15 Email Popup Best Practices To Skyrocket Your List

Email popups are an incredibly useful asset for building your email list. If you’re not using them, or you aren’t leveraging email popup best practices, you’re missing out on an easy and effective way to generate email leads and add subscribers.

Whether you’re just starting with popups or are looking for new ideas, you’ve come to the right place.

A big part of what makes popups such an effective tool is their versatility. You can use them for any call to action, such as generating email leads, getting more newsletter subscribers, or conducting a visitor poll.

In this article, we’re going to cover email popup best practices that will help you build your email list. You’ll also get some design inspiration along the way.

What is an Email Popup?

Traditionally, when we talk about email popups, we’re talking about lightbox popups. Those are the email popups that show up on top of a webpage that you’re viewing, usually darkening the page behind them.

Over time, people have come to refer to many different email optin campaigns as “email popups.” So, in this post, our email popup best practices will cover best practices for any optin that helps you capture emails.

Of course, many of the best practices will apply to any email optin you create, like creating a clear call to action and an eye-catching design. But we’ve also included email popup best practices used by industry leaders that you can use to make your site stand out and your email list grow.

Building an Email Popup the Way You Want

Some email marketing services, such as Mailchimp comes with a built-in popup feature, enabling you to build a generic, untargeted popup.

But the problem is that when popups are not targeted at what users are looking for on your site, they’re more likely to annoy your visitors rather than converting them into subscribers or customers.

And this is why you need an email popup form generator like OptinMonster.

optinmonster monalisa

OptinMonster is the best tool for building email popups that seamlessly integrate with your favorite email marketing service, such as Mailchimp, AWeber, and more. It comes with a drag and drop builder, 50+ amazing popup templates, and 6 different campaign types, including popup, fullscreen welcome mat, slide-in, sidebar forms, inline forms, and more.

The best part is that OptinMonster comes with more targeting features than any other popup builder on the market. That means you can rest assured that your popups are highly targeted at your visitors’ needs and boost conversions exponentially.


If you want to build newsletter popups that grow your list, you should sign up for OptinMonster. It’s risk-free with our 14-day money-back guarantee.

Get Started With a Popup Today!

Email Popup Best Practices

We’ve identified 15 email popup best practices that will get you on your way to a thriving list filled with high-quality leads:

  1. Create a clear call to action
  2. Personalize your popups
  3. Offer an irresistible incentive
  4. Use an eye-catching design
  5. Create targeted campaigns for desktop and mobile
  6. Use Exit-Intent® to capture visitors before they leave
  7. Show a popup or inline campaign at the end of your post
  8. Keep your request noticeable with a floating bar
  9. Build a dedicated landing page
  10. Create a friendly slide-in request
  11. Use a fullscreen welcome gate
  12. Ask for visitor feedback
  13. Add a sidebar
  14. Use progressive profiling to make forms easier for users
  15. Create a plan for new subscribers

Let’s take a closer look at each of these best practices.

1. Create a Clear Call to Action for Your Email Popup

Don’t muddy the waters. A popup should contain a single, clear call to action.

Keep in mind that the visitor on your site is reading or browsing and the popup is going to interrupt that activity. You want to get in, get the email address, and get out as quickly as possible.

Which popup do you think is going to get the response you’re looking for?


Is your marketing poopy?

Or this?

BC busy popup

Definitely not trying to popup shame here, but the popup from exploreBC is entirely too much. It seems like they want us to sign up for their email marketing, but there may technically be 2 or 3 newsletters? And, what’s with the fine print?

In the first popup, there’s no question about what they want you to do: sign up to get notification of new posts.

2. Personalize Your Email Popups

Personalization makes a popup feel more friendly and less of an intrusion. Since we’re trying to build our email list we won’t have personal information for our target website visitors. How do we personalize then?

One really cool way is to personalize the popup based on referral source. By using referrer detection technology you can detect when a visitor is coming from a specific domain and use that information to customize your popups.

There are several ways to use this type of personalization. If you’ve written a guest post or been featured somewhere recently, for instance, you can create a popup specifically for that audience.

Popup by referral source

Get a lot of Pinterest traffic? Create a popup targeting just those visitors!


Personalization makes visitors feel like the popups are offering something exclusive, just for them.

3. Offer an Irresistible Incentive

People love incentives. This makes incentives and special offers like coupons and free shipping really good at helping you build your email list.

This doesn’t mean that you just offer a discount to every visitor, all day long. Incentives can be anything of value; they don’t have to mean dollars.

If you have a killer lead magnet, offer it up!

Special offer popup example

Not sure what to offer? Here are 9 ideas you can use to increase subscribers on your own site.

4. Use an Eye-Catching Design for Your Email Popup

Your popup has the tough job of meeting two seemingly conflicting ideas at once: it should both blend into your site’s existing design and stand out enough to draw user’s attention.

Lightbox popups work really well because you can create a design that stays on brand. When the popup appears, the rest of the site fades into the background, leaving the popup as the point of focus.

The “Annoying Pop-Up Bear” below aligns perfectly with the whimsy and fun of the host website. It’s eye-catching and fun but stays on brand.

Eye-catching popup

Here’s another example. The popup isn’t as adorable as the bear, but it does a wonderful job of staying on brand and creating interest.


5. Create Targeted Email Popup Campaigns for Desktop and Mobile

There are a few key differences between desktop and mobile user experiences that can make popups behave very differently. Mobile users are limited to touch controls, bandwidth, and certain SEO rules.

We recommend creating platform-specific campaigns to ensure that your visitors are able to fully engage with your site and popups.

