Quick question: What do exit popups, lightbox overlays, and squeeze pages all have in common?
If you answered “they’re annoying as heck,” I don’t blame you. See enough of these popups in one sitting and you’re liable to throw your laptop out the window.
But the truth is, these features are only annoying when they’re done wrong.
Implemented correctly, these overlays can create engagement, increase leads, and contribute to your website’s overall conversion rate.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the best practices for using exit popups, lightbox overlays, and squeeze pages on your website to increase leads – as well as some of the pitfalls to avoid that could cause your audience to frantically hit that dreaded “back” button.
But before we dive into the strategic use of these features, let’s nail down exactly what each feature actually is, and how each can contribute to audience growth.
Exit Popups. Lightbox Overlays. Squeeze Pages. Huh?!
Because we’ll be diving into the nitty-gritty of each of these features, it’s essential that we come to a consensus on what constitutes an exit popup, lightbox overlay, and squeeze page.
We’ll also need to define why you would choose to use these features in the first place (Hint: The answer isn’t “because every other website out there uses them”).
Of the three features we’ll discuss, exit popups are the most straightforward: they’re messages that…popup…when you try to…exit…a website.
These popups are triggered when a visitor moves their mouse near the “back” button or toward the “X” to close out a window – or when they haven’t moved their mouse for a certain amount of time.
Exit popups can be used for a number of reasons, such as:
- To remind visitors of a promotion your company is currently putting on
- To warn visitors that information they’ve input (e.g., mailing list signups, products in shopping cart) hasn’t actually been submitted yet
- To prompt visitors to check out a specific page on the site
- To ask the visitor to opt-in to a survey or mailing list
The common thread between these purposes is that exit-intent popups give your site’s visitors one more chance to engage with your company. According to Conversion Sciences, correct implementation of exit popups can reduce the amount of visitors who leave your site without taking action by anywhere from 10-15%.
Lightbox overlays are similar to exit popups in that they appear on top of the content of the actual page a visitor is on – but they aren’t necessarily triggered during exit-intent actions.
A good way to think about it is: exit popups are a type of lightbox overlay.
Lightbox overlays are generally used to capture a visitor’s attention and shine the spotlight on a specific feature of your website, or your company as a whole.
However, whereas exit-intent popups are more focused on quickly getting a visitor “back on the hook,” general lightbox overlays are aimed at getting visitors on the hook in the first place.
Like a virtual elevator pitch, lightbox overlays instantly present a specific value to visitors immediately (rather than risking the chance that they won’t come across this information in their organic browsing of the site).
Lightbox overlays can be user-initiated (such as an overlay that pops up when a user clicks a certain link), automatically initiated (like exit popups are), or a combination of both (such as a chatbot that pops up in the corner of the screen and expands only when the visitor clicks on it).
We’ll get more into the best way to implement overlays later on, but for now just know that the main point of doing so is to focus and engage your visitors – hopefully generating leads in the process.
While lightbox overlays have a number of purposes that include capturing a visitor’s email address, this is the sole purpose of a squeeze page.
One thing to make clear is that, although the term “squeeze page” is often used interchangeably with “landing page,” they are not the same thing. Much like the relationship between exit popups and lightbox overlays, a squeeze page is a landing page, but a landing page is not necessarily a squeeze page.
Squeeze pages may include offers for further information or freebies, such as ebooks, customer testimonials, and how-to videos – but would require the visitor to enter their email address or other contact information before providing access to such content. In turn, not only will the visitor receive the content they requested, but they’ve also opened the door for the company to send further information in the future.
Best Practices for Exit Popups, Lightbox Overlays and Squeeze Pages
Though exit popups, lightbox overlays, and squeeze pages all differ in some ways, their main purposes are the same: engage visitors and increase leads.
As such, it’s critical you understand your website visitors, leads and customers to know which kind of offer/opt-in they’ll respond best to. We’ve written about customer segmentation before if you need a great primer.
Because of this, the best practices for all three of these features fall under the same five main tenets:
- Be clear and concise
- Be customer-facing
- Maintain brand consistency
- Provide responsive and accessible content
- Collect and use data efficiently
In the following sections, we’ll discuss how each of these principles applies to exit popups, lightbox overlays, and squeeze pages specifically. We’ll also provide examples of companies that use these features efficiently – and discuss ways in which they could have gone wrong in their implementation.
Be Clear and Concise
The point of each of these features is to focus your visitor’s attention on a specific aspect or value of your service.
To do so, you need to hit them with information quickly and efficiently.
As mentioned earlier, exit popups are something of a “last-ditch effort” to engage your visitor and get them to take action.
By nature, by the time a visitor sees an exit popup, they’ve essentially committed to leaving your site. This means they’re not going to spend more than a couple seconds (at most) reading anything else you have to say – so you better make your message short and clear.
Side note: let’s ignore the off-putting capitalization of “your” for the sake of argument here 🙂
With a quick glance, you can tell exactly what this popup is offering: a newsletter subscription and a discount. Even if your eyes were focused on the back button, you’d almost instinctively take in the presented information when it popped up.
On the other hand, if the heading of the popup was “Wait, don’t go!” followed by 2-3 sentences about how the company “would love it if you signed up for the newsletter,” and that it would “even give you $5 off your next purchase,” there’s little chance it would effectively keep visitors from closing out their browser.
The reason these overlays are so effective is because they take away the paradox of choice.
To take a break from marketing speak, think about the last time you loaded up Netflix. With so much to choose from, it’s almost impossible to actually decide what to watch, right? If the service only offered one movie at a time, your choices would be simple: Watch, or don’t watch. This is the same premise.
