Exit intent popups get a lot of hate. Some people simply can’t stand them, period. They’re intrusive, they interrupt, and they ruin user experience (so the argument goes).
But the fact is, they work.
And especially exit intent popups.
In this complete guide to exit intent popups I’m going to:
- Explain what exit intent popups are
- Discuss exit intent popup conversion rates
- Show you the 4 key elements of an exit intent popup
- Give you 23 powerful hacks for getting more subscribers from your exit intent popup
- Show you some other applications for exit intent popups
- Explain how to use A/B testing with exit intent popups
- Give you a list of the exit intent popup providers
Are you ready?
Let’s dive in!
1. What Is An Exit Intent Popup
An exit intent popup detects the precise moment that your visitor is about to leave your website and offers them one last opportunity to engage with your site.
You’re not interrupting their visit because the visitor is on their way out anyway. So, they’re far less annoying than immediate popups.
And from your point of view, your visitor is leaving anyway, so what have you got to lose?
The fact is that up to 75% of people who visit your website will never come back.
An exit intent popup is your last chance to get an email address so that you stay in touch with them. And hopefully bring them back at a later date.
2. Exit Intent Conversion Rates
According to Crazy Egg, craft blogger Nikki McGonigal increased her opt-in rate by a staggering 1300% by using an exit intent popup.
Other figures are more conservative. Venture Harbour, for example, estimates that an exit intent popup will increase your opt-in rate by 5% to 10%.
That’s a huge difference, admittedly. But even if the figure is closer to 10%, it’s worth installing an exit intent popup.
But what are the secrets to a successful exit intent popup?
There are four things you need to get right…
3. The Four Key Components of an Exit Intent Popup
Here are the four secrets to an exit intent popup that gets lots of new subscribers:
Make sure the exit intent popup you are displaying matches the page from which your visitor is about to depart.
With blog sites in particular, a visitor will often come to your site to solve a specific problem.
They find your page through organic search, get the information they need, and leave.
Let’s say your visitor landed on a blog post about how to choose the right web host for a WordPress site. That’s all they’re interested in.
They get the information they wanted and they’re about to leave when an exit intent pops up offering them an on-page SEO cheat sheet.
Are they going to be interested?
But what about if the popup offers a list of the best budget web hosts that offer free WordPress installation?
Now that’s an offer they’re likely to accept. Boom – you just got another subscriber to your list.
Content upgrades are a great way to target your offers to the right audience. Let’s say you write a blog post about how to build a pizza oven. Your content upgrade might be a checklist of the materials you need before you start.
Bloggers usually offer content upgrades though an inline link or a call-out box within the article itself.
But those links often don’t get seen, or the reader is busy reading the article and doesn’t want to get distracted.
But how about offering the content upgrade in an exit intent popup? After all, the reader has finished reading the article and would probably like to take away some useful information that wasn’t in the article. More about using exit intent popups for content upgrades below…
My main point here is that with exit intent popups, targeting is everything.
When it comes to design of your exit intent popup, there are two key things you must do:
Make sure the design of your popup is consistent with the design of your website – that way your visitor won’t feel that she has suddenly left your website.
Notice how the color scheme in this Backlinko popup is entirely consistent with the color scheme of the website:
Consistency in design between exit intent popup and website increases trust.
Whatever color scheme you use, make sure the Call To Action (CTA) button is the star of the show.
It should stand out so strongly that the visitor’s eye is naturally drawn to it.
Here’s an example. Notice how your eye can’t help but settle on the red button:
The copy or message on your exit intent needs to be powerful but brief.
Remember, your visitor is already on their way out, they’re not going to stop and read a whole paragraph of text.
All you want is a bold headline and a punchy sub-head. Nothing more.
Think about your visitor’s likely pain points. They came on to the Internet to solve something:
- They need more traffic to their website
- They need a low budget recipe for a family dinner
- They don’t know where to start building a website
Whatever the case, your visitor will have a main pain point that got them searching in Google.
That’s what you need to focus on.
Address your message to a single person - the one who’s just about to leave your site.
