Earlier today, for one reason or another, I turned off Pop-Up blocking in Safari. As I closed my browser window three or four hours later, I found five or so pop-ups lurking, hiding behind it. In this time, I’d visited sites that are all well-known, popular, ‘safe’ websites. In fact, some of the sites I found these pop-ups had originated from include well-liked blogs, respectable online newspapers, movie review sites and even some in the Alexa top 100. This completely baffles me. I genuinely believed until today that publishers/web-masters had abandoned pop-ups as an option for efficient advertising on their site(s). I’m not the first to do it, but I thought it might be worth revisiting the reasons why pop-ups, quite frankly, are worthless (for readers, advertisers and publishers).
1. Readers hate them: I am yet to find a single person (apart from, perhaps, one or two Zango employees) who actually enjoys looking at a few pop-ups now and then. Practically everyone, and I mean everyone, hates pop-up, pop-under or ‘hovering’ windows. I know I hate them. The worst part of the whole pop-up experience for readers is their usual “Shoot this and win this” or “You’re the 10,000,000th person to be the 1,000,000th visitor” nature.
2. Your reputation WILL decrease, rapidly: This one affects both publishers and advertisers. When people see pop-ups, they will leave your site. Not just because they’re quite possibly the most annoying form of advertising (ever), or the principle of not supporting sites that employ this method of advertising, but because the average internet user will associate pop-ups with scams, spam and spyware. And if they’re lucky enough to notice a brand name before they hit that big red X in the top left or right corner, they’ll think a whole lot less of you as a corporation, too. Of course, if you’re a spyware manufacturer or a ringtone subscription site, that doesn’t really matter, but remember, we’ve seen huge, multi-national businesses advertise not only via pop-ups, but through some notorious adware software too, as shown in these excellent articles by researcher Ben Edelman (Article 1, Article 2).
Average reaction to a pop-up advertisement
3. Ineffective for advertisers: Let’s face it. When was the last time you clicked on a pop-up? Never? Me too. As I mentioned before, as soon as people see a pop-up, they’ll close it. I really can’t see any commercial value in advertising via a pop-up advertisement, which is why it still surprises me that large businesses continue to use it today. In case you all forgot, it’s 2009, guys.
4. Good Pop-Up blockers are in widespread use: A few years ago, I’ll admit that most built-in pop-up blockers were pretty incapable, and their toolbar-included counterparts were even worse, or non existent. Recently, however, the major players have developed blockers that do get rid of about ninety-nine out of every one-hundred pop-up/under windows, (each of the four most used browsers (IE, Firefox, Safari & Chrome) advertise their built-in blockers), let alone the quite simply incredible Adblock Plus add-on for Firefox, which could accurately be described as an advertising-network or revenue generator’s worst nightmare. Judging by the industry’s response, it’s proof once again that readers hate pop-up advertising.
5. There are better ways of advertising: If you, as the publisher of a blog or site, feel you still need to distract your readers with large commercials, there are much better ways of doing it. Take the Full Page Ad approach to advertising, for example, touted by AdBrite and used by numerous reputable sites, including CNET and many others. While in my opinion they’re still rather frustrating, I’m happy to view them in exchange for (in most cases) the content offered by the site. It’s a more desirable solution to your online advertising ‘problem’, and will almost certainly make your site more profitable, too.
In conclusion, there’s really no reason to advertise or publish pop-ups. They won’t improve your site’s financial status, you can say goodbye to your reputation, and as for their tastefulness? Well, they’re about as aesthetically pleasing as this. I think it’s fair to say that the era of the Pop-Up has been over for a long, long time, and really shouldn’t be alive, anywhere, today. Then again, people do some crazy things. – r.