  They’ll be annoyed, just not disgusted.  The truth is, pop-up ads annoy people.  They annoy me.  But they make a lot of money.

One caveat to staggering the delays is to test it.  Perhaps blowing up the screen with two pop-ups at the same time earns more.  I’ve never tested it because while I like display ad revenue, staggering them makes for a more fluid user experience.  It’s still annoying, but not ridiculously so.

If your priority is attracting email subscribers, use an instant or delayed pop-up followed by an exit intent email opt-in form.  At least test it.  If using both doesn’t improve subscriber rate, use the one that performs best on its own.

3. Your second priority, if you have one

If your second priority is attracting email subscribers, use an exit pop-up opt-in form.  When visitors’ cursor approaches the browser bar or back button, up pops the email subscription form.  These work well.  While attracting email subscribers isn’t my priority on my other niche sites (it’s a priority here though), I still offer an exit-intent email sign up form.

4. What if you have no interest in attracting email subscribers?

In this case, use an exit intent pop-up ad. offers them.  When visitors’ cursor approaches the browser bar or back button, up pops an enticing ad.

How do you decide on the stagger durations?

In my example above I use a 15 second delay for the first pop-up ad followed by a second at the 30 second mark.

Those are good durations if you have an average time-on-site of 1 minute or more.  I do, so those durations work for me.  If yours is shorter, you may have to shorted the delay durations.  If longer, you might expand the delays.

Do you have to use pop-ups?

Of course not.

They are annoying, but they earn well.  You must balance your desire for revenue against your desire for creating a good user experience.

It boils down to economics.

You might be totally opposed to pop-up ads, but if you earned $100 revenue per 1,000 page views from a pop-up ad, I bet you’d use them because that’s an insanely high RPM for any ad.  In fact, don’t count on any ad, pop-up or otherwise to come anywhere near earning that amount.  My point is that whether you use a particular ad is largely dictated by economics.

It just so happens the $1 to $10 the pop-up may earn you is not worth the cost in user experience.  It’s a business decision.  For me, the revenue is worth it and so I use them.

What if one ad network doesn’t offer a delay option?

In this case, set a delay on the ad from the network that can be delayed.  This is still not ideal, because one ad will pop-up immediately upon site load which distracts visitors from above-the-fold ads.  In this case, test revenue results with and without the instant popup.

If both options don’t offer a delay, look for ad networks that offer a delay pop-up ad.  Usually it’s just a matter of coding.

Test Test Test

While I like the staggered deployment of pop-up ads, I encourage you to test variations.  You never know until you test.  For me, the staggered delays work well.

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