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Note: This article is not about how to create popups on your own website, but rather about purchasing traffic in bulk from vendors that have relationships with media outlets that are willing to display a full page (or any other size) popup advertising your website.

The types of popups

There are two types of popups. On-site popups promote something to do with the site the visitor is on. For example if a website was promoting their free shipping offer via a popup, it would be an on-site popup. These can be a very effective tool for the internet marketer. For example, about six months ago I was getting about 100 subscribers daily to an email newsletter I sent out. As a test, I put a popup for the newsletter on the front page of the website and doubled the daily subscriptions to 200.

The origin of off-site popup advertisements

However, this article is about popups of a different breed, full screen popup advertisements (aka off-site popups that promote something unrelated to the site the popup is on), that either popup under or in front of the browser window you are viewing. These off-site popups have been used for many years on erotica and non-mainstream sites. However, since mid-2000 have they been in use on many mainstream high traffic sites such as search engines (, and news sites (,

As a consumer, these off-site popups can be very annoying. In fact, most visitors do their best to close popup windows before they fully load. However, just as on-site popups can be effective, off-site popup advertising can be beneficial to the bottom line under the right conditions.

Why it is difficult to make these profitable

If one has the right product, service, or offer, and is able to experiment, it is possible to receive your investment back and then some. These mass off-site popups are very inexpensive. I’ve seen prices as low as $40 to bring 10,000 visitors to a website. Prices will usually range from one cent ($10 CPM) to one tenth of one cent ($1 CPM) per visitor (popup displayed) depending on the service used and the amount of traffic purchased.

Generally, however, off-site popups are not going to give a good return on investment (ROI) for most customers. One must remember that the traffic provided is untargeted and that the viewer of the popup will most likely not think kindly of the intrusive ad that has just invaded their life. Due to this, it is difficult to make these campaigns cost effective and produce any kind of positive return.

So what can you do to increase your chances of having a positive ROI?

Well, off-site popups will be most likely to be cost effective if…

1. You are selling a mass-market product that has a wide-appeal and large base of potential customers.
2. Your website is professionally designed with the benefits stated immediately
3. A landing page is used with a strong and simple call to action emphasized

Landing Pages, Benefits, and a Call to Action

I believe the first two points explain themselves. However, point number 3 deserves some additional explanation.

Simply put, don’t make your popup ad your home page or a page with dozens of options. Rather, send the visitor to a page specifically developed for the campaign that emphasizes two or three strong benefits and has a strong call to action. These are called landing pages and can dramatically increase the likelihood of having a successful campaign.

In my experience, campaigns that have succeeded have used a landing page to prompt the visitor to subscribe to a newsletter, or request a report/document/more info via an autoresponder. This way, the visitors email address is captured and the marketer will have many more opportunities to present your marketing message, develop rapport, and close the sale.

Two examples of successful mass-interstitial campaigns include the X10 cameras and They have bought hundreds of millions of popups to be displayed on other sites. Why? Because it is profitable for them. It is important to mention that they both have mass-market products as almost everyone went to high school and security cameras appeal to all audiences.

How to know if your campaign is working: Determining the ROI

This is perhaps the most important part of all. In order to make sure you are having a successful campaign you MUST track your results. Stated differently, unless you know exactly how many sales (first time and follow-up sales) come from your popup campaign (knowing the lifetime value of an average customer would be good as well), you will not know if you are spending wisely or wasting your money.

So how do you know which sales are coming from which campaign? Well, you will need your own affiliate program. Affiliate programs can cost quite a few hundred dollars, but they do much more than simply track advertisements. This is only one of their value-added features.

If you are marketing a product online and you want to succeed, you MUST have an affiliate program. The great thing about affiliate programs is that (in a Cost Per Acquisition -CPA- model at least) you do not pay a thing until after you’ve made a sale. So as long as your customers pre-pay and are not on credit, you already receive the revenue to pay the affiliate in your bank account before their commission is due. In other words, as long as your supply chain can handle it, you will be able to afford an unlimited amount of advertising and can potentially have a sales team of thousands marketing and selling your product.

Through your affiliate software, you will be able to track both the sales that come from these affiliates, but also track sales that come from all your other advertising ventures such as cost per click advertising, autoresponders, and popups. Personally, I have experience using AssocTrac. More information on AssocTrac can be found here. However, there are many options out there. Read my article on affiliate programs to fully examine your options.

Note: You can also track sales without having a full fledged affiliate program. Three options are AdMinder ROIbot, and Hypertracker. These often do not work with many shopping carts, however.

In review, the keys to having a successful popup campaign are

1. Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. Buy traffic in blocks of 10,000 until you have figured out something that works.
2. Make sure you assign unique URLs for each campaign and track both delivered visitors and sales though your affiliate program.
3. To increase the likelihood of success with off site popups, sell a mass-market product, have a professionally designed website (or landing page), use landing pages, emphasize benefits immediately, and have a strong call to action (don’t ask the visitor to buy now, rather, ask them for their email so you can send more info).
4. Once you’ve found a technique that is cost-effective, buy larger blocks of traffic. If the technique continues to be profitable, you have found a very easy way to make money limited only by your supply-chain and fulfillment department.

Where to purchase blocks of traffic (off-site popups or popunders)

Here is a list of companies that have relationships with mass-media vendors and and resell the vendors unused popup inventory.

Note: I have not used any of the above (except the adminder one with mixed results) and cannot attest for their reliability, integrity, or efficacy. Be careful not to get caught up in the sales promotions (read: hype) on these sites. Start out with the minimum order until you have a proven ROI. Don’t start doing this until you have a system in place that will track your sales.

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This Web Marketing article was written by Ryan P Allis on 2/9/2005

Ryan P. Allis, 20, is the author of Zero to One Million, a guide to building a company to $1 million in sales, and the founder of Ryan is also the CEO of Broadwick Corp., a provider of the permission-based email marketing software and CEO of Virante, Inc., a web marketing and search engine optimization firm. Ryan is an economics major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is a Blanchard Scholar. [learn more.