Will Shaming Your Visitors for Closing a Lightbox Increase Opt-ins?

Hanne   227

"No thanks I'd rather pay full price", "No I don't like traffic" or my personal favorite: "No, I want to continue dwelling in my mom's basement". 

All of these are statements to click if you want to close a lightbox without opting in...

A while ago we started seeing those rude, passive aggressive and sometimes flat out cruel links everywhere. It got so common there's even a term for using these: Clickshaming.

By writing an undesirable result as the "No thanks" link, the goal is to shame visitors out of clicking (and into subscribing).

But do they work? Do they increase conversions? We decided to test it out and the results may surprise you....


Clickshaming is All Around

I didn't have to look very far to find interesting examples of clickshaming....

Some of them are simply making the "missing out" very obvious.

No thanks, I do not want higher rankings - Backlinko


Others take it one step further and make it something embarrassing to admit, like:

No, I don't want more revenue - RazorSocial

No I don't like change - I Will Teach You to be Rich

Or they are simply really insulting (and a bit funny). 

No, I want to continue dwelling in my mom's basement - Jacob King

While I suspect the last one to be a link bait stunt (to get people to talk about his website), the other forms are very common and have been around for a long time.

But the real question remains... Do these clickshame No thank you-links increase the opt-in rate on those forms?

The Test and the Hypothesis 

We decided to test it out on the Thrive Themes website. In Thrive Leads, we set up an A/B test on a screenfiller opt-in form.

The hypothesis is the following:

More people will sign-up for the opt-in form if we make them uncomfortable clicking the "no thanks" link.

In order to test this hypothesis, we decide to test 3 variations:

  • No link (our original form)
  • A simple "No, Thanks" link
  • A Clickshame link "No thanks. I'd rather waste my time sifting through outdated YouTube tutorials."

This will allow us to test if a normal link is clicked more often than a clickshame link and what happens if there is no link at all.

All other details stayed exactly the same (same type of opt-in form, text, images, button color, trigger time, animations, ...) so that they would not influence the results.

The First Result... No Thanks

No Thanks Variation

After letting the 3 variations run for 1 month (the minimum period to get significant results being 2 weeks) we could clearly see the normal No Thanks-link having a negative impact on conversion rates.

-27.38% compared to the original (no link)

The No Thanks variation was performing 27.38% worse than the original form (without a link to close the form) so we decided to pause this variation.

Pausing one of the three variations allows to keep the test running with only the 2 remaining variations. 

In our test case we continued with our original form (without a link) and with the variation with the clickshame link because after 1 month we did not have a statistically significant result to pick a clear winner.

In Thrive Leads, you can see this in the column "Chances to beat the original". If the chances to beat the original are between 95% and 5% after 2 weeks (and more than a 100 conversions), the result you're seeing is not statistically significant. 5% is the minimum threshold we suggest because this means that if you repeat the exact same test 95 out of a 100 you'll get the same result. 

Of course, the closer this number is to 100% or to 0% the better.

So What About Clickshaming?

No thanks, I'd rather waste my time sifting through outdated YouTube tutorials

We kept the other two variations running... But over 3000 signups later we still could not get any significant results.

2.02% increase - 71.42% chances to beat the original

As you can see, even after months of testing and over 3000 combined signups, the clickshame variation (the yellow one) only has a 71.42% chance of beating the original.

These statistics are not conclusive. And this is really not that rare when you conduct A/B tests. 

The Conclusion

The lower opt-in rate on the No thanks variation compared to the Clickshame variation suggests that people do hesitate to click on a link that clearly states something uncomfortable or undesirable.

But the non-conclusive test results between the original no link variation and the Clickshame variation tells us that simply removing the "No thank you" option might be enough to get the same results.

Now, we're not going to pretend that this is the absolute truth and that you'll see the same results on your site (we'll leave that to our competition). But I hope this shows that blindly following what everybody is doing might not be the smartest move for your conversions!

And then there is the question about your image... How do you want your visitors to FEEL when they arrive on your website an sign up to your email list? 

I don't need your attempts at shaming...

I know this is opening a whole other can of worms... But it's important to keep in mind that behind those sign-up rates there are actual humans having an (often first) impression of your site and your brand.

