Nerissa — she's an author.

Should you use “SUBSCRIBE! SUBSCRIBE! SUBSCRIBE!” pop-ups on your blog?

Is it me? Or is everyone using those “SUBSCRIBE!” pop-ups on their blog?

You know the ones: you land on a blog page from Google and get ready to leave because it’s not what you’re looking for, but you get a subscribe pop-up? Or {worse.} you’ve just started reading the post and as soon as it might get interesting, you’re asked to SUBSCRIBE now for EXCLUSIVE OFFERS!?

Over the last couple years these pop-ups have exploded onlinealmost everyone said “they work!”. But in internet-years, a “few” is about 6.5 to 8 actual years, so do those “exit-intent”, pattern-interrupting pop-ups still work?

And maybe the better question is: do they work for everyone?

What we’ve got now, I think, is opt-in overload. From what I see, blogs have the opt-in pop-up set and whoever is managing doesn’t care / hasn’t looked at whether or not those pop-ups still work.

And then there’s the end-user. The one person who all this is for. They’re not the same as they were a year ago. They’re an internet-teenager: short attention span, moody, have a lot to say and so *over* those annoying pop-ups. But the pop-ups are now part of being on the internet so they’re automatically ignored.


If I’m like most subscribers, I can assume the process of going from first-time visitor to subscriber happens something like this:

  1. Google something, like “oatmeal protein spirulina breakfast recipes work”.
  2. Sort through a bunch of results, find one that looks good.
  3. Ignore the “SUBSCRIBE!” pop-up that asks for my email address.
  4. If it’s good: save the post in Evernote to try.
  5. If I have time: Go back to the search results to find another result that looks good.
  6. Some time later, do another google search like “what to do after binge eating tortilla chips seven layer dip”.
  7. Open a post from one of the blogs from my previous search.
  8. Ignore the “SUBSCRIBE!” pop-up that asks for my email address.
  9. See another post from the blog that piques my interest, like “common twerking injuries”.
  10. And another, like “lazy lunches that last the whole work week”.
  11. Click around to find out more about the author.

Getting that first “SUBSCRIBE!” pop-up, interrupting me while I’m trying to read the first blog post I’ve landed on kind of feels like having a first date ask me to help paint their apartment.

Or it’s like asking for someone’s number before you even know their name. Without any “how are you, today?” or “come here often?”, not even a “do you like stuff?”.

Too. Soon.

An email address (not the fake ones used to get access to an e-book, but one that’s checked daily) is valuable. Like a phone number was in the 90s.

At least Darryl (pron. “Darrell”) gives a compliment before asking for the number. That’s a lot more than some blogs I know.

So {opinion} before asking someone reading your blog for those precious letters that make up their email address, you need to prove they’ll get some value from your updates {/opinion}.

End-users are more sophisticated now when it comes to why and when they give up the email address. So it’s time to get more sophisticated when it comes to building a subscriber list.

It might work if you have an ecommerce site, where you can offer someone a special discount if they’ve been browsing around for a while, but does it make sense if your bounce rate is over 90%? Or if your analytics show you don’t have any repeat visitors? Or if you haven’t published anything new in the last month?

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I don’t use those pop-ups or ask people to subscribe because a) I don’t publish often enough, and b) I don’t think as a group, the posts I’ve published provide enough value to a specific audience (which c) I haven’t clearly defined yet).

We’re at the stage of content marketing now where we can target repeat visitors, and we can define what those visitors are likely to do before subscribing, meaning if they go to another post, or visit an about page, or use the site search for something else.

I’m not suggesting the world stop using these types of calls-to-action, but I am suggesting that they be used with more consideration. Too many blogs / sites out there are aggressively asking for a sign-up before a first-time site visitor even knows if a repeat page visit is worth it. And that can / should be changed.

Personally, I think I have a lot of work to do on this blog before I get to the point where someone is ready to give me their email address.

Until then, I’ll keep working on what I have to offer.

Five things to consider before asking people to subscribe, using pop-ups or anything else:
  1. What are you offering? Don’t ask anyone to subscribe unless you have something to offer. This means discounts, free resources, more in-depth content. If you’re offering more personality have lots of it, like Wendy Williams. If you’re a Gabby Bernstein / Marie Forleo type, you’ve got to have a lot of well-designed, put-together content.
  2. Who are the people that visit your site (ie. your potential and current subscribers)? Are they sophisticated users who have probably been asked to subscribe 30 times that day already? So what are the chances your pop-up is probably going to be closed like all the others?
  3. Who are the people that visit your site (part 2)? Are they most likely repeat visitors who have already subscribed?
  4. Where do the people who land on your site come from? And what do they do after landing? If you have a high bounce rate when you’re trying to get people to spend more time on your site, that pop-up that displays when users reach for the back button isn’t going to help your cause. Maybe work on the bounce rate first.
  5. How are your current calls-to-action doing? Are more people using the subscribe boxes or less? Try testing out the subscribe pop-ups to see how they work, but don’t forget to check out the results after a few months and optimize if needed!

Your Thoughts