So Let’s Talk About These New Exit Intent Popups

I’m a funny T-shirt guy. I know, not directly related to exit intent popups but stick with me.

I have probably a half-dozen T-shirts for bands nobody has ever heard. I’ve got another seven or eight for movies or obscure pop culture references.

You know how Judah Friedlander from 30 Rock has a revolving cache of pop-culture reference trucker hats?

That’s me. I’m that guy.

And when you’re that guy, people hold you to it so you have to keep a regular rotation of shirts. You can’t just go repeating shirts throughout the week – they need to be varied, topical, and in perfect condition.

This became an issue the other day when I was was forced to pull my “More Cowbell” shirt out of the rotation. The reference was getting a bit tired and I had discovered a pretty significant rip in the underarm.

So up came the browser and off I went to my favorite T-shirt site,, which I haven’t visited in quite a while.  In case you didn’t know, is the place to find awesome T-shirts with wickedly funny pop culture references. They just do it right. I wasn’t on their site for more than a few seconds when I was interrupted aggressively with the exit intent popup below.



Now, I know I caught a glimpse of at least two funny shirts before the ad but those ideas quickly left my mind. Instead, I was trying to process the incept facing me.

Without taking any steps toward it, I was presented with a strong call to action I wasn’t prepared for. This is some pretty aggressive salesmanship, something I haven’t experience at this site. (Like I said, it’s been a while since I needed a funny shirt).

That’s not all. Right below the button that screams about “CRAZY DEALS” I saw this peculiar sentence.

“No thanks, I like paying full price.”

I literally tilted my head to the right slightly, squinted as if to try and find something I was missing, and whispered, “Huh?”

What does that even mean? Who likes paying full price? What’s going on here? Oh, I get it.

As I processed the sentence, I realized I was insulted by it because that was the very point. It was built to make me feel inferior for not accepting the offer above, which, in turn, would bully me into taking the call to action.

Here’s way of stating the bullying sentence: What, you don’t like crazy deals? Wow, you must be the kind of idiot that likes paying full price. What a moron. 

To me, this whole experience is like walking into a store, having someone put something — anything — inches from your nose, and screaming over the product, “HEY, WANNA BUY THIS?”.

Then, when you politely decline, the person looks at you with disgust, and says, “Wow, I guess you’re the kind of scumbag that likes to pay full price.” Then, the last thing you see is their face disappearing over the product as they raise it violently to eye level, obscuring everything else.

I think I got my point across, I regard this a pretty intrusive experience.

Now, these popups aren’t exactly breaking news. Popups never really died, they just went out of style — slightly — and improved dramatically.  What’s kind of new is these exit intent popups are an extreme hard sale. These ones  forcibly wrestle away the user experience. Think Alec Baldwin from Glengarry, Glen Ross.

It’s only now that they are infecting my user experience dramatically so I figured I would share my opinion.

So What Are These New Exit Intent Popups? wonipod

Back in the day, when the Internet was fairly young and Netscape was still a thing, pop-up ads were disruptive, annoying, and everywhere.

And then there was the war on popups, fought mainly by software that valiantly blocked the frustrating and resource-killing advertisements. Then they just kind of… went away.

Now they’re back, and they’re popping up on sites all around. (There, I got my pun out of the way).

So are the new breed of exit intent popups any different? In some ways yes, but in many ways no.

Exit Intent Popups are Pretty Annoying

Today’s exit intent popups are still just as disruptive as the old guys. They literally interrupt your reading, sometimes with irritating frequency.

Back in February 2014, SEO expert Dan Petrovic called out search engine heavy weight Neil Patel for using popups on his blog. (This kind of thing only happens on the Internet). The issue was with the frequency of the popups and sure, they do come up a lot on Neil’s blog. More on Neil in a second.

Exit Intent Popups Hijack the User Experience

I don’t pretend to know everything about user experience but since I’m part of the internet community, I think my opinion is at least representative.  For me, it’s all about the fact that popups wrestle control away and take over the user experience.

I can’t imagine I’m the only one thinking this because the very existence of technology to kill popups proves people needed to automate their removal.

It all comes back to control. When people use the Internet, they like to think they are in charge of the experience. They navigate where they want, read what the like, and are plugged in enough to know when something is wrong. When you interrupt the experience with an exit intent popup, people notice the disconnect and ask “What Happened?”

The next natural question is, “Why did it happen?”

In the past few years, I’ve become accustomed to the natural progression of reading content, commenting on it, learning, doing, and finally interacting with a call to action when I’m ready based on my actions up to that point.  It’s my call on my time.

So if one second I’m reading about email marketing tips and the next I’m presented with a call to action, the disruption at the very least elicits a response.