I would love to hear your thoughts! Are you using clickshame links? Did you test it? How do you feel when you see them? Let me know in the comments below!

by Hanne  October 6, 2017


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  • Very interesting test, Hanne! I am happy with the results – because I think its not a good idea to blame visitors. What we cannot measure is the impact a blaming link has on the brand itself – but as your example shows the negative impact might be huge …

    • I think many of the comments here show that clickshaming on the Thrive Themes audience would be a pretty bad idea 🙂

  • I like the article. Thanks for doing the test. You definitely have a great point at the end about how we want our website readers to feel when they visit our site.
    I think we’ll opt-out if click-shaming our readers. 😉

  • when a pop up ad distracts me from the work i’m trying to do, and when that ad includes a shaming opt-out, I mutter some admiring comment such as “go to hell” and click the opt-out. (especially if the pop up ad obscured something I was trying to work on)

    • Hi Ernie,
      I agree that pop-ups can be “annoying” or cover up the article you wanted to read etc. That’s why I believe having a great opt-in offer and precise targeting to actually offer something of value are the key to good opt-in rates (and happy visitors).

  • Even if a certain clickshaming statement yields a higher number of download opt-ins: Does the prospect quality remain the same?
    If you sell a product aimed at clever people, you might lose sales. Your ideal clients might leave as they feel manipulated. You might end up with people who can be clickshamed into freebie downloading but not into purchasing your great product.
    Split testing is a good thing. As long as it is not bs testing.

    • Yet another interesting question (but harder to measure) and lot will depend on the traffic, the offer, the follow-up emails but it is a real concern!

  • As an integrity expert, I thank you for doing this research and posting your results. Shaming people is fundamentally unethical. Shaming people into doing what WE want them to do is manipulative selling. “Clickshaming” is a perfect name for this unethical selling tactic that positions entrepreneurs as sleazy. This “fake news selling” is also silly to use because other tactics work as well or better. Here’s my bottom line for those who value having a reputation as an integrious entrepreneur, “Clickshaming is Brand Slaughter.”

      • Not sure how you’re defining marketing. Manipulation has more negative connotations (i.e. “Unscrupulous ways”). Marketing = getting product to customer. No shaming needs to be involved in that.

      • Stephen R, this article by Jonathan Fields is excellent with an exceptional thread. I believe, however, like some of the others in the thread, that your intention isn’t really the point. I believe that you need to present your position and positively as you can addressing what the prospect’s interests are, then allow the prospect the freedom to decide what is best for him or her. Michelle Barry Franco, on this article, gave a fabulous description of manipulation: “simple agreement, group-think strategy, amazing financial-success stories (and promises) and other known mind-numbing persuasive techniques can lead many into a sort of trance.” Trance means no freedom to choose.

      • No, it’s not. The way I see it,

        Marketing Means,
        “Selling an Exceptionally Excellent Product/Service by sending the Right Marketing Message to the Right People at the Right time”

        If the Product/Service is Really good, and it Truly Genuinely Helps people, it is worth telling people about it, Right?

        and when someone sells something less valuable, with an aggressive approach, then it becomes salesperson-type selling.

        We can see this in the Offline world as well as on the internet.

        Look at the Ramit Sethi Website (Thrive Themes Wrote a very In-Depth Article on him, which was really informative)

        He has a bit aggressive approach but its worth it, because, the value of the content is exceptionally good.

        On the other hand, Clickshaming is just, according to me, Insult to the Reader.

        By Reading this Article, I have decided to add “No Thanks, Maybe Later” to my Opt-out Link.

        lastly, Please don’t consider Marketing as a Manipulation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      • Hi Alfonso,
        I have to disagree… Marketing is about presenting your product to the right people. That doesn’t mean you have to manipulate them into doing something they actually don’t want… Unless you simply have a sell and run business…

  • I don’t like click shaming. It makes me mad seeing that.

    I totally agree that we should evaluate how it represents our brand!

    But I have signed up with forms that use it, but only because I wanted in.

    • Hi Kelly,
      I agree that if the offer is strong enough, I don’t close BECAUSE of the link… But they should test if another approach wouldn’t work as good 🙂

  • As a person and a brand, I despise these clickshaming approaches. The flat out piss me off and I take off running (ok, not clicking) as fast as possible. I spent years recovering from a shaming approach from well-meaning family and teachers. I’m not about to put all that work out to pasture and start doing it to myself or others.

    Besides, my goal is a loving, caring, hopefully funny brand with a focus on how to make things easier, more profitable, and get my clients focused on doing something they dearly love doing.

    Thanks, as always, for a great article.

  • Then there are people like me that never read beyond the word no. I never read those. I just look for the link that says no. In my opinion only people with low self esteem would bit on that lame trick.

