For the record, email marketing is not dead, far from it.

Evolving, yes – not dead.

Latest stats from the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) reveals every £1 spent on email marketing generated an average return of £38 in 2014 up 58% from 2013.

Building an engaged email marketing list should still be a marketing priority for businesses of all sizes.

I recently met a long time reader of Fourth Source. During our conversation, I asked if she had subscribed to my newsletter (weekly summary of new posts) to which she replied, ‘I wasn’t aware you had one’.

This surprised me. I have an email opt-in form on every page directly below the content. I intentionally made the colours dark to create a strong contrast and draw attention to the form and yet it was still going unnoticed.

fs subscribe

Enter the popup.

Now I know popups have long been frowned upon and the word is often associated with unwanted ads taking over your screen. Popups have come a long way since then. Even so, I was skeptical about using them and only wanted to run an initial test.

The type of popup I was interested in was the exit-intent popup. These have recently become popular online. The popup only appears when your mouse leaves the visible website area. For example, if you move the mouse cursor to press the back button on the browser the popup becomes activated.

Fourth Source runs on WordPress (I am a huge fan because of the flexibility), I knew there would be a plugin that would do what I wanted. After researching various different ones I settled on PopupAlly.

Here is what the popup looks like in practice.

fs subscribe popup

The results

Email subscribers after Popup Ally

I installed the popup towards the end of November. From previous year on year analysis, naturally, December had a lower subscription rate than November. However, you can see with the popup installed we had more subscriptions during December than November.

January 2015 saw our highest number of email subscriptions ever. In fact, it was a 211% increase from January 2014. The last month is April which we are still in.

The email open rates and click-through rates remain unchanged.

That’s it, a simple popup increased my email subscriber rate by over 200%.

Things I like about PopupAlly:

Prevent popup from re-appearing – PopupAlly has three ways of preventing the popup from becoming annoying. The first is cookie based. A cookie is placed once the subscriber reaches the ‘thank you’ page, that user will no longer see the popup on that device.

The second method uses the Google analytics utm_source tag. If the subscriber clicks on a link with the utm_source tag you have specified, the popup will not be displayed.

Finally, if someone closes the popup it will not reappear for another 30 days. This is not a perfect solution given the fragmentation of devices, but I feel it is sufficient enough for the popup to not become annoying.

Email Integration – PopupAlly allows for easy integration with other email services. I have been using Mailchimp since Fourth Source was my personal blog and continue to do so. This allows subscribers to be imported directly into my Mailchimp account.

What I would like to see:

Split-testing – I would like the ability to split test different designs and implementations.

Time delayed exit intent – Occasionally by accident, I have moved my cursor out of the website as soon as I land on it and the popup is activated. A 10-second delay before the popup can be activated would solve that problem.

What’s next?

I will test different designs and copy to see if I can further increase the conversion rate. I have been meaning to test a ‘click to subscribe’ button versus displaying the form.

I have currently blocked the popup from running on mobile but this is something I need to add to my testing process.

What are your thoughts on these popups? And if you want to know the results of my other experiments be sure to subscribe!

Sandeep Vadgama

Sandeep Vadgama


Editor at Fourth Source and Tech Enthusiast!