Popups are wonderful tools. Yes, I am serious. Sure most articles about popups focus on how users hate them, how they're annoying, or things of that nature. This article is going to be different, it will explain how you can use popups to your advantage to draw attention to a part or parts of your site. The kicker is, these popups shouldn't end up being annoying.
Popups might be annoying, they might be hated, but they draw eyeballs better than just about anything else. You can use their abilities to great success by advertising parts of your site using popups. Now I'm not talking about signing up with an ad network and paying for popups at $X CPM. I'm talking about running your own popups, on your own site, to advertise your own site. One might wonder, if someone is already on your site why do you need to advertise your site to them? The answer to that question is that you are not going to advertise your whole site, you're going to advertise a specific portion of your site. To illustrate this effect I am going to run through a few examples.
Suppose you run an informative website that has an accompanying newsletter. You put the newsletter subscription box on every page of your site, but even if it is up at the top not every person is going to focus their attention on it. In contrast if you promote your newsletter through a popup your site visitors will be forced to focus attention on it and your subscription rates will greatly increase. If you do run a newsletter I suggest trying this for a week or a month and seeing the results for yourself.
Another application would be to promote a survey. Many websites run demographic surveys as a way to obtain data about their audience, as well as to gauge on their audience feels about their website. This data is useful when planning site expansions and when selling advertising to companies wanting to target a specific demographic. The problem is drawing attention to your survey can be a hard. Anything more than a text link takes up valuable real estate and a text link by itself is not going to get a large response. The solution again is to use popups.
Yet another application of popups is to promote products or services. This is especially true if you only have a few products you sell. Ecommerce, even on a small scale, can greatly increase the profitability of a content site. The problem is letting your visitors know that you have goods for sale. If you're just doing small scale ecommerce then the bulk of your website will still be your content and so putting links on menus or elsewhere will not be that effective since the links will be outnumbers by links pointing to your content. The solution again is to use popups. If you're only selling one or two products anyways you can in effect promote every product you sell through a single popup window.
The above applications are all good, but just doing them isn't enough. You need to be able to control your popups in order for them to be effective, and you also need to limit their annoyance or you may alienate your visitors.