6 Popup A/B Tests That Will Help Surge Your Email Signups

Building an email list is so freaking hard, isn’t it?

You drive tons of traffic to the site.
Create an irresistible lead magnet and come up with an enticing headline to announce it.
Use a website popup to make sure they won’t miss it…
And yet, most visitors still won’t convert.

They ignore your offer or click off the popup.

Then again… building a list with a popup isn’t about getting it right for the first time.
It’s about A/B testing different ways to convert your traffic.

And in this post, I’ll show you 6 different popup A/B tests you should be running to increase the conversion rate.
Ready to learn them?
Let’s do it then…

Test #1. Use Numbers in the Headline to Grab Visitors’ Attention

Oh, this goes without saying:
Popups are disruptive.
And that’s exactly their key premise. That’s why the work.
But that’s also where your biggest challenge lies.

You see:
When displaying a popup, you need to divert the person’s attention from the fact that you’ve just disrupted them.
And you only have a split second to do it, before they get infuriated, click the popup off, and leave.

Enter Numbers

I’m sure you’ve heard about it already:
Visitors don’t read all your copy.

Instead, they scan it for headlines, trigger words or phrases that relate to the information they’re looking for, links, lists, etc.
And so, to attract their attention to the information you want to communicate to them, you must make it stand out.
That’s what numbers help you achieve.

Reporting on one of his eye-tracking studies, Jakob Nielsen wrote:
“Among our discoveries was that numerals often stop the wandering eye and attract fixations, even when they’re embedded within a mass of words that users otherwise ignore.”

He cited two reasons for this phenomenon:

  1. Numbers represent facts, something most users would be looking for.
  2. Also, the shape of a group of digits is significantly different from a group of letters. As a result, it stands out and attracts attention. For example, the number 5321 is more visible than five, even though both have the same number of characters.

Numbers in the copy suggest something specific, make reading the headline easier, and intrigue us into reading the entire headline.
So, as a first test, see how your visitors respond to numbers in the headline.

In your Popup software, create a different version of the popup you’re currently running and change the headline to include numbers.
See how this version performs vs. the previous one.
popup A/B tests

Test #2. Assess Your Visitors Response to Urgency

As buyers, we are chronic procrastinators.

We like to evaluate our options, chase better deals, scout web for coupons and so on.
It’s no different with your web visitors.

And one of the best ways to overcome this procrastination is by using urgency.
Urgency is an old trick in the conversion rate optimization book.

Its basic premise is simple: to give someone a reason to act now.
Urgency is linked to an emotional selling. And because of that, it can’t be imposed on a person. But you can evoke the feeling of urgency in the visitor by informing them of the consequence of their procrastination.

Ecommerce stores do it all the time with their low-stock notices…
Sale deadlines and more.
And you could test the effect of urgency on your popup conversions too.

Test #3. Change the Person in the Call to Action

Did you know that we react differently to the pronoun in the call to action?

Seeing the “Grab My Copy” button might spring you to action.

But someone else would respond better to this call to action instead – “Grab Your Copy.
And plenty of research proves the existence of this phenomenon.

For example:
Unbounce and ContentVerve split tested the performance of call to action buttons with different pronouns.
(Source: Tim Ash / Clickz)

And the result?
First person buttons resulted in 90% increase in conversions!

One of my personal heroes and copywriters I look up to, Joanna Wiebe of CopyHackers, also advocates testing buttons in the first person.
As she says:
A great rule of thumb when writing a call to action is to make your button copy complete this sentence:
I want to ________________
That little trick is how we get buttons like Find Out How to Ride a Bike and Make Sense of My Finances Fast. It’s also how we avoid buttons like Register to Learn More … because no one wants to register to learn more.” (source)

So, if you wrote call to action buttons in the third person, try what effect changing them to the first person will have on your conversions.

Test #4. Use Images to Affect Visitors’ Behavior

Images can affect our behavior.
The British Psychological Society lists a couple of examples illustrating the effect images have on us.
For example:
A 2009 study published in the Research Digest, discovered that pictures of companionable dolls increased altruism in toddlers.
Another study, conducted at the University of Newcastle found that pictures of companionship increase altruism but also, the intention to seek help.
And a joint study by the University of California and the George Washington University discovered that using unrelated images in advertising reduces our logical thinking and “leads to less behavioral inhibition, which could translate to less restraint when it comes to buying products depicted in the NI advertisements.” (source)

It, therefore, goes without saying:
Images you feature in the popup will convince or deter a person from taking on your offer.
Here are a couple of ideas you could test:

Use images that show emotions

Advertisers have already been using emotional images to generate an emotional response and motivate a person to take action. The most common emotions used in advertising are greed, exclusivity, fear, and vanity.

Therefore, test how using emotions will affect your popups conversions.


Or feature a funny or unexpected image

We’ve already discussed how funny or unexpected or unrelated images makes us more prone to making impulse decisions.
Try it out on your popup. Who knows, it might work.

Test #5. Use Negative Superlatives in the Headline

Think about it:
Most headlines you see online focus on the positives.
For example:

  • “10 things that will help you…”
  • “Best ways to overcome [problem]…”
  • “10 Gifts your father would love on …”

But according to Outbrain’s study, headlines with negative superlatives perform 30% better!
(image source)

So, test how changing the focus of your headline from positive to negative would affect a visitor’s response to them.
(image source)

Test #6. Include Power Words

Did you know:
Words you use when communicating with the visitor affect them in so many ways.

For example, a single word can relax your brain or make it start preparing your body for stress.
In Words Can Change Your Brain, Andrew Newberg, and Mark Robert Waldman wrote:
A single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”
According to the book, even a single negative word affects our amygdala, the region of the brain responsible for processing the fear.

Imagine that!

And so, the trick then is to know what words you should use to relax a visitor and prevent their stress.

Words like these:
You, a word we respond to as if it was a substitute for our name. It builds connection and activates the regions of the brain responsible for the formation of the elements of your personality. No surprise that it’s also the most commonly used word in advertising.
And, given its ability to keep the conversation going (unlike its common substitute But, which often breaks the flow).
Free, the most powerful incentive.
Increase, because it communicates the biggest benefit from the B2B point of view – better ROI.
Try, an action-oriented but a passive counterpart to Buy. It suggests action but at the same time, communicates little or no long-term commitment.
Learn, again, incentives people to act without a need to commit to anything.  Plus it has an added benefit, knowledge someone lacks.


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

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