Pop-Ups are Pop-Bad
Contributor: Lauri Harpf
windows are everywhere on the Internet. This article
explores their effectiveness and advises against
their long term use as a promotional strategy.
Not too long ago, 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 about.
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.
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  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.
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
: Statistical Research: "How People Use
(tm) the Internet 2001", http://www.statisticalresearch.com/press/pr050301.htm