Having control wrestled away and being presented with an experience you didn’t request is jarring because it jumps the gun on a process I thought I understood. The contract I had with websites – I’ll ask you for help when I’m ready but not before — has been broken.

popups haven’t changed in the way they present you with a call to action despite your level of comfort with seeing it.

Exit Intent Popups are Cleaner and More Targeted

One big now-and-then change is today’s popups are quite a bit cleaner.

Let’s use this example from Nikki, in Stitches.


I didn’t know about Nikki McGonigal’s craft blog until I started researching exit intent popups. I’ve since read some of her stuff and she’s obviously great at what she does. She has a great following and awesome attitude that comes through in her passionate writing.

In short, I couldn’t care less about crafts but enjoy her blog because of her passion for the subject. She’s just a great writer.

The blog makes use of popups right from the get-go. Just navigate to the blog’s home page, wait two or three seconds, and you’ll see this. From what I’ve learned, there’s some logic behind this but I was presented the popup in three different browsers, each on the first go, so I’m basing my writing on that.

This is a clean, professional, branded popup with a strong, clear call to action. Sign up and stay in touch, simple as that.

It’s also appropriate, or at least, far and away more appropriate than pop ads in the past that would advertise everything under the sun on any kind of page.

If you happened upon a craft blog, whether directly or from a search, you probably did so with interest in crafts. So you should expect to be asked to continue hearing about crafts. Though the popup is presented to anyone and everyone, it’s at least somewhat appropriate because if you’re at this site, you probably would want more.

Exit Intent Popups are Getting Way More Aggressive

In the great before, popups were annoying and resource intensive for sure but in the end, most were also pretty harmless. They advertised stuff you didn’t want and were a nuanced nuisance in the infancy of the internet.

That’s not even close to the case now. Today’s popups use extremely pushy and seem to have an overly determined goal of keeping your attention.  Animations, images, and leading language in the popup combine to make a case for keeping you on the page you are viewing.

If I haven’t yet made it clear, these simple lightboxes triggered by mouse movements embody a determination and resolve better suited for hanging on for dear life.

Take this one for example, this is from To draw this popup reaction, check out one of the site’s articles and just casually mouse away from the page toward the URL.


Before talking about what this means, it’s important to talk about what it took to get here.

To invoke this popup, all you need to do is move your cursor to an area outside the content area, like, say, the top left where your “back” button resides. Basically, if you try to leave the page, this is what you get.

So imagine you’ve decided to navigate away. The page reacts by presenting your with a timed offer. This particular intercept features an infomercial-style limited time pitch for a free piece of content called the Insider. Act now because this limited time offer will end in five minutes and the clock is ticking. (The counter actually works, a pretty cool effect.)

I didn’t stay to see what happened when the clock runs out but you get the idea.

Check out this one here from


Check it out here. Neat how the “Yes” button kind of flaps suggestively.

Here’s another one, kind of in the same vein.



There’s a heavy dose of crawling-into-your-brain psychology going on here. These ads aren’t just designed to keep you around, they’re designed to invoke emotion, change your opinion, and force you to act. And everything is happening for a reason.

The reddish orange around the “Yes” because it invokes emotional feelings of energy and emotion. The color of the box surrounding the “Yes” matches the color of the words “Market Insights”, which is meant to create a connection between the affirmative and the word. But that’s not the best part.

What really grabs my attention here is the sentences that support each option. It’s no longer just a Yes or No question – the website wants you to believe that there’s so much more at stake. Each option has an implied reinforcement the consequences of each option.

In the above option, you pick “Yes” and you’ll get the market edge – you’ll outpace the competition. With the “Yes”, you’re a winner.

But if you pick “No”, you’re the kind of person who would “rather be the last to hear.” Say no to this offer and you’re someone who is losing the game. Someone who is less than others. You’re the last, which by its very definition, means everyone is ahead of you.   There’s at least two things you will always see with “No” supporting sentence.

First, it’s utterly ridiculous.  Tying a negative response with thoughts like “I like when visitors bounce,” or “I’d rather be the last to hear,” is just plain crazy. Nobody would ever enjoy visitors bouncing from their site. Nobody wants to be the last to hear anything – even bad news.

Look at this example below. Would any business owner actually say with a straight face that they have enough customers?


In addition to being ridiculous, it’s incredibly insulting. You are meant to see this sentence and feel some level of shame for picking “No”. It’s hard to read the words “No, I have enough traffic,” and not hear it in the voice of a smart-ass, condescending teenager.

To be clear, the above examples and the copy below are in no way different.


So there’s obviously a bunch of work that goes into making sure you not only stay on site but also act in a certain way. But is is worth it?

But are These Exit Intent Popups Effective?

Yes. All negative feelings aside, everything said, these are incredibly effective.

Remember the Nikki, in Stitches, example above? Well it turns out it’s excellence proof as to why using popups works.

