Increasing Newsletter Subscribers – PopUp Domination Review

UPDATE: Please see the added “note” below before deciding to purchase.

Several years ago I started a newsletter and collected several thousand sign ups. But I never sent a single email. I hadn’t yet learned the power of email marketing. After deciding it was pointless to pay for a list service I never used, I let the list drop.

popup domination logoIn December 2010, after having put a bit more faith in email as a marketing channel, I decided to give it another go and once again signed up for an Aweber account and began rebuilding my list – from scratch. I added the sign up form to my sidebar and tweeted I’d started the list.

And that was pretty much the extent of my promotional efforts. After the initial flood of subscribers from my tweets announcing the list, I got a new subscriber every day on average.

A few months went by and I decided to add the Feature Box that is available in the Thesis theme (which I use here on Sugarrae) to my homepage. I included the newsletter sign up form in the feature box area as well. Subscribers increased to about two a day.

But I wanted to start putting significant effort into building my list. So I did some research on increasing newsletter sign ups and it seemed that most experienced list builders agreed on one thing… pop ups advertising your newsletter were perceived by some to be annoying, but they worked.

But even though people claimed they significantly increased subscriber numbers, I wasn’t 100% sold on adding one – even to test it out. I didn’t want a pop up coming up every time someone hit another page on my site or every time my regular readers came to visit the site. I also didn’t want a pop up coming up at *all* on the service pages in my SEO consulting section of the site.

So I did some research on pop up plugins for WordPress to see what was available (and if I could find a plugin that had the options I was looking for) and came across a few plugins – one of which was PopUp Domination.

UPDATED: PLEASE NOTE

When I originally bought PopUp Domination it was owned by Deer Digital. I guess they have since sold it and I am none too pleased with the customer service provided by the new owners. For whatever reason, the plugin stopped updating once the new owners bought it. When the latest version of WordPress came out, the version I was using (2.5) was no longer compatible with WordPress and caused the backend to give the white screen of death.

After several hours, I found that PopUp Domination was the culprit. I also saw on the plugin screen that the plugin was now blank in regards to description and wouldn’t auto-update. So I contacted Deer Digital and they informed me it had been sold (I guess that explains why the price was jacked from $47 when I purchased it to $77 now). So I contacted the new company. They explained I needed the updated version (3.0) in order for it to properly work. I was beyond annoyed they didn’t take the steps to not create this aggravation for current subscribers, but I downloaded the new version because I really like the plugin.

Then I get taken to a screen that wants my order number. I bought PopUp Domination in August 2011. I have ZERO idea where the hell the receipt is and contacted them to ask them to resend the number I needed (I wouldn’t have even needed it had they properly migrated the plugin via WordPress). They tell me they don’t have that information and to paraphrase, I’ll simply need to buy it again. Each and every email “back and forth” takes almost 24 hours to complete.

Needless to say, I’M NOT RE-PURCHASING SOMETHING I’VE ALREADY PAID FOR.

I’ve always told you that I won’t recommend something I myself wouldn’t use – so I am no longer recommending PopUp Domination regardless of the fact that I was selling a nice amount of them. But if this is their (lack of) customer service, while it is a good product, I cannot in good faith recommend it.

I will find a replacement and post on it soon, because everything ELSE about my review and how effective the popup forms were is still accurate.

I’m leaving the rest of the post because I think it contained good statistics and because if customer service doesn’t really concern you like it does me, then by all means… the plugin itself is still what it was when I originally recommended it (I originally rated it 4 stars, but due to the above, I have dropped them to a 2 star rating).

My PopUp Domination Review

I installed the plugin and quickly found the control panel under Settings. From there, I saw several tabs and after insuring that the plugin was INACTIVE while I worked on it, I went through each options tab one by one.

Look and feel

The look and feel tab is exactly what you’d expect it to be. From here, I was able to choose from seven pop up layouts and eight colors that I could assign to my submit button. There were also 14 color schemes (their site says 15, but if you look at my screenshot below, you’ll see I for whatever reason only have 14) to choose from. I chose bright orange because it most closely resembled one of the colors on my own site.

look and feel panel

However, that was it for look and feel options. If I wanted to change the font, I needed to do so by editing the core CSS file found under the “Advanced” tab. I use Calibri here on Sugarrae and I’m a bit anal retentive when it comes to matching things as much as possible. Editing the CSS file to change the font type and sizes wasn’t hard, but I’d have preferred to see it built into the look and feel options. Additionally, I wish there had been a way to easily assign a custom background image to the submit button via the control panel.

