{{ searchResult.published_at | date:'d MMMM yyyy' }}

Loading ...
Loading ...

Enter a search term such as “mobile analytics” or browse our content using the filters above.

No_results

That’s not only a poor Scrabble score but we also couldn’t find any results matching “”.
Check your spelling or try broadening your search.

Logo_distressed

Sorry about this, there is a problem with our search at the moment.
Please try again later.

Overlays, screens that appear on top of a web page a visitor is browsing, are taking over as the most powerful way to gather email opt-ins from new visitors.

Thousands of sites use them, ranging from publishers such as The Motley Fool, to ecommerce sites like Joss & Main, and even Hilary Clinton’s last presidential campaign site. 

Generally, a site with an overlay garners up to 400% more email opt-ins than a site that relies on an in-line form will

To put that another way, if your site’s opt-in form gets a .5% opt-in rate now, adding an overlay could bring you a 4% opt-in rate or higher.

How can you make your overlays get an even better response rate? Happily, overlays are fairly easy to run A/B tests on. 

Here are three examples to inspire you...

Case study #1. Classic headline copy test

Headline copy tests are just as powerful for overlay A/B tests as they are for landing page tests. Plus, they are the easiest tests to run because you often don’t need to get your tech or design team’s help. 

Here’s one Reebok ran for its email opt-in overlay:

Version A                                              Version B

Reebok Version A Reebok Version B
Images from WhichTestWon, copyright protected.

Version B, with the benefit oriented JOIN AND SAVE! headline garnered 40% more email opt-ins than Version A.  Remember, this is a 40% lift in opt-ins from the exact same amount and type of traffic. 

If your email opt-in list could increase by 40% with a simple headline change, wouldn’t you test it now?    

Case study #2. Is bigger better for conversions?

An overlay greys-out (or whites-out) the page of the site it’s appearing on top of, so you can see a smidgen of the page below it, around the edges of the offer.  

The question for this test was, how big should your offer be? Generally online bigger is better after all….

Here’s the control overlay from hobby site FaveCrafts:

Favecraft Small
Image from WhichTestWon, copyright protected.

And here’s FaveCrafts’ test version where the offer box is even wider:

FavCraft Large
Image from WhichTestWon, copyright protected.

You’ll notice that both versions had the exact same copy and graphics… even the button size remained the same. The only change was the width of the offer box.  

So which one won?

The thinner one! Beating expectations, the thinner box pulled in 8.8% more email opt-ins than the wider one. 

Case study #3. How quickly should your overlay appear?

Many marketers personally find overlays annoying, so they want to delay them as long as possible into an average visitors’ arrival. 

The theory being that if you give visitors enough time to look around and fall in love with your site, they won’t mind the overlay as much.

Does it work? We ran this timing test on our own site.To put it in perspective, you should know our average new visit stays for 2.27 minutes. We split our new traffic into thirds and ran the exact same overlay to everyone…just at different times after arrival: 15-seconds, 30-seconds and 45 seconds.

Here’s what the overlay looked like (fairly bog standard): 

WTW Overlay Creative
Image from WhichTestWon, copyright protected.

And the winner was… 15 seconds!  Yes, we were surprised. 15 seconds doesn’t seem like a very long time for a visitor to decide if they like your site enough to sign up for your email newsletter.  Obviously our ‘marketers intuition’ was wrong so we’re glad we tested it.

The data: the 15-second timing beat 30-seconds by 11% and it beat 45-second timing by 50%.

So, if we’d gone with 45-second timing, we’d have 50% fewer newsletter readers.

Is faster overlay timing a best practice that will work for your site as well? Only testing can tell.

As the data shows, it’s well worth the test. And, luckily many email service providers (ESPs) make testing overlay timing fairly easy – it’s often functionality that’s included free with the service. But you have to use it.

Justin Rondeau is the producer of WhichTestWon’s The Live Event, an intensive two-day conference held each May featuring Case Studies and Workshops on how to optimize for better conversions.  Econsultancy readers can get $50 off their tickets by using the coupon code Econsultancy at http://whichtestwon.com/TLE.

Justin Rondeau

Published 25 March, 2013 by Justin Rondeau

Justin Rondeau is Producer at WhichTestWon's The Live Event and a contributor to Econsultancy.

3 more posts from this author

Comments (11)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Justin Rondeau

Justin Rondeau, Producer at WhichTestWon's The Live Event

For anyone curious about the 400% figure, this is data that we have seen from submitted tests on WhichTestWon over the last few years.

The addition of an overlay has time and time again shown to be effective, however there is still a lot of friction over adoption rate.

over 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

SEO Forums

Nice post, but what is the best e-mail marketing software you recommend?

over 3 years ago

Gemma Holloway

Gemma Holloway, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

It's quite interesting that such small changes can make such large impacts in conversion rate. Just goes to show the importance of checking.

It would be quite interesting to know if these rules are transferable across the majority of industries. For example, my guesses are conversion rate would be much less if your target audience was digital marketers.

Excellent Post Justin!

over 3 years ago

Justin Rondeau

Justin Rondeau, Producer at WhichTestWon's The Live Event

@Gemma

We have seen these games across different industries, both B2C & B2B. The real trick is to make sure that you aren't offending your audience with an overlay that loads too fast or becomes a distraction, e.g., not segmenting out returning visitors.

If you are marketing to digital marketers, they may have their 'marketing hat' on and it might not transfer as well. However, I have seen the use of overlays on sites that market to marketers, and they do work. A perfect example is the overlay test we have run on WhichTestWon, our target audience is digital marketers and our overlay works VERY well.

Hope that clears things up!

over 3 years ago

Gemma Holloway

Gemma Holloway, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

I guess it is just a case of being slightly more wary when marketing to digital marketers but as usual the key is to test, test, test.

Thanks for replying Justin - Certainly clears things up.

over 3 years ago

Peter Meinertzhagen

Peter Meinertzhagen, Digital Marketing Manager at Zest Digital

Some interesting results. While the tests here focus on increasing email opt ins using overlays, which unsurprisingly do work for this aim, have you done any studies which show how overlays affect site engagement metrics such as bounce rate and time on site? I know that on a personal level, overlays won't cause me to immediately leave a site, but they strongly put me off.

over 3 years ago

Justin Rondeau

Justin Rondeau, Producer at WhichTestWon's The Live Event

@Peter

I haven't seen any tests that evaluated the engagement metrics you brought up. However, I have seen some tests where overlays were used on ecommerce sites, there were mixed results between the tests I've seen.

One example is an overlay that loaded for all returning customers who had abandoned their cart...this was a good reminder and helped increase sales.

Another ecommerce one was an overlay solely dedicated to the benefits of the product that was being evaluated. Again, this helped increase sales.

However, overlays don't always work out. An example was a cart widget that would pop-up. Originally the team was working around when it should pop-up, but didn't realize that removing it all together would help sales.

Overlays have shown to be effective when used properly. If you are running a media site that is focused on engagement metrics, it is even more important to understand how your visitors react.

over 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

emlak

The best in digital marketing in the e-mail, e-mail companies, speed is very important to give attention to

over 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Deborah Anderson

Thank you for sharing the results of these case studies. This is so helpful to have the advice AND the data that supports the conclusion.

over 3 years ago

Justin Rondeau

Justin Rondeau, Producer at WhichTestWon's The Live Event

@Deborah

Glad you found the case studies helpful!

over 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Alex

Wow, this 15 sec thing supprised me!

over 3 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Daily Pulse newsletter. Each weekday, you ll receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.