I, like many of you, fell into the trap of believing that getting new emails from visitors was my most important path to success. And that I had to get it done no matter what. In fact, this is what any marketing guru will tell you. So I follow suit and added an email opt-in plugin (this one) in my modeling site that was able to detect when the user was about to leave (typically referred to as “exit intent”) and then pop-up a subscription form forcing you to either provide your email or close the pop-up before quitting.
And now I see that this was a mistake. Let’s be clear. It’s true that emails are one of your most important assets. And it’s also true that you should start building your mailing list from day one. But not at all costs. I realized (with the help of some complaints I got) that I was annoying thousands of visitors for a small bunch of emails. Yes, in theory, the pop-up should only appear once per visitor but this only works depending on your browser configuration so some people were seeing the plugin again and again. And for first-time visitors, it was also annoying that your first experience with the site ended with such an intrusive exit.
If you annoy your visitors make sure it’s worth!
Maybe if you’re selling an actual product or you have a high conversion rate (mine is a ludicrous 0.49%), this behavior may still be worthwhile but since this is not my case, I’m replacing the pop-up subscription form with a much more user-friendly bottom form version (it shows up at the bottom of the page and it does not block the navigation of the site).
Think through the kind of relationship you want to have with your visitors. My opinion is that if your content is good they will follow you and come back one way or the other. If it’s not, they will ignore you despite giving you their email. So unless your only goal is to brag about the number of subscribers, be nice and focus on creating great content. And if you don’t trust my opinion, remember that Google is punishing sites that use annoying pop-ups.