Mailing List HTML

PopUp Domination claims to work with all mailing list providers. However, I use Aweber, so that is all I tried it with (it worked perfectly.) I was a little bit confused when I hit this section. I obviously “got” that this was where you were supposed to enter your mailing list code. At the top of the page, a message appeared saying “Enter your html opt-in code below and we’ll hook up your form to the template.” But the Aweber forms include a ton of styling. Did I need to strip anything?

mailing list settings

The answer, I found out, was no. You copy and paste the opt in code exactly as it is given to you and the plugin strips out what it doesn’t need and only uses the fields that it does. If the creators ever read this post, I hope they consider changing that line to read “Enter your html opt-in code below exactly as your mailing list provider gives it to you and we’ll hook up your form to the template automatically and strip out whatever we don’t need.”

Template Fields

This is where you start writing the content that will appear on your pop up. The title, a short paragraph (if applicable), the footer note about privacy, the image shown on your pop up and the submit button text can all be customized.

template fields

However, take note that the fields listed here change based on the pop up layout you’ve chosen to use. I quickly had someone ask me how I got the Sugarrae logo to appear on mine. When I told them I uploaded it via the Template Fields panel, they told me there was no option to upload an image there on theirs. But the actuality was that they were using a pop up layout that didn’t include an image, so the option wasn’t there until they switched to a template that DID use one.

List Points

Each template has a list of bullet points you can use to entice people to take whatever action you want them to take (in my case, I want them to subscribe.) The List Points screen is where you add them. There is a limit of four list points.

list points

The PopUp Domination control panels explains to you that they limit the list points to four in order to ensure “that the design will remain beautiful and result in high conversions.” I’m not exactly sure why this isn’t simply included in the template fields tab, but for whatever reason, the creators seem to feel it deserved its own.

Schedule

The scheduling tab is the most important to me. From here you can determine when, to whom and where the pop up (or lightbox as it’s referred to in the control panel) gets shown. For instance, my pop up is only shown to the same person every seven days. I also have it set to show immediately (a 1 second delay) because I *hate* when I’m 30 seconds into reading an article and am interrupted by one. My pop up is also set to only show on my homepage and my category pages.

scheduling

The reason I show it on my homepage and category pages results from a conversation I had with conversion master Derek Halpern.

He’d mentioned that your homepage, category and about pages are your “warm” pages. What does this mean? Well, most of your traffic may likely come in from individual search phrases. I don’t want to bombard someone with a pop up who hasn’t even had a chance to read my content yet. But, if they like what they read, they’re likely to click on the homepage, a category page or my about page to learn more about me or read more of my content. At that point, they’re interested in me (or my information) and would likely be more receptive to receiving my newsletter.

That said, the Scheduling tab gives you a ton of control to ensure you find a level of “promotion” with your pop up that you’re comfortable with and doesn’t scream tacky… in your opinion. ;-) You can choose to show it on exit, on specific pages, solely on category pages or also on posts within those categories… or you can choose to simply show it everywhere.

Preview

The preview tab is exactly that… a preview of your pop up once you’ve customized it through all of the tabs in the Popup Domination control panel. For instance, my pop up looks like this…

sugarrae preview

Advanced

The Advanced tab offers you access to the theme.txt file, template.php file and the lightbox.css file. I’d definitely recommend staying out the theme.txt file and the template.php file unless you seriously know what you’re doing. The CSS file? Well that you can play with. ;-) Thankfully, the creators were nice enough to include a “restore to original” option under the CSS style sheet. This way, wanna be CSS people like myself can hack away and have the option to restore the original file if we mess it up if we don’t like what we’ve implemented.

My overall opinion

My overall opinion of PopUp Domination is a positive one. I didn’t need to be a design expert to get it functioning (not even mildly) but they’ve left room for me to be able to implement a little more if I have the CSS or PHP ability through the “Advanced” tab. The scheduling options mean that I only have the pop up showing where (and when) I want it to.

Pricing starts at $47 for a personal license. Based on my results? (see below) It was *more* than worth the cost for me.

Pop ups work

I know, I know. I view them as annoying as well, but the proof is in the numbers. And in my experience there was absolutely no denying that the pop up advertisement worked – ridiculously well.

My traditional sign up forms have been in place since December 2010 – so they’ve been up in almost nine months. I installed PopUp Domination and set it live late in the evening on August 1, 2011. That means as of the time that this post was written, PopUp Domination has been running for fifteen days. When I added the newsletter code to the plugin, I assigned it a special tracking code in Aweber named “popup”. The results? Even I was surprised.

Subscription Tracking

(Exact numbers removed for privacy.)

I couldn’t believe it. In only 15 days, my pop up now accounts for over 21% of ALL subscriptions to my list. You (and I for the matter) can cite their annoyance all we want, but the numbers don’t lie. People evidently pay attention to it. They not only see it, but they act on it.

daily subscribers

(The big leap on the second was due to guest blogging on a high traffic blog… guest posting – it works.)