You don’t know their name, but you can at least use the word ‘You’ (preferably more than once).
Use words that stop people in their tracks, such as:
- Don’t Go
- Only Now
- For a Short Time
- Reserve your spot now
- Act quickly or you might lose it
- Click here to get free shipping
- Get yours now
- For a short time only
3.4 Call To Action Button
The CTA button needs to stand out visually, but it should also contain some powerful action words, such as:
- Act Now!
- Add to Cart
- Book a Demo
- Buy Now
- Claim Your Free Trial
- Click Here To Get Started!
- Click here to get X
- Create Account
- Download Now!
- Enter Now
- FREE quote today
- Free Updates
- Get Started
- Get X% Off
- Gimme Now!
- Give X a try
- Instant Access!
- Join Free
- Learn More
- Order now!
- Send It To Me Now!
- Shop Now
- Show Me How
- Sign Me Up!
- Sign Up Free
- Tri It Free
- Try for Free
4. Getting More Subscribers - 23 Hacks For Higher Conversions
Although exit intent popups have multiple uses, the most popular by far is gathering email addresses.
Otherwise known as list-building.
Here are 25 ways to get more email subscribers form your exit intent popup.
4.1 Be a Mind Reader
An exit intent popup is activated when your visitor moves their cursor towards the back arrow at the top of browser screen.
One way to grab their attention is to use a headline that makes it seem you know what they’re about to do.
Here are some examples:
Here are some variations on this type of exit intent headline:
- What's the Rush?
- Before You Go...
- Sorry to see you go
- Leaving Already?
- Wait, don't leave empty-handed
- That's called abandonment
4.2 Use a Two-Step Popup
A lot of webmasters report very high conversion rates using Two-Step Exit Intent Popups.
Why do they work so well?
Because they take advantage of a little-known aspect of human psychology.
It’s called the theory of micro-commitments. Basically, we’re you’re more likely to do something that represents a big commitment (entering an email address in an opt-in form) if you’ve already completed an action that involved a small commitment (clicking a button).
This is what a Two-Step option does – it first invites the visitor to click on a button with a compelling Call To Action.
And then, on the next screen, it presents the visitor with an opt-in form.
Much more effective than presenting them with an opt-in form right away.
The visitor builds up momentum with the first step, so when the second step comes, it’s that much easier to complete.
Here’s an example of a Two-Step opt-in. The first popup simply invites you to click a button:
Only on the second popup are you asked to enter an email address.
And because you’ve already answered ‘Yes’ on the first popup, you’re much more likely to carry through and complete the conversion:
One popular version of the Two-Step exit intent is the ‘Yes/No’ exit intent popup.
First you get a choice between a ‘Yes’ button and ‘No’ button (in this case ‘I want the book’ and ‘I don’t want the book’):
And only then do you see an opt-in form:
The theory of micro-commitments says that because you’ve already clicked ‘Yes’ you’re far more likely to keep going and fill out the form.
4.3 Use Negative CTA
Two-step opt-ins often use negative CTA, which has become a bit of an art form.
Some people detest these negative buttons.
But they work, because in order to click the button you have to internalize a message that you don’t agree with, such as ‘No, I don’t want more traffic’ or ‘No, I don’t want to save money’.
Here’s an example. Notice how this popup uses psychology in the colors of the buttons – the ‘Yes’ is bright and welcoming, the ‘No’ is grey and dreary:
Here are some other examples of negative CTA that you can use on the ‘No’ button of a two-step opt-in:
- No, I don't need a strategy
- No, I don't need more traffic
- No, I don't want to improve my search rankings
- No, I don't want to save money
- No, I don't want to reduce my bounce rate
- No, I don't want to convert more customers
- No, I Reject the Free eBook
- No, thanks, I'd rather learn the hard way
- No, I’d rather not receive free deals in my inbox
4.4 Use Compelling CTA Copy
Use Compelling Calls To Action on your exit intent buttons.
