Conversion rate optimization

5 Sneaky Ways to Get Visitors to Subscribe (But Be Careful, They Might Not Be Too Happy About It!)

Building an email list can suck the life out of you, eh?
You try everything. You test different headline formulas. Use various mind hacks to make popups more enticing to click. And A/B test the hell out of them too.
And yet, you still can’t get visitors to sign up.

Now you’re desperate…
Everyone else seems to be converting visitors while you’re failing to come even close to a decent conversion rate.

Well then, let me show you 5 ways to change that. But beware, these sneaky tactics might indeed get visitors to subscribe…
…but these people might not be too happy about it.

So, use this advice at your own risk.
And don’t tell me that I didn’t warn you….

#1. Make a Visitor Feel Bad About Not Subscribing

Let me be upfront about it; this technique practically crosses the boundaries of ethical marketing…
…but it works.
So if you’re not afraid to enrage some of your visitors, it’s the one to use.

The basis for this technique is simple:
You need to provide a visitor with a second, negative call to action on a popup.
It will work as a replacement for the “X” button. And in most cases companies use it ethically, providing a more visible way to close the popup.

Here is the popup CopyHackers currently use:
Here’s another example:
We use the secondary call to action on our popups too:

Those buttons do nothing else but provide a visitor with a clear option to opt out of the offer and close the popup.
You can use them in a different way to practically force a visitor to sign up.

By making your visitors feel bad about not doing so.
Here, let me show you an example. Take a look at the black button on this popup:
(image from a fantastic post by Lance Jones on Copyhackers)

Now, put yourself in your visitor’s shoes. How do you think reading such a button makes them feel? As if they were ignorant about their traffic, marketing efforts, revenue? Sure. Ashamed that clicking it would only confirm that? Definitely.

And that’s the secret behind this persuasion trick, to make your visitors feel bad about not subscribing to your offer.
Here are other examples of this strategy in use:

But here’s the catch:
Just like it might persuade some visitors to sign up, this strategy might repel the others from your brand. And that’s especially if they see through your sneaky tactic.
So, use this technique at your own risk.

#2. Hide The Close Button (Or at Least Delay Its Appearance)

Another way to force a visitor to read your popup is to prevent them from closing it, even if for a couple of seconds.

You see:
Many visitors automatically reach for the closing “x” button the moment a popup appears on a screen.
It’s like a defense mechanism we’ve developed.

A popup shows on screen, so we gotta close it, without even checking out the offer.
And so, by delaying the appearance of the close button, you can force a person actually to read your copy.
And of course, while they’re doing so, they might consider taking you up on it.
But beware, not being able to close the popup might leave some visitors feeling disgusted by your practices.
So, use at your own risk.
Note: Before you ask, no, we don’t offer this functionality in Wisepops. But since we’re talking about sneaky ways, I decided to include it in the article.

#3. Get More Out of People by Tricking Them with a Default Option

Someone leaves you a feedback via popup.
They’ve provided you with valuable information. But unless you’ve used the popup also to sign them up for a mailing list, there’s not much else you can do with that conversion.
And sometimes the trickiest part is to get someone to sign up for two things at once.
Or is it…

Did you know:
We often avoid making a decision by sticking to the default option.
Here let me explain this with an example.

I’m sure you’re familiar with checkboxes on popups. They ensure whoever set them up that you understand T&Cs or opt in for additional information, etc.
But think about it:
How often do you leave the checkbox set to the default option? Probably most of the time, unless you’re forced to do something about it, right?
That’s a quite common behavior.
For the most part, we find making a decision about the checkbox too much effort. And choose to ignore it and leave it set on the default option.
Now, imagine what would happen if you differently label this simple and innocent checkbox…
(please note that the above image is a photoshopped version of the image above it. The company behind the popup has nothing to do with it and their popup doesn’t actually feature the above message.)

Now, anyone opting for the default option would automatically be added to another mailing list, from another company…
Crazy, huh?
Again, use at your own risk…

#4. Use An Oddly Shaped Popup

I admit:
Comparing to the previous three methods, I described above; this strategy seems practically innocent.
And perhaps it is.

This method relies on a surprise to attract a person’s attention.
I’ve talked about the attention-grabbing effect of a surprise on this site already. So just to reiterate:
Surprising and unexpected things activate the pleasure centers of our brains and release noradrenaline, a hormone responsible for concentration, into our systems.
Because of that, whenever we are surprised, we immediately start paying close attention to whatever that has surprised us.

Another trait of our behavior this strategy makes use of is the fact that unusual objects attract our attention much faster than ordinary things.
A 1978 research by Geoffrey Loftus and Norman Mackworth discovered that we respond quicker to oddities in a scene before us (source).
Another study led by Mark Becker found that people fixate on an altered or unusual objects significantly faster than the unaltered one (source).
And that’s your opportunity.

Since most people would expect a popup to have a certain shape –a rectangle or square, they might be surprised and immediately drawn to a differently looking one.

In our recent newsletter, Ben, Wisepops’ CEO showed another idea for an unusual popup – just a button.

We don’t have any stats how it would convert. But it’s an interesting idea that might actually attract more subscribers.
A strategy worth a try.

#5. Rush Visitors into Subscribing

Finally, you can use scarcity, one of the six principles of persuasion to push visitors to sing up.
This method works because, as it turns out, we value more things that are less available to us.
In other words, whenever we realize we might miss out on something, we feel like as if we got to have it.
And so, we jump into action.
Companies use scarcity to get us to buy stuff, make a buying-decision quickly, push old stock, etc. lists the number of rooms still available in a hotel. offers limited slasher deals.
Amazon lists today’s deals.
And so on.

But guess what would happen if you added scarcity to your popup?

Yep, you got it, the subscriber rate should go up.
And that’s purely because whatever you’ve been offering have now become less available.
Crazy, huh?

So, what do you think?

Could you see yourself using any of those tactics in your popups? Or would you feel they cross the line of ethical marketing? Let us know in the comments.

Pawel Grabowski Pawel is an SEO and content marketing consultant working exclusively with SaaS brands.

Lastest posts