We talked earlier about how lightbox overlays are used to put a spotlight on a specific offer or piece of information. In the process of doing so, all other offers are sent to the background – both literally in terms of the visitor’s screen, and figuratively in terms of their mindset.
Because your visitors will only have two options (“sign up” or “don’t sign up”), they’re much less likely to get overwhelmed.
Though some visitors will surely opt out of your offer, it will be for one reason (i.e., they didn’t want to) rather than for any number of reasons (e.g., it was too much to read, they liked more than one offer, they didn’t want to spend time weighing pros and cons, etc.).
Keep this in mind for later, when we discuss the analysis of data regarding these features.
Once more, squeeze pages have one purpose: capturing visitors’ email addresses.
But you don’t want to be underhanded about it. Make sure your squeeze page explains exactly what your visitor is signing up for – be it to receive an ebook, access to customer testimonial videos, or a newsletter.
Since squeeze pages are landing pages, they’ll likely be the first thing your visitors see when they click over to your site. So it’s okay for your message to be a bit longer than that of an exit popup, as you can assume your visitor wants a thorough rundown of what you’re all about.
But you still need to make your offer clear.
As your squeeze page will often be your visitors’ first experience with your company, you can leave a good impression on them by being clear and concise in terms of what you’re offering them, as well as your overall mission as an organization.
Though your underlying goals when implementing popups, overlays, and squeeze pages are to generate leads and increase conversions, you of course need to provide some sort of value to entice your visitors to engage further with your company.
In other words, you need to create these features with your audience in mind.
We mentioned this earlier: exit popups that say something along the lines of “Hey wait! Don’t go away just yet!” aren’t very efficient.
Reason being: they don’t provide any immediate value to the audience.
If you create an exit popup with the mindset that your visitors somehow owe it to you to stick around, you’re not going to see many happy returns.
But, by creating an exit-intent popup that strikes a chord with your visitors, you have a much better chance of getting them to rethink hitting that back button.
Imagine if, in the above screenshot, the popup didn’t include examples, and instead simply said “Wait! You haven’t seen our best-sellers yet. Click here to check them out.” It’d be hard to imagine that such a generic message would catch anyone’s attention at all – especially those who are about to close out their browser.
Because lightbox overlays can be implemented on any specific page of a website, you have the opportunity to make them ultra specific to your visitors’ purposes – as well as what you’d like your visitor to do when checking out a certain page.
Notice that, in the screenshot above, the actual page (under the overlay) provides the option of signing up for the site’s mailing list – but it doesn’t mention anything about a meditation video. That boilerplate offer is likely the same on each page of the site.
The overlay, on the other hand, offers something that relates specifically to that article. Ideally, your company has created numerous pieces of content that relate to different aspects of your services, and you’ll be able to tailor your offerings to specific sections of your site.
Since your squeeze page is often your visitors’ first touch-point with your site, you can take more of a one-size-fits-all approach.
But the content still needs to be relevant.
Consider the example above. Smart Insights is a website dedicated to digital marketing advice, so it’s not exactly far-fetched to assume visitors would find value in templates to help them structure their digital marketing initiatives.
More importantly, the squeeze page offers value right upfront. Sure visitors need to provide their email address in order to actually get the offering; but they know what they’re getting.
But what if the squeeze page’s message was “Sign up to learn more about what we can do for you”? Without knowing exactly what they’re signing up for, most visitors would be much more hesitant to provide their contact information.
Maintain Brand Consistency
Simply put, exit popups, lightbox overlays, and squeeze pages are all a part of your website. So, naturally, they need to be consistent with the rest of your brand.
Not only does the above example have personality, but it also provides a ton of information regarding what the audience should expect upon signing up.
On the other end of the spectrum are popups such as this one. This example basically screams “We just want your email address.” There’s no promise of content or other value, no personality…nothing. To make things worse, the copy is grammatically incorrect.
Which of these two would you rather sign up for?
Be Responsive and Accessible
It’s no secret that most people currently access the internet via mobile device.
Knowing this, it’s surprising how many websites feature popups and overlays that were clearly meant to be viewed on desktops.
You’ve probably run into some of the following problems at some point in your own browsing:
- An overlay that doesn’t allow you to scroll to the actual form
- An inaccessible “close out” option (such as an “X” located offscreen)
- An overlay that doesn’t respond to keyboard visibility
Aside from ensuring your overlays are accessible, you also want to be sure they pop up at just the right moment. On desktops, this might be when your visitor hovers over a specific area of the screen; on mobile, it might be once they’ve scrolled to a specific line. Either way, you want your popups and overlays to add to the user’s experience – not distract them from it.
It will definitely take some effort to optimize your site’s popups and overlays for various devices. But, in doing so, you’ll create a cohesive experience for each one of your visitors – no matter how they access your site.
Using Data to Capture More Leads Or Subscribers
Regardless of whether or not a visitor engages with your site’s popups and overlays, you can still use this information to improve your chances of generating leads in the future.
We’ve discussed a ton of aspects of popups, overlays, and squeeze pages that you can tweak and test over time, such as:
- Brand/Voice Consistency
Rule number one with regard to making improvements to your overlays (and all other aspects of your site, in general):
Make one change at a time.
In doing so, you’ll be able to pinpoint what’s working – and what’s not doing so well – to improve your lead generation. This will help you figure out exactly what your audience wants, and put you in a much better position to give it to them.
Popups and overlays certainly have a poor reputation among the general population of internet users. But that’s only because the ones we’re used to seeing are so poorly designed.
In such cases, it’s almost certain that these features were an afterthought.
If, on the other hand, you treat your exit popups, overlays, and squeeze pages as you do any other part of your website, your audience will be more likely to see them as part of their experience with your site – rather than a detractor from it.