The most effective button CTAs include a strong action word, as in this example:
Other examples of button CTAs with action words are:
- Sign Me Up to Get a Free E-book
- Give Me My E-book
- Send It To Me Now
When creating a CTA for your exit opt-in button, remember that the message on the button should include the benefit.
Also, avoid the word ‘subscribe’. Use ‘join’ instead – it sounds much more enticing.
4.5 Use Arrows
Arrows are a very effective way of making your visitor focus on what it is you want them to do.
Here are some examples:
4.6 Create Urgency
One of the biggest reasons people don’t take action is that there was no clear reason why they should do it now.
That’s why a sense of urgency can dramatically increase your conversion rates.
But be careful with this one: if your visitors detect that you are simply manipulating them, this tactic will backfire on you.
For example, if you have a deadline that keeps rolling over endlessly, that’s obviously fake. And your visitors will realize that.
There’s a plant nursery near my house and they used to have a ‘closing down sale’ sign on the highway. The problem was that the sign was there for three whole years! Obviously, they’re not closing down.
That kind of thing puts people off and removes any trust in you they might have had.
A countdown timer is a good way to create urgency.
Here’s an example:
If you do use a countdown timer, just make sure that when the time expires, it’s for real – the sale is over.
Most providers of exit intent popups offer countdown timers.
Of course, you don’t have to mention time frames to create urgency. Any of these phrases create a sense of urgency:
- Book Now
- Order Now
- Get It Now
- Call Now
4.7 Use Social Proof
Social proof is a key part of establishing your credentials.
If you have a big list, state exactly how many subscribers you have: “Join 27,000 other Bloggers and receive my latest tips and techniques”.
Have you had guest posts published on major blogs? Add their logos to your exit intent popup, with the words ‘featured on’.
This exit intent popup manages to incorporate both kinds of social proof:
This exit intent popup places the social proof on the button itself:
4.8 Include a Picture of the Opt-in Magnet
Pictures grab people's attention more than words. Include a high-quality image of your product:
Not only will it grab your visitor’s attention, it increases the perceived value of your product.
Notice how the book covers pop on these two exit intents pop off the screen and grab your attention:
4.9 Use the Zeigarnik Effect
The Zeigarnik Effect is a tendency we all have to want to complete things. We humans don’t like to leave things incomplete.
And that’s why progress bars are so effective in exit intent popups. They create in the visitor a sense of an unfinished process. That sense of something being unfinished creates tension in the visitor. So, they take an action (filling in the form) that will complete the process.
Here are some examples of progress bars in exit intent popups:
4.10 Personalize Your Exit Popup
Nothing is sweeter to your visitor than the sound of their own name.
That may not be possible.
But the next best thing is ‘You’:
- Before your leave
- Before you go
- Are you leaving already?
- You’re not leaving?
- Increase Your Traffic By 297% in the next 30 days
- Double Your Conversion Rates with this one little-known technique
- How to get your blog posts on Page #1 of Google, even when your DA is low
Another way to personalize your exit intent popups is to use referrer detection technology.
Let’s say you’ve written a guest post on SmartBlogger. Using OptinMonster’s Referral Detection, you can target people coming to your site from that guest post with a message like this: ‘Hey SmartBlogger Readers – a special offer just for you!”
The ultimate way to personalize your exit intent popups is with dynamic text replacement.
For example, with OptinMonster’s Dynamic Test Replacement API, the software looks on your visitor’s computer for matching predefined variables (contained in things like cookies) and as soon as it finds a matching variable, it inserts the variable into your message.
Here’s an example:
4.11 Use the Word “Wait” on Your Exit Intent Popup
‘Wait’ is one of the most powerful words in the English language. It has the impact of ‘stop’ but much more.
Because it strongly suggests: “I’ve got something I want to show you”:
4.12 Keep Your Theme and Messaging Consistent
The more continuity there is between your exit intent popup and the design of your website, the higher your conversion rate will be.
If the color scheme and design elements on your exit intent popup are completely different to your website, it confuses your visitor. They may even think they’ve left your website.
