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You either hate popups or you love them. You love them if you’re a marketer but you hate them if you’re a user.

Marketers love popups because they get more people to sign up for their email list. It’s just a fact that when you use popups on your website, you will get more email subscribers.

That’s why, naturally, a lot of people put popups on their website, but as users, we hate them. They’re intrusive and annoying.

When you’re on your mobile device, trying to zoom in to click the X on the popup, but it’s moving around and you can’t close it, it’s frustrating, it’s not respectful of your time, and it fights the Rule of Reciprocity.

I’ve talked about the Rule of Reciprocity before: you give value, then you ask. It’s a very simple formula, but you have to do it in that order.

Give Value, Then Ask

Have you ever seen those popups that say, “Do you like what you see?” and you’re thinking, “I don’t know yet! I haven’t viewed the content.”

On the one hand, users are frustrated when popups interrupt their experience, but marketers love popups because they get more email subscribers and that’s all they’re looking at.

Marketers are only looking at the numbers but the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“When we implement popups, our subscribers go up. When we take it away, they go down.”

What does it say about the quality of the subscribers you do get? What does it say about the perception people have of you that leave your website, or don’t even engage, or never come back? It doesn’t say anything.

You can’t tell those things because you’re only looking at the numbers. Email popups fight the Rule of Reciprocity. You’re starting the relationship off with asking instead of giving value.

How can someone know that they should give you their email address and you’re going to send them great things? They have no idea what to expect because they haven’t been able to consume your content yet.

Gain the Right Kind of Subscribers

They don’t know who you are, what kind of value you have to provide, what to expect, and they’re certainly not going to give you their email address when you pop up a box in front of them.

Yet, you look at the numbers and you are getting more email addresses. What does that say?

That says that people who are sensible and don’t want to give up information after they’ve received value or had expectations set are the ones that you’re getting an email address from. I don’t think that’s going to be a very high-quality subscriber.

If you’re short-sighted, you’re excited because you see the great numbers, but what does that say about the long-term brand perception? How do you know what people are thinking about you?

You can’t measure the perception people have of you in numbers.

Someone might even subscribe just to get the box out of the way, but they hate your brand. Maybe they don’t hate your brand yet, but it does take a hit. Their perception of you is a little bit lessened because you asked of them before you gave any value.

You’ll hear a lot of marketers recommending that you put email signup popups on your website because you’ll see your subscribers go up, but I rarely ever see them talk about churn rate for those subscribers later on.

What happens after they subscribe? How long do they actually stick around? Do they ever buy? How can you tell whether or not someone likes you enough to recommend you to a friend?

When you start off the relationship by asking, you start off on the wrong foot and reciprocity is no longer working in your favor.

The worst offenders, which is getting a lot more popular, are the full-screen takeovers.

The page starts to load and you see a little bit of the blogpost you’re about to read, but then the page is immediately taken up by a full-screen email list popup. It’s asking of you and trying to take from you, and people are sensitive to this.

Popups Affect Your Brand Perception

People immediately see you as a taking page and not a giving page when you have full-screen popups. A lot of people are just going to close the window and never come back.

People are getting jaded by these full-screen popups and takeovers. Even if they’re not full-screen, popups are intrusive.

You are harming the reader’s experience and people are getting tired of it. Mark my words, this is going to stop being as affective.

You have to decide how you want to approach this: you can see it as an opportunity to take advantage of it working now, even if it harms your brand perception, or you can avoid it entirely and save a little bit of face.

Now, does that mean you don’t have email signups at all? No, of course not. You need email signups!

Email signups are good, but follow the Rule of Reciprocity when you do it—give value and then ask. At the end of a blogpost, put an email signup. It’s simple.

I’ve put email signups at the bottom of 8,000-pixel tall websites and still gotten over 100 subscribers a day on average, consistently, for six months.

It doesn’t have to be at the top and it doesn’t have to be in a popup.

When you provide value first, people will actually want to subscribe to get more.

Just like with YouTube videos, when someone starts off the video by saying, “Hey guys, subscribe to my channel! Like and subscribe to get more videos!” you feel off-put.

You feel uncomfortable because you don’t even know if you want to subscribe yet. You haven’t consumed the content, you just searched the web for a video, clicked on something, and now they’re asking something of you.

It’s better to give value and then ask. Now, after I’ve given value to you, I can ask for you to subscribe to my YouTube channel or for you to subscribe and leave a review for seanwes tv as a podcast in iTunes. This is a good time—this is reciprocity. I’ve given and now I’m asking.

That’s what I would recommend you do: give value to your users, subscribers, or viewers and then ask something of them.

Have you ever enjoyed a popup? Have you ever enjoyed the experience of having a popup come up in front of the blogpost that you’re trying to read?

I genuinely want to know if anyone has ever enjoyed this or appreciated them, because everyone I’ve talked to says that they’re super annoying. Let me know in the YouTube comments.

Even if I could get more people on my email list, to me it’s just not worth it for the long run.