    • Hi Greg,

      I think you guys here are definitely an educated audience. Many are marketers themselves and know what is going on with that kind of link…

  • I agree with Ernie T. I get a little kick out of clicking the ‘shame’ link. Mostly I was not going to opt in anyway which is why I looked at the ‘shame’ link in the first place. These links make me think that the website owner is demeaning the visitor and it is a bit like them saying nah nah nah nah ‘you’re too stupid to go on my list’

  • I agree with Ernie T. I get a little kick out of clicking the ‘shame’ link. Mostly I was not going to opt in anyway which is why I looked at the ‘shame’ link in the first place. These links make me think that the website owner is demeaning the visitor and it is a bit like them saying nah nah nah nah ‘you’re too stupid to go on my list’

  • I’m not a big fan of clickshaming for the very reason that’s stated in that screenshot at the end. It just makes the site owner seem a bit pretentious.

  • When I see them, I leave the page straight away. Manipulating people is not an option. I take it as a pure insult to visitors. What makes you (the site owner) superior? Unfortunately, some so-called SEO gurus use this as well.

    • A LOT of people use them… That’s why I was wondering if they worked (or if everybody just started using them because others did)

  • Never tried it, but can see how it annoys people. Like the constant notification optin on your browser. I switched that off too. I find them annoying so do most people I am guessing. But A/B testing is definitely a great way to find out what people really think :> good reminder

    • Thanks Ashley,
      Yeah while some things are annoying, they still work (so people say they find them annoying but many people opt-in) can be worth using. But A/B testing should always be a first reflex when testing some new approach 🙂

  • I see this far too much. While it may work better at getting a sign up compared to a simple “No thanks” it sends a message about who you are. I personally am more likely to click the shaming route just because I don’t want to be doing business with someone who would use such a technique.

    Of the 3 options you tested, the absence of a “No” option is less offensive, but still wrong. The whole idea of the opt in page is that “opt” implies that it is optional. Making someone hunt for the way to “opt out” is not as bad as shaming, but still wrong.

    • Hi Bill,

      Thank you for your comment. I just need to clarify something… while we did not put the link underneath the button we did leave the normal close button in the right upper corner of the form (for all variations) so it was very easy to close 🙂

  • I don’t like these clickshaming optin-in forms either. They often seem pushy to me and make me click away fast.

    Especially if they come in the form of an automatic pop-up after x seconds or an exit intent pop-up. Personally I find these automatic pop-ups pretty annoying in the first place, but if the pop-up also includes a clickshaming link, it really annoys me :).

    • Hi Michiel,

      I think the pop-ups are especially annoying when the offer is not relevant, when they are had to close or when they insult you 😉

  • I don’t want my subscribers being shamed or feeling a sense of shame so I don’t care how much of an improvement there is, I won’t do it.
    Can you run another test, I have a theory.
    All the negative responses are on the right, on a right handed person, that’s the option we gravitate towards. If you put the positive attribute on the right, and the negative on the left I think you’ll see up uptake in optins. Simply because there’s not a lot of mouse movement to say yes, whereas in the current position there is.

    • Interesting Sarah 🙂 In this case we had the one under the other but I can see how switching the yes and no could change results 😀

      • This is an interesting theory. I think I might try this on a couple of my webforms to see what happens. Also I suspect that using Green (for go) for the Yes option and Red (for Stop) for the No option is likely to make difference. This article has certainly made to start to think outside the box for opt in forms. Thanks for the stimulation. 🙂

  • Great test, thanks for sharing the results. I do wonder if the ‘no thanks’ version just made it easier for people to find the way to dismiss the dialog.

    But that aside the one thing it does prove is language matters. What you say and how you say it.

    This article on GDPR opt-in consent notes that Copy Hackers also tested having yes/no links -> https://www.zettasphere.com/gdpr-consent-opt-in-examples/ Spoiler… They found having yes/no was a big benefit.

    But also as pointed out by Copy Hackers, the no option doesn’t have to be shameful, as used by many brands. But rather can just bring home the consequences of the actions. So rather than “I’d prefer to waste time”, “I reject the offer”.

    • Hi Tim,

      My opinion about the No Thanks link immediately under the button is that it gave a too easy exit possibility.
      What is mean is that people maybe did not even read the value proposition and just dismissed it.
      Having to move the mouse to the upper right corner gave just that little extra attention to have to read the opt-in form and consider the offer.

      We’ve also seen great results with multiple choice opt-in forms and yes/no opt-ins. But like you said, it doesn’t have to shame the audience 🙂

      And again… It’s definitely something to test because every website is different!

    • Let me know how it goes if you decide to test this aspect Michel. I think I might try a variation with the colours as well.

