Does Your Site Need a Welcome Mat? (And How to Install One)
When you think of the term “welcome mat” what comes to mind? That rectangular bit of carpet outside your front door, most likely. It might bear a colorful design or the simple word “welcome” but it serves a clear purpose – encourage people to wipe their feet before coming in while offering a friendly greeting.
Welcome mats for websites won’t clean off muddy boots, but they do certainly greet visitors before entering a site. And they can be beholden to controversy, especially since they look an awful lot like a popup. But the real question here is, are they effective?
It’s a question that’s up for some debate so let’s spend some time today looking at how well welcome mats work, if they’re worth the investment, and how to get one setup on your site.
What is a Welcome Mat?
Technically, the term “Welcome Mat” comes from a plugin from SumoMe by the same name. However, its function is utilized by several other tools that fall into this same category. We’ll talk more about the specific tools involved in a just bit. For now, let’s talk about what a welcome mat looks like and how it functions.
This is what a welcome mat might look like:
A welcome mat is quite similar to a popup. However, the major difference here is that you can’t see the site’s content behind a welcome mat. It fills the entire screen. So, when a visitor first happens across your site, they’re greeted by a fullscreen message, typically optimized with a prominent call-to-action.
This CTA is typically an email signup form. How you use this depends on your site and your marketing strategy. You might use this space to build your list outright or you might offer a coupon, discount, or freebie piece of content to entice visitors to sign up. The copy varies in this space, too. You could go with a traditional marketing message or something a bit kooky like what’s used at HelpMyBusiness:
You can insert a newsletter signup or get people to complete some other desired action, like view your portfolio or advertise your latest hot product with a prominent “Buy Now” button.
The whole concept of a welcome mat is to capture visitor attention immediately. There’s absolutely no guesswork required here. Instead of hoping their eyes will land on your signup form on your site’s sidebar somewhere or in the middle of a post, you can rest assured they will see it first thing. And then you can get a better gauge as to what works and what doesn’t for your CTA—because finding it is definitely not a problem in this case.
While the welcome mat initially blocks the view of your site’s content, the standard browsing experience can resume immediately if the visitor wants. They can click the close or down arrow to get back to the primary content or simply start scrolling. The welcome mat then disappears and doesn’t return until the visitor comes to your site again.
It’s not just blogs where you can find welcome mats, by the way. Larger businesses are using these greeting CTAs to entice visitors into signing up and/or converting first thing.
Take Uber, for instance. The site doesn’t use an overlay or welcome mat, but it does employ the fullscreen CTA, which looks an awful lot like most welcome mats. This is really effective at attracting attention and getting people to click on that Sign-Up button first thing, before exploring any of the other content on the site.
Spotify is another good example. While this isn’t technically a welcome mat, either, the fullscreen CTA draws visitors right into its message, prompting them to signup now and get three months of the music streaming service for free. Why beat around the bush when you can get straight to the point and drive conversions immediately?
So now that you have a clear idea of what welcome mats are and how they function, we can begin to talk about whether or not they work.
Do They Work?
Now that you have a better understanding of what welcome mats are, the real question is, do they work? Are they even worth investing the time in to implement? While it will ultimately depend on your site’s niche and your overall goals, the broad answer to this question is most assuredly, “yes.”
Data on welcome mats is limited at the moment, primarily because they are so new. However, the creators of Welcome Mat, AppSumo, used the tool on their own site first, before ever launching it to the public, and it garnered them three times as many conversions for sign ups for their email list. And this makes sense, especially since recent research shows that minimal homepages are ideal for driving the maximum number of signups.
So, even if you want to keep a standard blog homepage with sidebar and all the bells and whistles, you can simulate a minimal homepage with a welcome mat and drive signups easily.
SumoMe also published a case study of Teachable (formerly Fedora) that increased daily webinar signups by 70%.
Welcome mats are different than popups, as we’ve already determined, but they can be seen as a nuisance by some as they’re function is all around similar to that of a traditional popup or slide-in. The truth of the matter is people can complain about popups until they’re blue in the face: they’re still super effective. In fact, according to Razor Social, signups drop off sharply when popups are discontinued.
And then there are welcome gates, which function similarly to the welcome mat and offer a fullscreen conversion oriented homepage. However, in this case the site’s content is actually hidden behind the gate, so visitors will have to input their email addresses before being granted access to the content. This is a bigger risk, but if you make your value proposition good enough, you just might see your signups soar.
Plugins and Tools
Now, here is a handful of tools to add a welcome mat to your WordPress site seamlessly.
I’ve already talked about this tool quite a bit in this post (it’s the one that gave the name “Welcome Mat” to this feature), however, let’s now spend some time talking about what it does in detail. SumoMe offers a suite of tools that integrate into WordPress, seamlessly. All of these tools are free at the basic level but can be upgraded individually or as a package to suit your site’s needs.
The Welcome Mat is a full-screen call-to-action that asks visitors to perform a certain task upon arriving at your site like signing up for your email list or reading a particular blog post. It’s very easy to install and setup, too. With the free version, you can customize the background color, text color, font, and copy. Update to Pro and you’ll gain access to photo, video, or GIF backgrounds, a variety of professionally-designed layouts, and more. It’s also completely mobile optimized out of the box.
Welcome Mat is free and you can upgrade for more features with the Starter plan for $10/month or the Pro plan for $100/month.
OptinMonster is also a suite of tools for increasing optins, signups, and conversion. However, it’s version of a welcome mat is called Fullscreen and it overlays on top of your site’s homepage and prompts visitors to complete a specific action. This is much better for SEO than traditional welcome gates and still drives solid conversions.
What’s different about this tool is you can select when it appears: as soon as the visitor arrives on your site or when they are exhibiting exit behaviors. It offers integrations with numerous email list building services, and can be used to display coupons, related products, social media buttons, and more.
Pricing starts at $49/year for the Basic plan (billed annually) then goes up to $99/year for Plus and $199/year for Pro.
While the basic Icegram plugin is free, you can add-on the Overlay feature and give your site fullscreen CTA capability. Overlays appear over your site’s content and disappear once closed. It works just like a popup but takes over the entire screen instead, demanding your visitors to pay attention. It’s effective because it can’t be ignored.
A single site license for Overlay is $19.
While there aren’t a whole lot of tools out there right now that offer the welcome mat feature and integrate with WordPress, the aforementioned three are truly useful and effective at enticing visitors to click and convert.