If it turns out y’all have more of an interest in email marketing, I’d be glad to share more of what I’m doing with the Sugarrae newsletter as I go along. ;-)

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Sugarrae runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

If you’re someone who doesn’t understand a lot of PHP, Genesis will give a ton of functionality that you wouldn’t be able to obtain otherwise with a simple control panel instead of having to alter code. For the advanced, Genesis has incredible customization possibilities via Genesis hooks.

The theme is not only highly customizable, but it has allowed me to run Sugarrae more professionally, with a much more targeted focus on monetization than it ever has been able to achieve before.

You can find out more about Genesis below:

Comments

  1. Thanks for this, Rae. Christopher Penn wrote a similar blog article about a month ago and he saw similar results. I **hate** popups but you cannot argue with the results. I’m going to make them part of my website redesign.

  2. Good to know. I’ve been resisting, but maybe it’s time to jump in.

    You can’t always go by your own preferences; I’m the same way about Facebook Page fan boxes that show fan’s faces – really hate ‘em, but can’t argue with the way they work. New fans went WAY up as soon as I added the boxes.

  3. Dan Thies says:

    Can’t argue with the results? I’ll argue with the results. Or at least ask a few questions… like whether the opt-in rate is the most important metric in your business. Pop-ups optimize opt-ins at the expense of readership.

    I’ve tested pop-ups over the long term, with separate segments in Analytics. It was *only* a win on the opt-in rate – all other metrics were worse. The opt-in rate isn’t as high as it looks from tracking form submissions because the # of unverified “subscribers” (you can’t mail them…) go up too. I’m not using them on any blogs right now.

    That doesn’t mean they’re bad for every site, but they’re not universally good, and what you’re trying to optimize in the long run is “total amount of money in Rae’s pocket.” Depending on what you do with your list, you might be getting a larger list, but also a “less responsive list with more whiners.”

    You might want to test a slider – less obtrusive without being hidden, and you can put it on more pages. You might also want to test an offer on your “on page” form that’s a little stronger than “get email updates ( free).” Your pop-up isn’t just in their face, it also gives ‘em a reason to subscribe. It’s designed to “pop.” Even the submit button got a little effort.

  4. Been waffling back and forth about the use of pop-ups. Your article makes me think a little bit harder about the issue.

    Quick editorial note, you said: “My traditional sign up forms have been in place since December 2011″…I think you meant 2010 :-)

  5. Interesting points Dan. I can definitely see that pop ups would turn some readers off – absolutely. But I think saying using them is at the “expense of your readership” might be a bit dramatic. There are lots of people that complain about ads as well. If you’re trying to monetize at all in my experience, there is always a counter argument for the negative perception some readers will have of it.

    I was pretty intrigued by your comment re unverified subscribers. So I checked out those stats in my Aweber panel. The popup accounts for about 75% of my unverified sign ups, so you’re definitely correct in that people subscribing via the popup confirm less. But at the same time, getting those sign ups was much easier and came much faster than getting the 25% of sign ups who also didn’t confirm after signing up via the traditional channels on the site. So I think volume comes into play here.

    If 21% (actual number) of popup subscribers never confirm (vs 2% [actual number] of traditional method subscribers) but I can get a ton more sign ups that wouldn’t have signed up via the traditional methods, at the end of the day, readership is increasing by the 79% that *are* confirming. As for whiners – that will happen no matter what as your exposure increases and your following (newsletter or non) gets wider. ;-)

    I definitely don’t think I’m optimizing for “total amount of money in Rae’s pocket.” I’ve never sold out my readership and never would. I like the newsletter because it allows me to have a bit more interaction with folks that I couldn’t afford to have otherwise when it comes to available time. More money is the object of any business, but there’s lines some are willing to cross to simply make a buck and some they’re not. I’ve never even thought about crossing that line.

    I agree on the reasoning – unfortunately though, I don’t have that amount of space in my sidebar or header ;-) though I agree that both areas still could see big improvement. Newsletters are a newer beast for me… I’m just taking everyone along for the experience ride. :D

    Either way – IF you’re down for using pop ups, this plugin would definitely be my choice for doing so.

    Paul – thanks – edited :)

  6. Dan Thies says:

    Main point is – you can test, , you can choose what you’re optimizing, and you can know your numbers. I know you wouldn’t sell out your readers, but there’s still an optimal profit to be made within the parameters of what you want to do. Starting up your list again is a really cool thing – and your “high value add” approach is going to go a long way to optimizing the value of a newsletter. Who *wouldn’t* want to subscribe?

  7. Thanks for the post, Rae. I do believe that as more sites are trying to squeeze out revenue people will be more acceptive to these types of popups because it will become the norm, with the downside that they might become more ad blind to them.

    Does the plugin support GA event tracking? If so, you could setup a bunch of advanced segment awesomeness to reveal how new visitors are responding to the popup. You might find that a lot of your signups are frequent visitors, but your bounce rate for new visitors might go up substantially.