  • This is a great, clear, useful post. Thank you.
    I wonder if something the OPPOSITE of ClickShaming would be a good option, i.e. for brand management. Something like:
    “Nah, this isn’t that interesting for me right now…”
    A phrase that let’s them know it’s OK to click on the no, that way it forms a little more of a connection than turns them off (because as we see they most likely will click on it anyway…)

  • Quite a timely article. I have recently been exposed to the principles and concepts of Simon Sinek, and his messages speak directly to this topic. Basically EVERYTHING a business puts out is telling their employees (and customers) what your principles and moral directions are, what you think of them and how much you value them as a person. You are telling them how much they can trust you (if at all). To make decisions “by the numbers alone” and not factor in TRUST, you are making a grave mistake. To use click-shaming screams to your prospect that you are self-centered and you want their money & if not, then “f you.” Not a very endearing sentiment for a new prospect. Hanne, thank you for risking your own business reputation to run this test, just to create value for your customers, whom are also, for the most part, raving fans. ThriveThemes does business “right.”

    • Thanks Keith,

      I have to say that I did rewrite the clickshame link about a 100 times to find something that I thought was Ok to put out on out site 🙂

  • Hanne, thank you for sharing the research results. It’s interesting to see what you did, but I don’t use clickshame links. I will probably not use them in the future. If I will, I will do it because of curiosity reasons and just on few opt-in offers for specific kind of people that read my content but usually don’t buy. People know me as an honest person who delivers a lot of value and helps them solve their problems. If someone is not ready to join my list, it’s fine to me. I just want the perfect visitors who are happy to opt-in, open my emails, read my posts, use the content for happier and more successful life and buy something when they feel OK with it. I believe I leave a lot of opt-ins and sales on the table, but when I sell something, it leaves a great feeling for my customer and me. This year I made a simple test. After low opt-in rates for one of my programs, I created a new freebie for a specific group of people. It was hot and created high opt-in rates, but unfortunately, this created high bounce rates and unopened future emails, too. After that, I had to delete more than half of them because I got a high spam score. I decided to go slowly and get more qualified people on the list.

  • Great Article! I was thinking on implementing it in some of my sites but now I see its not the best choice. Or maybe I should test it first 🙂
    thanks Hanne!

  • How about. “No thank: This is not exactly what I am looking for.”
    If the person clicks it. You send them to a quiz and redirect them to something they want…

  • It’s very funny. What kept my attention in your email was the clickshaming link.
    I didn’t expected something like this from ThriveThemes. So I went on reading your email and finally clicked the link to this article.

    I like this article especially because of the What-works-for-us-don’t-mean-that-it-works-for-you-as-well-conclusion.

    I think this is always the most important to have in mind.

    So thank you so much for this article and have a great day!

    • Hi Thomas,

      I think it’s important that you said “I didn’t expect that from Thrive Themes” which made this subject line stand out and because of the curiosity factor you clicked. If we wrote like that all the time it would not have worked.

      (btw that subject line won the A/B test ;-))

      And I think it’s VERY important to consider that what works for us will not necessarily work for you. Different brand, different audience,…

      I hate it when I see articles like “Do this to increase your opt-in rate by 2000%” and then the test went from 2 to 48 email opt-in in a month…

    • While I agree with that statement, I think you also have to consider your brand and the image you want your brand to convey 🙂

  • First time I saw this was with Neil Patel. It’d be interesting to interview him to see what results he’s seeing from the “clickshame” strategy.

    Thanks for the test and feedback.

    And p.s., my parent’s basement is a great place to work so back off 🙂 (jk)

    • I use the same words as Neil something like, “No , I don’t like traffic.” I don’t take them to another page if they click No ( I don’t have any traffic anyway) but if they say they don’t want traffic, I believe he takes them to another page about getting conversions, or something.

  • I’m actually surprised the clickshaming results were as high as they were. I am personally offended when I encounter one of these and actually find myself saying no just because they tried to shame me into saying yes!

    • Hi Ron,

      My guess about this is that the link we used ‘No, I prefer sifting through outdated YouTube tutorials” was a good reason to read the opt-in offer more carefully… But I’m just guessing of course 🙂

  • Thanks for the awesome article with your A/B test data. I think the result might vary a little with the types of audience we are dealing with. But personally I also feel irritating when I see clickshame links on any opt in form.

  • Thanks so much for running this test for us! I wouldn’t use clickshaming but it’s nice to know I’m not losing clients because of my choice not to.

  • Clickshaming has the OPPOSITE effect on me (than the site owner probably desires). When I see a yes and no (that is sarcastic), I’ll hit the NO as I find it annoying.

  • Appreciate the test Hanne and the results. Personally, I discredit any brand that tries to discredit my judgement and choices. Click shaming doesn’t feature in my comms strategy!

    • But sometimes annoying works… Ads in your Facebook stream might be annoying but they work. That’s why I think it’s important to test things rather than to base on opinions, George 🙂