82% of Greatist’s List Growth Comes From Its Popup

Greatist Daily Email PopupAlmost without fail, when I give my Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing talk and mention using a popup to collect email addresses, there is a collective groan throughout the crowd.

Let’s face it, many (most?) people hate popups.

I personally don’t care for them. However, as Chris Penn reminded himself (and all of his readers) here of the cardinal rule of marketing: I am not my customer.

My version of that phrase goes like this: Best practices are those that are best for your audience.

But what if adding a popup or popover* to your website worked? What if you could attribute a significant portion of your overall list growth to a popup? Would you test it?

In our book – The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing - Jason and I give several examples of individuals and companies who are growing their email lists quite a bit through popovers. We talk about Chris Penn’s popover as well as the one from Funny or Die. Both of them report incredible results from their popovers.

The more websites I visit, the more popovers seem to be “popping up.” The latest example comes from the team at Greatist.

82% of Greatist’s List Growth Comes From Its Popup

Greatist may be my new favorite website on the Internet. According to its About page:

A greatist is someone who chooses better to improve their fitness, health, and happiness. Greatist.com is the trusted health & fitness source for the young, savvy, and social.

When I first discovered Greatist, I was reading a wonderful article when suddenly a popover appeared … asking me to subscribe to the Greatist Daily (see image at top of this post). Without hesitation, I entered my email address and hit the subscribe button. WHAT? Didn’t I just write above that I hate popups?


So why did I opt-in? Why did I enter my email address? Simple. The Greatist content that I was reading was so wonderful that I wanted to get it delivered to my inbox daily. The WIIFM (what’s in it for me) was short, direct, and compelling. The opt-in form was simple (email address only).

I emailed Derek Flanzraich, the CEO and Founder of Greatist, to tell him how awesome their popover was. I also – of course – asked him if it was working for them. Here is what Derek shared with me:

Me: Did you always have the popup on your site? If not, what did your pre-popup list growth look like compared to once you installed the popup?

Derek: Originally, Greatist started without a popup… but I was ultimately convinced it was the most effective way to grow a list mostly because I learned we could profoundly customize it. Our popup appears only once to each IP address (a reader’s first visit) and only 90 seconds into a session. The idea is simple: not bother people, but offer them a way to keep up with Greatist if they like what they see enough to stick around for a bit. We’ve briefly considered having the popup appear only at the beginning of someone’s 2nd visit to the site. I’m typically not a huge fan of popups myself, but if done well and with a brand I want to hear more from, I’d love to see one. So just as with everything at Greatist, we want to share a value we believe is truly awesome (our original daily tips newsletter) to people who’d appreciate it! We had an email entry box at the top right of the site before and still do, but the minute we installed the popup, our growth began to accelerate big time.

Me: Are you using an off-the-shelf popup solution or is it home built? If off-the-shelf, what are you using?

Derek: We’re using a pretty customized popup solution from MailChimp.

Me: Who came up with the copy for the popup (I love it, by the way) and what prompted you do try something short, sweet, and light?

Derek: Think it must have been me! Though we’ve considered it, we haven’t changed it at all since we added the popup. Don’t rock the boat, right? The copy is super consistent with our brand: high-quality, but fun– professional, but friendly. We’re obsessed with building a health & wellness brand that people truly trust and love– and on our way!

Me: What percentage of your overall email list growth is due to the popup?

Derek: 82%. Wowza.

Me: Have you ever had any complaints about the popup?

Derek: Very, very few. The major complaint has been that the popup has a glitch that, when it pops up, some people (only on mobile) are dragged to the top of the site. If they were reading an article, they immediately lose their place and all hell breaks loose (I assume). We’re working to fix it! Otherwise, can’t think of a simple complaint because of just the popup in our over a year and a half history.

So … Should YOU Add a Popover To Your Site?


My advice is this: Test it. Try it for a few weeks to see if it works for your audience. In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I’ve been testing a popover on Waldow Social. Truth be told, it’s not been that effective for me. That’s why you need to test! Don’t discount it – or any list growth tactic – until you have tested it with your audience.

Are you currently using a popover to grow your email list? If so, how’s it working for you? If not, what’s preventing you from testing it?

*Note: I use the term popups and popovers interchangeably; however, they are not really the same. Mark Brownlow does a nice job of distinguishing between the two here. Basically, a popup is something that appears in a new window or tab where a popover appears as a box/form that lays over the current webpage. The Greatist example above is a popover.

DJ Waldow
Waldow Social

P.S. Have you heard the news? Nick Westergaard and I have started a weekly podcast called The Work Talk Show, where we interview crazy-smart folks about how work gets done. Give the latest episode – with SETH GODIN! – a listen!

Speaking of breaking “the rules” of email marketing, did you know that my buddy Jason Falls and I just wrote a book called The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win?

Yup. It’s true.

In the book, we talk about growing your email list as well as breaking “the rules” of email marketing. Break the rules and grab your copy today, right now. Here –> AVAILABLE NOW!

Reminder: There is no such thing as “best practices” when it comes to email marketing. Best practices are those that are best for your audience.

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