  8. LOL, thanks Dan.

    Jon – no on the GA tracking (you may be able to edit it in on the advanced screen, but I don’t know, I’m not advanced with programming stuff. I only know enough to be dangerous LOL.) But that is a really cool feature suggestion – here’s hoping the pop up creator reads this review.

    Re the bounce rate for new visitors… that’s why I tried to only show it on the homepage and category pages… so that it, in theory, is only hitting visitors that have read an individual post and decided to go deeper into my site.

    I took a look at my affiliate marketing category page, which gets a lot of search engine traffic and shows the popup as soon as you hit the page. My bounce rate from August 1st to August 15th (the amount of time the popup has been running) was 51.23% compared to 58.27% from July 17th to July 31st. So it doesn’t appear, on that page anyway, to be offending folks too much.

  9. Hey guys,

    I’m the co-founder of PD.

    Thanks for the comments and feedback.

    To give you a bit of insider information, we’re working on a bunch of advanced analytics and a/b testing features which will enable you to get a boat load of *actionable* data around the PopUps you are running on your site.

    Keep up the insightful comments!

    J

  10. Thanks for sharing this info. Very useful for IM’s involved with email marketing.

  11. Honestly, I hate pop-ups and people tell me they hate pop-ups…but they work. And pop-up domination is incredibly easy to customize/use!

    I’ve been using it on and off on my primary site. Really, I’ve been playing more with custom landing pages to drive subscribers. And so far, that’s been working fairly well. It took some time to write up a 7-part drip campaign. But once it’s all set up, it’s really kind of nice to see things function on auto-pilot.

  12. This is interesting. I can see, though, what Dan is saying. You may have seen subscriber rates go up just by optimizing your current ‘Get Updates’ form.

  13. Thank you so much for this recommendation/review. I read it when you first posted it and have been considering it for the last month, and today I just bought it (using your affiliate link, natch) and installed it. I’m excited to see my conversion rates jump up!

  14. Great post Rae! Last week i migrated one of my websites from a custom cms to wordpress. The old site had a newsletter subscribe lightbox that was generating 20-25 confirmed signups per day. Since I moved to WordPress I tried using mail chimps plugin for newsletter sign ups but it is super buggy, doesnt work in IE and crashes on Iphone. I am hoping that pop-up dominator solves my problem since I now average 1-2 subscribes per day. Any idea if pop-up dominator is mobile friendly?

  15. Do you not use it anymore? As I haven’t seen any pop ups asking me to subscribe?

    Cheers

    Adam

    • Hey Adam – I actually just switched designs and the plugin was causing me some issues once I upgraded WordPress so I had to shut it off temporarily. Hope to deal with it this week.

  16. I am thinking of using popup domination on my site so this was a great review. I see the price must have gone up since you wrote this. The plugin is now $77.

  17. We wrote a popup plugin “Displet Pop” that integrates well with GravityForms (which then allows you to integrate with Aweber, Mailchimp, or whatever.) We’ve received a ton of great feedback on it, and it’s free. You can find it in the WordPress Repo http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/displet-pop/

  18. I feel like I am the only person reporting this- since I’ve installed pop up domination, my conversion rate … stays unchanged!!!!
    I must be doing something wrong- why does my audience ignore that pop up??? May be I have got to wait a bit longer though- it has been only a few days, and the pop up has appeared about 400 times only

  19. I was wondering if you found a replacement for popup domination? Have you decided on an alternative?

  20. Same here, wondering if you found a replacement?

  21. Trying to figure out if Popup Domination is mobile friendly. Does it create mobile landing pages as well?

  22. Do not buy this plugin.

    I bought tho plugin some time back and when I tried to download it few weeks back, it said account could not be found.

    I have sent several emails to their support and it been 15 days and I still haven’t heard from.

    It’s so frustrating when you pay and don’t get a proper service and it’s a shame to see reputable blog like this promoting it.

    • “and it’s a shame to see reputable blog like this promoting it”

      Satish – I’m not promoting it. The first line of this post instructs you to see a “note” I’ve added since publication (I added the note almost two years ago – in September 2012) with a link to a section where I clearly say I no longer support or promote this plugin (since it was sold to the new owners). I figured it being the first line of the post would make it noticeable – I’ve now added a blue box around it to make it impossible to miss.

  23. I have been using pop up domination for 10 months. Several months ago the analytics on it stopped working, then I stopped getting emails of new subscribers, then today I am getting this message: Fatal error: Call to undefined method stdClass::toWpFormat() in /home/ryyork/agedefyinggolf.keydesigndevelopment.com/wp-content/plugins/popup-domination/plugin-update-checker.php on line 270

    I have submitted numerous support tickets through the plugin and on pop ups site…I have never heard a response. Now the back office of my website is unusable and I need to hire and pay for a contractor.

    Very unhappy with this product

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