What is Exit-Intent detection?

14 Jan

Skim this post to become a quick expert.

Exit intent detection is the term used when client side technology appears to track your web visitors “intention”.

It’s often used in conjunction with a targeted marketing message, sometimes in a form of a popup. These pop ups sometimes are seen as intrusive to visitors, so using these types of tools should be carefully thought about before jumping straight in.

How does Exit-Intention tracking work?

By detecting a visitors mouse movements, using Javascript. The implementation is usually the same, but there are different takes on which is best. Some companies have more sensitive tracking algorithms than others. Here is an example snippet of Javascript you can implement on your websites if you’d like to code your own:

document.onmouseout = function(e) {
    if( e.clientY < 0 ) {// Detects mouse direction
        alert('Mouse exit detected.');


How can exit-detection trigger a Call-To-Action?

If you are coding a solution of your own, you could replace the alert('Mouse exit detected.'); line above with your desired action. If you are non-technical and don’t know how to craft the snippet to your needs, you can use a free tool like OptKit with 1 line of installation.

With OptKit, once you’ve installed the code (in the same manner you install Google Analytics), you then have full control of your website. You’ll be able to create and test CTA’s all from within the OptKit dashboard, no coding required.

Does exit detection work for mobile or touch devices?

No, not using the mouse-detection technique. If you use a tool like OptKit, then you’ll be able to have a fallback “trigger” for those visitors on mobile devices, or you can disable targeting for touch devices entirely. This comes in handy when testing out marketing messages directly specifically for your mobile traffic.


This is a screenshot of the internal dashboard of OptKit

Using only touch devices, you can detect how a user scrolls or taps on your webpage. This is also a common technique for triggering CTA’s, as it implies a sense of engagement from the user.

Do exit-intention popups annoy my website visitors?

The answer to this question isn’t as straight forward as you may hope. The way I explain it to my past clients is this: if you deliver a message that is wanted by someone at that moment in time, then you’re doing your job. As marketers in this modern tech age, we want to deliver the value up front to earn trust before we convince our prospects to convert. If we don’t earn that trust, we won’t persuade our visitors into doing what we need.

If you are a developer, you will want to be using cookies so you can remember which users have seen your messages. It’s also a good idea to make sure your system can deliver messages to different user segments, like those visitors who have been to your website 10 times vs those who are first-timers. Relevancy is everything, and segmenting your audience is easy with a tool like OptKit.

How can exit-detection popups ruin trust?

“Marketing is nothing more than delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.”
– My words adapted from really smart people

If they are done too often, or in too pushy of a manner, you might end up alienating part of your target audience. The good news is, when you do connect a message with the intended audience, and it is filled with something they want or need, then you are actually doing them a favor. By having several strong CTA’s on all pages that you want to optimize, you have a higher chance of yielding results.

How many Call-To-Action’s should my website have?

“If you aren’t pissing off somebody, you aren’t marketing hard enough”
– Anyone who does marketing for a living

Again, there is no solitary answer for this. Every business’ voice the market’s sophistication level will drastically vary when you look at from nearly any aspect. Being able to test the effectiveness of your CTA is extremely important, because you absolutely do run the risk of alienating the visitor you are trying to convert.

For some more perspective from people way smarter than me, check out this free .PDF provided by Columbia University (the famous jam study): When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?

How do I make an exit-intent popup as effective as possible?

That is a great question, and I like where your mind is headed!

If you want to dive really deep into some of the aspects of UI/UX (user-interface and user experience) design, it might really pay off for you as a marketer.

GoodUI is a great website that is super actionable if you need specific tactics.  One of the simplest tips I’ve used a lot in the past is what I refer to as “double benefit CTA’s”, and GoodUI has this listed as “Benefit Buttons”. Either way, if you include a extra reason along side with your CTA buttons, you are going to most likely convert more with that button. The text must be relevant to what the user wants, and it’s good to knock down a big objection using this technique.

I’ve seen immediate conversion rate lifts on old sites that didn’t utilize this, time and time again

Does exit-intention technology use cookies?

It depends.

Services like OptKit require cookies to use certain features, like the visit counter. We use a simple cookie placed within your visitors browser to count their hit visits, and a few other details.

None of this information is personally identifiable, and we don’t track any data that you don’t have access to yourself. The only kinds of data OptKit keeps record of is on behalf of you, and it’s simply a set of stats for your various CTA’s and websites. Not all other marketing software has that same principle, so be careful who you trust with your information (and what third-party scripts you use on your website).

Make sure you have direct access to the owner of the script, in case of any kind of problem. Fortunately, you get this with OptKit, so don’t worry.

Should all of my CTA’s have the same purpose?

By having more than one option, you immediately give your visitors another layer of decisions to make. If you are a smart marketer, and I know you are, then you know that every bit of your marketing efforts should be tied to the businesses specific goals with a timeframe. Do you need to accomplish several things on this one page, or is it better to have separated CTA’s per page? I don’t have that data, so I can’t give you that answer. You might though, inside of your analytics.

Whatever your main purpose is, I would suggest focusing on that, and that alone, until you achieve success. Once you have figured out the correct messaging that converts on your main business goal, you can then move on to secondary ones.

Your marketing efforts should never be without specific quantifiable goals, or it’s like to driving blindfolded. So you have to start initially using your gut if you have no data to make decisions from, but once you are able to track your efforts to your results, that’s when you make decisions on where to go from there.

What are the uses for Exit-Intent Popups?

They are mainly for optimizing your current traffic levels, not increasing them necessarily. They are more focused on retention as a mechanism for growing your business. Exit-popups are widely used across many industries for collecting emails for lead generation, adding users to email marketing lists, and even delivering different types of downloadable items. E-commerce sites use them often in order optimize their high cart-abandonment rates.

Is exit-intent detection good for PPC campaigns and SEO?

Yes, it’s best used when focusing on optimizing either PPC or your organic traffic. In fact, being able to personalize your content per visitor is one of the most effective ways to make sure you deliver hyper-targeted and relevant messages.


This is a screenshot of the internal dashboard of OptKit

What is the future of Exit-Intent or Exit-Detection technology going to be like?

Well, on one word:


Instead of using a visitors mouse solely as the input for predicting if an exit is about to occur (or a bounce in other words), there is going to be a wide array of inputs that all are analyzed and processed using machine learning.

What exactly does this mean?

In the future, when advertising and marketing technology has time to evolve more, we will be delivering less “popups” and more conversions.

Using data as the guiding force, we will eventually be able to predict simple things like if a user is likely to bounce from a given page (no matter what device they may be on), or even how likely a user is to convert on a given message.

Thanks for reading, I have comments turned off for now, so if you’d like to chat connect with me below :)
– Jordan Coeyman (Founder)
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