Nikki’s use of popups resulted in “1375% more subscribers.”

Darren Rowse’s photography blog at one time was locked at 40 subscribers but after instituting popups, he started receiving 350 subscribers a day. 

Another recipe website experienced 10x improvement in sign ups. The list goes on.

There’s plenty of other examples of popups working to the advantage of the site, at the cost of irking some people. To be clear, it’s beneficial despite the negative feelings some (including me) have about them.

3 Free Resources You Can Use to Make Your Blog Look Awesome

For a bunch of reasons that don’t really matter, I’m currently recovering from a seven-year social media and blogging hiatus.

As far hiatuses go, I wouldn’t recommend one from the social scene. I watched a lot of things happen around me, missed out on some great conversations, and lost valuable time I could’ve spent meeting great people.

My skills went pretty soft too. That’s perhaps the worst part.

So when I decided to jump back into the mix, I did what most anybody would do if they were coming back to something after a long while.

I made a list of the resources I would. In this case, it was a list of stuff I would need to start telling my story on a blog. After some thought, I soon discovered one awesome thing from this exercise that I want to share with you.

Everything you need to tell your story on the web is free. 

And that’s what this post is all about. It’s about free stuff to put enhance your writing from stock photos, to tools and even the platform to host your blog.

This isn’t about how to form your blog post because other people a ton smarter than me have already done that. (Read: 5 Elements of a “Perfect” Blog Post) This isn’t even about inspiration because I’m willing to bet you’re already inspired.

Everything below is free and can be used today to get started telling your amazing story. Let’s go.

1. There’s Free Stock Photos to Make Your Blog Look Awesome

Let’s start with explaining why you need pictures to accompany your story.

Imagery is a vital part of blogging because it helps illustrate your tale and anyway, people relate to pictures. If you need more convincing, go read what the experts say about using images in your blog posts.

First off, there’s a bunch of sites with free stock photography on the web. You probably already knew that.

Here’s something you didn’t know: Some of them actually have awesome stuff.

The good folks over at BufferSocial complied a pretty decent list of over 50 sites to get you started. (53+ Free Image Sources For Your Blog and Social Media Posts)

As an aside, if you haven’t already, you need to check out the Buffer. It’s amazing.

Now, the list is pretty long and some of the sites aren’t the greatest thing ever. Some of the suggested sources are just plain difficult to navigate from a user experience perspective. Other sites have photos that are just plain bad.

But there’s some awesome stuff and here’s two right off the bat (plus one I like):



Free Images

I’ve personally used this site so many times for countless varied projects.

The site offers high-res, user-contributed photos that can be used for personal blogs or corporate campaigns. Polished isn’t exactly the word I’d use for this images – this is all about utility.

It just gets the job done consistently and that’s why I recommend it a lot.

If you’re a small business and you’re looking to start content marketing, the stunning amount of vertical-specific art on makes it a must-have resource.

The account is free (that’s 100%, no future payment) so get after it.

IM Free

From IM Free

IM Free (

I want you to take a good hard look at the image to the right.

That’s a beautiful picture from the site above.

It’s inspirational. They say “When it’s beautiful you don’t have to force it, it works on it’s own.” That’s what we have here.

This is the kind of work you build a site around. If you’re starting a gym geared toward kick-ass women, this is the picture you use.

IM Free is packed with this kind of quality photography and it’s free for you to use. This site has a personal feeling unlike any other I’ve seen out there. You can find inspiration for just about any project just by perusing the site.

Startup Stock Photos (

Startup Stock Photos

From Startup Stock

When I think of Startup Stock Photos, it reminds me of the good people on the Internet and how fortunate we are to have them.

The site’s creators obviously know how difficult it can be to work for a startup. Making this kind of high quality stock photography seems to be their way of giving back.

It’s all there in the site’s tag line:

“Take ’em, these things are free. Go. Make something.”

Startup Stock Photos is packed with professional, ultra-clean, modern, art.  And the best part is they are high-res, highly versatile, and above all, free.

Takeaway: There’s a bunch of free stock photography out there but a small percentage of it is awesome.  When you find something you like that inspires you — and it’s free — be polite and attribute the author.

When using this stuff, think about the time and effort the people put into what you are using for no charge. Take five seconds to give the author some credit. It’s the least you can do.

2. There’s Free Software to Make Your Blog Awesome

As you can probably guess,  one of my favorite things about the web is you don’t have to look far to find the free version of what others pay so much for.

Now, don’t get me wrong when I go into this because I firmly believe Adobe’s Creative Cloud is solidly amazing. Every part of it offers features to make your creative job easier.

Photoshop is here, it will be here tomorrow, and it’ll be here 100 years from now. It’s like A Christmas Story 24 hours a day on December 25. It will always be.

