Why I Ditched Pop-ups On My Blog

I just eliminated popups from my website, even though they are very effective tools for building email lists. In fact, there are few email list building tools that are as effective as popups.

Why then did I make a sudden, site-wide change and eliminate popups? Do I believe they no longer “work”? It's more complicated than that. Here's the story…

In my public talks lately, I've stumbled upon a statement that seems to guide my work: “Marketing should be something we do for people, not something we do to them.”

This phrase resonates with a huge portion of every audience with whom I've shared it. It strikes a chord.

Recently, I was leading my an in-person meeting of my Regency Mastermind Group (a small group of my most elite clients) , and we were examining a member's website. Within seconds of landing on the site, a popup appeared. There was a spontaneous and collective groan. A couple of people said out loud, “I hate those things!”

My son, Sean, sighed and said, “I may be about to contradict my Dad, because I know these things get results, but… I hate them, too.”

One of the other group members looked at me as he said, “Yeah, but they work, right Ray?”

Every eye in the room was on me. Waiting to see my reaction.

“Well,” I said, “Yes, they do work. But Sean makes a good point. We all hate them.” I paused. “Why do we hate them?”

“Because they're pushy,” someone said.

Another voice chimed in, “They're manipulative.”

I said, “Say more about that.”

“Well,” Sean said, “Just like we wouldn't use manipulation and witchcraft to do mind-control tricks on the audience at a live event, it just feels wrong to use popups.”

That's when the bell rang for me. Mind control. There are three ways of controlling people against their will.

  1. Intimidation
  2. Manipulation
  3. Domination

How do these methods work?

  1. Manipulation says, “I'll trick you into doing things my way.”
  2. Intimidation says, “I'll scare you into doing things my way.”
  3. Domination says, “I'll force you to do things my way.”

Manipulation uses the needs of others as leverage for your own agenda.

I've heard it said that manipulation is like a dog that's licking your face while urinating on your shoes.

When I saw that could be applied to almost (but admittedly not all) popups, I realized something needed to change. I couldn't justify continuing to use popups.

I think we should all question whether “it works” is justification enough for all actions. When phrased this way, we can all see the answer is “no.”

  1. As a means of getting cash, robbing bank works.
  2. As a means of getting a car, stealing it works.
  3. As a means of getting the job, lying on your resume works.

But each of these acts is clearly wrong, and are violations of our moral code.

3 Ways Popups Violate The Moral Code

  1. Popups manipulate by saying to website visitors: “I'll trick you into doing things my way.” An example of one way this is done: making the popup look like a quiz, when it's really a trick to get prospect moving in the direction of what you want them to do.
  2. Popups intimidate by saying: “I'll scare you into doing things my way.” This might take the form of fanning the flames of fear through exaggeration of the actual level of potential danger.
  3. Popups dominate by saying: “I'll force you to do things my way.” Many popups are difficult or even impossible to get past without filling them in. We are, in effect, saying, “If you wany my free stuff, you must fill in this form.”

There's a fine line between persuasion and manipulation. For me, at this point in time, it seems that popups cross that line. At least on my site.

I'm not making anyone else out to be wrong if they are using popups.

I'm just saying that for us, it seems like the right thing to do is to eliminate them. We think that by eliminating the popups, we're making more of an investment in our readers, and that this will result in better long-term relationships.

What about you – do you love popups or hate them? And do you use them on your site? Do you think I'm wrong?

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.