Salt Strong was able to get a 185% increase in conversions by creating a popup designed for mobile platforms.

mobile platform popup example

Check out our mobile popup gallery for some design inspiration.

6. Use Exit-Intent® to Capture Abandoning Visitors Before They Leave

Did you know that 70% of visitors who abandon your site will never come back again?

You can convert an additional 2-4% of visitors into email subscribers, and then customers, by using a popup triggered on exit-intent.

OptinMonster’s Exit-Intent® technology allows you to track the mouse movement of your visitor. When they gesture quickly to the top of the page your popup appears, giving visitors one more chance to opt in.

Here’s what it looks like in action.

Exit-intent popup example

Exit-intent doesn’t take your visitor prisoner; they can still close the popup and leave without sharing any information. It just lets you have one more interaction with the visitor before they go.

For more about exit-intent lightbox popups, check out these exit popup hacks.

7. Show a Popup or Inline Campaign at the End of Your Post

Visitors who get all the way to the end of your post are interested. That makes the end of your article the perfect time to ask them to join your mailing list.

Add a popup that triggers once they reach the end of your content (or about 80% of the way down the page) and ask for a commitment right away.

popup on scroll

Learn more about OptinMonster’s killer display rules engine!

8. Keep Your Request Noticeable With a Floating Bar

Floating bars are a great way to make sure your call to action stays in clear view at all times without getting in the way of your visitor’s enjoyment.

You can place the floating bar at either the top or bottom of the page and it stays there as your visitor scrolls.

activecampaign floating bar campaign

Here are some great ways to use floating bars on your site to increase your conversion rate without annoying visitors.

9. Build a Dedicated Landing Page

Fullscreen email popups give you a ton of flexibility and space to show off a brilliant design to really wow your visitors. A truly amazing way you can do that is by turning a fullscreen email popup into a landing page.

A landing page focuses on a single, very specific call to action. It’s an excellent lead generation tool because visitors aren’t distracted by everything that’s on a typical home page; they’re just encouraged to provide their info in exchange for your offer.

landing page example

You can create a landing page in less than 5 minutes with OptinMonster.

10. Create a Friendly Slide-in Request

Slide-in campaigns are a gentle way to collect visitor information without interrupting the user experience.

These email popups don’t appear until your visitor has already viewed some of your content and even then they simply slide in from the side of the page.

This makes them eye-catching, but unobtrusive.

OptinMonster has several professionally-designed themes you can use for your slide-in campaigns. Simply create a new optin and select the Slide-in type.

To set your slide-in to show up only after your visitor has scrolled a certain distance down the page, go to Display Rules » If… distance scrolled and enter a percentage or the number of pixels.

Easy, isn’t it? Here are 10 ways to use scroll-based triggers with your slide-in campaigns to boost your conversions. And, you’ll definitely want to check out these high-converting ways to use slide-in optins.

11. Use a Welcome Gate on Your Home Page

Create a welcome gate on your home page with a feature box.

A feature box is an optin form that is placed at the top of your website, usually just below the header navigation and above your blog posts. This is a highly effective optin form that you can use to collect email subscriptions above the fold on your site.

Michael Hyatt feature box

Add a feature box to your own site with our step-by-step tutorial.

12. Ask for Visitor Feedback

A popup survey can help your business in so many ways:

  • Discover how your visitors are interacting with your site
  • Figure out potential problems that are getting in the way of conversions, leads, and sales
  • Get real-time feedback from visitors and customers
  • Reduce abandonment and increase conversions by interacting with visitors before they leave your site
  • Segment your visitors for future digital marketing
  • Grow your email list

With OptinMonster and WPForms, you can create a popup survey like this:

wordpress survey popup final

Always include an email signup form at the very top of your website or blog’s sidebar. This is the most popular place for an email signup form so visitors will be looking for one there.

This is easy to do with an inline campaign from OptinMonster:

14. Use Progressive Profiling to Make Forms Easier for Users

Progressive profiling is a method of collecting information on your leads in smaller pieces, using fewer input fields, instead of asking for everything all at once.

When using progressive profiling, you might ask for just a name and email address on the first signup, then request more information about the lead throughout their customer journey.

Here’s an example of the progressive profiling framework:

progressive profiling framework

15. Create a Plan for New Subscribers

It’s important to have a plan for your new subscribers. This involves:

  • Sending a Welcome Email Series. Welcome emails get 86% higher open rates than other emails. We recommend sending a welcome email series of 5-7 emails to introduce new subscribers to your brand. Check out OptinMonster University’s execution plan How to Create a Welcome Email Series That Sells to build the perfect welcome email series for your brand (free to OptinMonster customers).
  • Onboarding new users (and customers). Onboarding actively guides users and customers to find new and ongoing value in your product and service. Learn onboarding best practices to boost customer success.
  • Segmenting your email list. Personalized emails deliver 6X higher transaction rates. You can get that type of personalization only through segmenting your email list. Here are 50 smart ways to segment your list.

Now that you have a good grasp on email popup best practices, check out some beautiful popup design examples for inspiration. Or, take a minute to learn from the mistakes that even pros make when designing their email popups.

Or, you may want to check out this post on eCommerce popup examples that actually work.

And don’t forget to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter for more ways to build your email list and boost engagement with OptinMonster.

Jacinda Santora
Jacinda Santora is a writer specializing in eCommerce and growth marketing. She prides herself on her ability to make complicated things easier. When she isn't writing you can find her daydreaming about campervans, drinking coffee, and listening to podcasts.

Add a Comment

We're glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that all comments are moderated according to our privacy policy, and all links are nofollow. Do NOT use keywords in the name field. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.