Why Pop-Ups are Pop-Bad

May 6


Lauri Harpf

Lauri Harpf

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Not too long ago, seeing a pop-up ad appear meant that youwere either on a page that ... illegal software ... at ... that isn't suitable for the eyes of ... Back the


Not too long ago,Why Pop-Ups are Pop-Bad Articles seeing a pop-up ad appear meant that you
were either on a page that distributed illegal software or
looking at something that isn't suitable for the eyes of under
18-year-olds. Back then, pop-ups were seen as an annoying but
inseparable part of the Web's dark side. However, encountering
them while visiting larger and more reputable Web sites was
something that only a small amount of people could even dream

Nobody could have believed it at that time, but these
yesterday's dreams have become the reality of today. In the
eyes of many advertisers and webmasters, pop-ups have shaken
off their dirty past and are now considered to be quite
acceptable and harmless. Rather than the result of the general
Internet population starting to see pop-ups in a better light,
this change in attitude is more a case of making a virtue out
of a necessity.

As everyone knows by now, the large dot-com's are in trouble
and need cash. The continuing decrease in the click-through
rates of banner ads has reduced the demand for banner space,
and it is clear that the sites that live off advertising
need something to replace this drying income stream. At the
same time, an increasing amount of evidence seems to indicate
that pop-up advertisements are more likely to be noticed and
generate more sales than banner ads. Thus, it is no surprise
that pop-ups have been able to break out of the dark side into
the mainstream.

Follow the leader?

After pop-ups started to appear on major websites, many
webmasters of small- and middle-sized sites have begun to
consider following in the footsteps of the big guys. After all,
we've all heard countless success stories, and the users have
probably already become accustomed to pop-ups and...

While it is certainly true that pop-ups can really work, it
should be remembered that using them does also have multiple
negative consequences. According to several sources, pop-ups do
draw more attention than banners, but users are also very
hostile towards them. For example, a Statistical Research report
from last spring [1] claimed that pop-ups are 50% more likely to
be noticed than banners, but also 100% more likely to be
considered intrusive. Thus, by having pop-ups on your site,
you're increasing the effectiveness of your advertising, but
you're also hurting the reputation of your site and driving your
visitors away.

Even if you're willing to accept the above side-effect, it is
doubtful whether pop-ups can be used as a long term solution
for the falling response rates to Internet advertising. As we
remember from the past, banner ads had splendid click-through
rates when they were introduced. Over time, the novelty wore
off and click-through rates began to deteriorate. It is likely
that pop-ups are doing so well partly because they've been used
on a large scale for a relatively small amount of time. When
pop-ups keep on spreading, users will eventually learn to
ignore them as well.

The third problem with using pop-ups is born out of the two
previous ones, the hatred users feel towards them and the fact
that they are spreading like wildfire. Even now, a wide range of
software that prevents pop-ups from being displayed is available
for anyone to download for free. The use of such software isn't
very common at the moment, but if pop-up advertising continues
to grow, it is reasonable to assume that users will begin to
install countermeasures at an increasing rate.

Some may doubt that software that removes pop-ups will never
become a major concern, no matter how widely pop-ups are going
to be used in the future. Software that removes banners from web
pages has been out there for a long time, but it has never
really "catched on". Why should this situation be any different?

The difference is that as stated in the Statistical Research
report mentioned above, users find pop-ups to be more intrusive
than banners. If each of the sites you visit displays two banner
ads, you'll probably feel a bit annoyed, but put up with it.
However, if they'd all launch two pop-ups, what would you do? I
myself would be scrambling to download a copy of Pop-Up Stopper
or PopUp Killer.

What's the point?

If your alternatives are to either close your site or install
pop-ups, the choice is not a hard one. But if your Internet
business is doing fine and you're thinking about adding pop-ups
to make it do even better, beware. Pop-ups can create profits,
but they can also create trouble. Look before you leap.

[1]: Statistical Research: "How People Use (tm) the Internet
2001", http://www.statisticalresearch.com/press/pr050301.htm