Also, when the popup matches the website, it just looks more professional
Notice how the branding and the color scheme on the exit intent popup below matches the branding and color scheme on the website:
4.13 Hide Popups from Existing Subscribers
One of the drawbacks of using any kind of popup, even an exit intent, is that some people find them very annoying.
You can minimize this annoyance factor by making sure your exit intent popup does not display to people who have already subscribed to your list.
In OptinMonster, just go to the ‘Display Rules’ for your exit intent popup and add a rule to hide the popup from visitors who have already opted in:
4.14 Include Testimonials in Your Exit Popup
Testimonials are a powerful way of establishing credibility.
And they’re just as effective on exit intent popups as they are on your website.
Here’s an example:
4.15 Be Specific
One of the reasons numbers work so well in headlines is that people want details.
Which is more attention-grabbing? The one on the left or the one on the right?
4.16 Target Your Offer to a Specific Audience
Your exit intent popups will convert much better if you customize them according to the content that your visitor has just been reading.
Let’s say your exit intent popup offers a checklist of on-page SEO factors.
And let’s say your visitor found your site by searching in Google for an article about email marketing.
And let’s say she just spent the last 10 minutes reading an article on your website about email marketing.
How is she going to respond to an exit popup about on-page SEO?
Not very well. Most likely she’ll click away from the popup and keep going.
But what if your exit intent popup offers a cheat sheet of do’s and don’ts in email marketing?
She’ll be most interested! And will probably sign up to get it.
Here’s how to set an exit intent to appear only on a specific page, in OptinMonster.
First choose the primary operator (‘current URL path’):
Next, choose the ‘exactly matches’ condition:
Finally, enter the URL of the page you want the exit intent popup to appear on:
4.17 Use Authority Credentials
Do you have a qualification related to the product or service you’re offering?
If so, include it on your exit intent popup – it’ll help to establish your credibility:
4.18 Anticipate and Overcome Objections
The most common buyer objections preventing some making a purchase are:
- I can get the same results on my own
- It’s too expensive
- Does it work?
- Will it work for me?
- I’ve never heard of you before
- It’s too complicated
- It’s too risky
- I don’t need it urgently
- I need to think about it
Just take one of these objections (the one that is most likely to affect your product or service) and defuse it in a few short words.
You don’t have much space on an exit intent popup, so try using an image (e.g. smiling, happy customer).
Other ways to overcome objections on your exit intent are:
- Offer a money-back guarantee (addresses risk)
- Show that you know what you’re talking about (addresses trust)
- I've achieved the results you want to achieve (addresses the question 'does it work?')
- Try it for free (addresses risk)
4.19 Create Scarcity
An age-old problem on the Internet is that digital products, by definition, never run out (in the way that books do or other material products).
This makes it difficult for Internet Marketers to create a sense of scarcity.
Buy savvy online marketers have got around this problem. They now close their online courses after a certain number of people join.
If you’re selling a course, or consultations, or coaching services, you can do the same.
Scarcity and the fear of losing out is a powerful motivator and will increase your conversion rate.
4.20 Offer a Quiz
Quizzes are irresistible to the human psyche because they offer us a glimpse into who we really are.
We’re all on a journey of self-discovery, and that’s exactly what a quiz offers – self-discovery.
Here’s an example from the website of wealth guru Ramit Sethi:
4.22 Use Humor
Humor is universal - if you can strike the right note (not easy to do) it will appeal to virtually everyone:
4.23 Ask Your Visitor's Opinions
People like being asked what they think about something, so turn your exit intent popup into a brief survey.
For an e-commerce site the survey could be about the visitor’s customer experience:
Alternatively, the survey could be completely open-ended:
5. Other Applications for Exit Intent Popups
The most common use of an exit intent popup is to collect email addresses.
But there are plenty of other applications for an exit intent popup.
Here are some other uses for your exit intent popup:
5.1 Dealing with Cart Abandonment
About three out of every four online shoppers leave their items behind in their shopping cart.