However, if you don’t have Photoshop, and tons of people probably don’t, here’s two options.

If You’re Confident in Your Internet Connection, Go With Pixlr

I was in a pretty tight spot for a few months. I was working on a big project but my Adobe license became an issue for me. And I needed to work on several different machines but always take my work with me. imgres

In other words, I needed to be awesome with a 16 gig USB and nothing else but my talent.  Enter Pixlr.

Pixlr is a browser-based image editor that just rocks.

From the layout to actual existence of layers, features and filters, color control and file formats, Pixlr is everything you’d need if you didn’t have the real thing, and you can access it anywhere without even signing up for an account.

A special bonus is you can save to the editor’s layed file format just like a PSD and return back to your work later.

Pixlr is your answer for free art creation if you have an internet connection that is steady. Plus it won’t cost you a dime.

If Your Internet Connection is a Question, Go with GIMP

Wait, hold on. Do this first: Download GIMP anyway, just to have it around.

Seriously, if you’re ever in a tight spot and say to yourself, “Wow, I have no Internet, it’s the Zombie Apocalypse, and I need to color correct this picture of a pancake on my cat’s head,” you’ll be glad you have

Here’s the deal. You can download GIMP for absolutely nothing and have a surprisingly powerful photo editing suite that rivals photoshop. (There, I said it.)

GIMP has been around since 1996 so it’s been through the motions. It’s baked out.

Aside from it’s long list of features, GIMP has an intuitive, easy to grasp interface, which helps if you need to hit the ground running. Plus it’s totally free.

And what are you going to use for a word processor? You could wait until the next day and pound out a couple hundred words on your company computer in Word but who wants to wait? I have two options, both of which I use often.

If You Can Jump Online, Use Google Docs

Everyone has a Google account these days but Google Docs is still somewhat unknown as far as the search engine behemoth’s other branded material goes.

In short, Google Docs takes everything useful about Microsoft Office and makes it free.

Google Docs has three features:

  • Slides: a fairly decent presentation editor for slide decks
  • Sheets: a spreadsheet tool
  • Docs: an online word processor

Docs is everything you are used to with Microsoft Word except it’s free and it’s online. Everything you need to fire up a blog posting and make sure it’s spelled correctly is in Docs.

It’s a beautiful thing.

If Your Internet Connection is Shaky, You Need OpenOffice orb

Again, I’m going to make a suggestion. Just download OpenOffice, even if just to have it around.

Every time I get a new machine, I download it as a safety net because it’s free and incredibly powerful.

OpenOffice has all the elements of Google Docs with the addition of a 3D Illustration editor, database administration tool, and mathematical equation editor. It really has that last part, I’m not kidding.

OpenOffice’s word processor, Writer, is a sleek, modern writing tool that — believe me when I say this — gets more powerful as you use it. It’s a smart tool that makes writing easier.

If you’re looking for a program to write without distraction you need to check out OpenOffice. It’s amazingly free.

3. There’s Plenty of Free Places to Host Your Blog

As far as actually getting your content out there, you have two pretty solid options — Blogger and WordPress.

The Google-owned Blogger has been around since 1999.

It’s quite simply the easiest site to use if you’re going to start up a blog and see if you can stick with it. It’s fairly customizable — you can change some HTML / CSS — and its easy to add video and images.

Given, there’s only so much you can do as far as customization goes but that’s the tradeoff for a free product.

WordPress is another big-name option that lets you blog for free. It’s great too and has just as many features as Blogger.  There’s some customization and features. Like Blogger, WordPress is super simple to use and pretty much gets out of your way.

To be clear, the only real reason I’ve heard anyone prefer the free versions of WordPress over Blogger is the former just looks cleaner.

Blogger’s user interface is in sore need of a overhaul. WordPress looks bright and simple. Both are, but WordPress just is.

And then there’s Medium.

I love this site because it’s not about flash or even features – it’s about writing.

Medium features both distraction-free writing and presentation.  It’s remarkably modern, clean, and above all – free.

If Medium was a design element, it would be the white space used to enhance art.

Mashable writer Grace Smith did an awesome job pulling together 16 Blogging Platforms for Distraction Free Writing. Read up on that for more.

But, if you have a few bucks, host your own.

Now, I admit it, I feel way more comfortable with a platform that I can manipulate, right down to the bits.

So, I pay for hosting. By the way, if you’re looks for hosting with awesome customer service, go check out InMotion Hosting  (

Anyway, I pay for hosting because I like to know that I can customize my site and when I’m done, good or bad, it’s my design. Plus its my content.

That’s the whole reason I use WordPress on a hosted site. It’s free to download and install and considerably easy to use and customize. Also I don’t have to pay to add certain themes, styles, and I don’t have copyright issues to deal with. It’s my content.


Get in touch with me.