But you can reduce that statistic by reminding your potential customers with an exit intent popup like this one:
5.2 Limited Time Offers
According to Hubspot, limited-time offers outperform ordinary sales copy by 8%. So, this is a great way to boost your sales:
5.3 Gather Feedback
Collecting customer feedback not only helps improve products and services, it also shows you value your customers’ opinions. So, this is another great use of an exit intent popup:
5.4 Get Social Media Follows
If your visitor is leaving anyway, why not try and get them to follow you on Facebook or Twitter?
5.5 Encourage App Downloads
Got a free app that you need to get out there?
An exit intent popup is the perfect way to get more downloads:
5.6 Offer Discount Coupons
This is pretty simple – everyone loves a discount.
If your visitor is leaving anyway, why not make not make one last attempt with a discount coupon?
5.7 Offer Free Shipping
According to a 2017 study by Walker Sands, 80% of US online shoppers say free shipping is a contributing factor to their online purchases.
So, if your visitor is leaving anyway, so why not offer free shipping?
5.8 Take a Survey
Studies have shown that surveys get the best response when they take the form of multiple choice (rather than open-ended questions like “what could we improve?”):
5.9 Suggest Related Posts
One perfectly valid use of an exit intent popup is to keep visitors on your site a bit longer. That will reduce your bounce rate and increase your ‘time on site’ (Google watches and measures both these metrics).
One way to keep people on your site longer is to recommend related posts. If your visitor just spent 15 minutes reading a post on building backlinks, they might also be interested in reading a post about guest blogging (which is a link building technique).
For this, however, you would need to target your exit intent popups to particular pages. See Exit Intent Hack #17 for instructions on how to do this in OptinMonster.
5.10 Display Related Products or Services
You’ve probably seen this technique at work in the Kindle Store – “customers who viewed this item also viewed these items”.
Like the ‘related posts’ technique, it’s a way of keeping your visitor on your website a bit longer by offering them something you know they’re interested in:
6. Use A/B Testing to Find Your Most Effective Exit Intent
Of course, the best way to discover a high-converting exit intent popup is to run an A/B test.
Create two popups that you’ve optimized in terms of design, message, and Calls To Action and then run them against each other.
Most major popup providers include split or A/B testing.
In OptinMonster, click on the three vertical dots next to the name of your campaign (i.e. your exit intent popup) and then click on ‘A/B Split Test’:
On the next screen, click on the A/B button:
You now have two versions of that exit intent popup:
Click on the ‘Edit’ button for the second of the two duplicates and rename it:
Now start making changes (headline, color of the CTA button, type of image etc.) to the second of the two duplicates.
OptinMonster will now randomly run the two variations and will automatically pick the winner.
Once you have a winner, repeat the process, until you have anew winner. And so. If you keep doing this, you’ll end up with a high converting exit intent popup.
7. Exit Intent Popup Providers
There are literally dozens of exit intent popup providers.
I use OptinMonster (as you will have gathered) and I thoroughly recommend it.
Prior to using OptinMonster I used Lead Pages and Thrive. But I found both of them difficult to implement.
What I love about OptinMonster is that it works the first time.
And if you do run into trouble you can open a ticket and have a response within an hour or so.
- OptinMonster - starts at $19 p/month
- Bloom - $89 yearly membership (includes many other plugins and themes)
- Sumome List Builder - starts at $29 p/month
- Icegram - starts at $97 p/year (with exit intent)
- Ninja Popups - One-time fee of $26
- Thrive Leads - One-times fee of $67
- Hold On Stranger - starts at 22 p/month
- Popup Domination - starts at $9 p/month
- Poptin – Free, Paid plans start at $19 p/month
- WisePops - starts at $41 p/month
- OptiMonk - starts at $29 p/month
- Picreel - starts at $14 p/month
In this definitive guide to exit intent popups, this is what we’ve covered:
- The four key elements of a successful exit intent popup
- How to optimize exit intent popups to get more subscribers
- How to use them for other purposes (other than list-building)
- Some of the main exit intent popup providers
Armed with this information, you should be able to turbo-charge your exit intent popups and start getting more subscribers to your list.
This post was most recently updated on July 4th, 2020