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Clever Popup Ad? No Thanks.

So these days, I’m seeing more “clever” popups when visiting various websites. For example, do a search, see a result, click to visit.. and then before any content is shown, I’m hit with some annoying popup ad for whatever thing the site is trying to push.

What happens

When a popup happens, I click the back button so fast you can hear a small thunderclap as I return to the search results to find something better. And by better, I mean any relevant site that doesn’t pop some annoying advertisement up in my face.

For example, when writing my books and articles, I gather references and resources to include in posts and pages. In the process of doing this, I often find what looks like an awesome/useful resource, but as soon as I arrive on the page — BAM — popup ad in my face. So it’s click, goodbye as I move on to the next resource. I don’t even care what was on the page beneath the popup, it doesn’t matter because the last thing I want to do is send my readers to a site that so blatantly devalues their time. There always is something better.

The same is true when looking for YouTube videos — I won’t use any video that includes some annoying/irrelevant advertisement. I do this because I care about my audience and want to keep the focus 100% on content, not tricks or gimmicks or other tactics.

Popup ads = garbage

I never thought I would be posting on this topic, as popup ads were for a long time generally understood to be what they are: trashy, greasy, pathetic and desperate. Popup ads are equivalent to getting a salesperson up in your grill when you go to the store. Somewhere along the way, many site owners seem to have forgotten (or never knew in the first place) that popup ads are horrible and annoying.

So this post is just to remind people, or reinforce the idea that popping stuff up in your visitor’s face is almost always a bad idea. Especially if it’s an advertisement. If I am visiting your store, or website, the last thing on earth I want to see is an advertisement pushed up in my grill. If it’s on a website, I leave. If it’s in a store, you get to hear about in real time. And then I leave.

Pros & cons

So why are so many site owners choosing to popup their junk in your face immediately or within a few seconds of visiting? I reckon it’s because they read somewhere, or were somehow influenced to believe, that it’s a good idea. Like, “hey, maybe a good way to improve the quality of my site and get more customers is to push stuff in their face as soon as they arrive.” Or maybe something like, “I don’t care how many people I annoy, I think its worth it to get more people to sign up or do the things.”

Honestly, I don’t know what people are thinking when they decide to put popup ads on their site, perhaps a pros/cons list will help to clarify things. First, here are the pros:

  • PRO – maybe get more people to do the thing

..and the cons:

  • CON – annoy visitors
  • CON – lose visitors
  • CON – lose credibility
  • CON – lose respect
  • CON – increase bounce rate
  • CON – waste time and energy
  • CON – cheapen the perceived value of your site

Does that help? Maybe. But I think that people who want to put popups on their site are going to do it regardless of how many people turn around and leave, complain, mock, or whatever else. All I can do is report my own experience and hope that people are listening.

About the Author
Jeff Starr = Creative thinker. Passionate about free and open Web.
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21 responses to “Clever Popup Ad? No Thanks.”

  1. Quite a strongly worded post there Jeff… I do agree though: they are usually annoying and I’m never keen on being sold to in such a pushy way! There’s none on any of my sites (and I can’t imagine there being any in the future unless things become desperate). But so many are at it lately: even WebDesignerDepot – surprisingly! Can’t help but wonder how effective they are at converting traffic … presumably very effective!

    • I’m just surprised at how many sites are doing popups these days. I remember the Web around 10-15 years ago, where popups and other annoyances were so bad that many savvy users actually surfed with JavaScript disabled. It was a very common scenario. So if you go back and read thru the tutorials and articles of that time, you will see that the case where “user has JS disabled” is given much more consideration than it is today.

      Fortunately, as time passed from that point, the popups greatly decreased and so did the no-JS scenario. Fast-forward to today and JS is almost required to surf the Web, and popup ads are back in full force. I’m not saying that there is any causal relationship, but I feel it’s important to remind people that not everybody appreciates popups; in fact, I think that the more experience people have online, the less likely they are to tolerate them.

      In any case, thanks Brin for more space to discuss this topic :)

  2. Thanks! It is nice to see, that i am not one person only, who do not love these popups.

    But i disagree with you, about the web at 10 ago. I remember it and i remember thet the Opera has (had?) setting for blocking these popups. After some time, this setting appears in other broesers too. If there was not popups, why this setting is here? I have this option enabled for years, but in last, the popups are not new windows, but simple styled DIVs (or similar) = more terrible to block, then there is more popups visible, despite this blocking…

    • Jeff Starr 2014/12/01 4:05 pm

      Perhaps I should clarify, there have always been popups, but it seems that these days there are far more of them than 10 or so years ago. One of the reasons that browsers such as Opera began putting popup blockers in their browsers was to offer relief to users.

  3. Daniel Pataki 2014/12/01 3:49 pm

    While I agree with you completely, I would gladly take an increase in popup ads in favour of decreasing in-video ad boxes. If I see a company’s ad pop up on youtube I not only will close it right away, I’ll make note of the company and make a point of not purchasing anything they make ever.

    I really can’t articulate how much I hate video ads. Worst of all, in many cases the dang YouTube logo is just behind the little x, so when I close the ad I am transported to the main YouTube site.

    I’ll stop now, I feel an aneurysm coming :)


    • Jeff Starr 2014/12/01 4:11 pm

      Yeah the YT ads are getting worse every day, could not agree more. I use YouTube videos in a lot of projects, and will not include/reference/link/mention any vids that are polluted by ads, boxes, or whatever else. I avoid them like the plague, regardless of the actual video content. In general, I think ads are way too invasive these days, as the rest of the world discovers the money-making potential of the Web years behind those who actually care about content. Sad that such people have missed the point entirely, and that in another whatever number of years, the Web will be nothing more than an ad-polluted, industry-regulated wasteland.

      • Daniel Pataki 2014/12/02 12:20 am

        I think ads have been invasive for quite some time, not just on the Internet. By law I am not allowed to press a button on my phone while driving here, even to hang up.

        However, it is perfectly OK to put a HUGE billboard with half-naked women next to a freeway for people to look at while making 90miles an hour.

        I don’t think the situation is that bleak though. I think the invasion of ads like this may be the last wave of old-style advertising. Ads aren’t working, so they are pushing quantity instead of quality. This will stop working soon and ads will become a lot better hopefully :) Wishful thinking….

  4. When I read your post I though “Yay, it’s not only me that hates them and actually clicks away!”

    I also immediately thought of a site that had these popups, but only after your mouse moves in the area of the top (to close the tab or whatever). I say “had”, because they might have seen the light that it actually only drives people away from their site.
    And I therefore don’t believe one word of their article on the subject:


  5. Arnold Wotherspoon 2014/12/02 11:48 pm

    It seems that in the last 2 years these “new brand” popups have increased drastically, and on reputable sites too.
    When did designers/developers forget “popups = irritation”?
    And as for YouTube, how many ads can you fit on one clip? I swear I’ve had to click 4 x’s before until I had a clear screen.
    I don’t think this is a strongly worded article – Popups must die is putting it mildly.
    (Insinuating that the people that put them up should follow suit is slightly less mild.)

    • Thanks for your comments, Arnold. Yes I agree that “popups must die”, but not that “people that put them up should follow suit”. I hold nothing against anyone who uses popups, other than the gripe that they are wasting people’s time with their invasive ads. Hopefully there is nothing in the article that insinuates otherwise.

  6. Arnold Wotherspoon 2014/12/03 12:12 am

    Sorry, there is nothing in the article that indicates that. It’s just that I disagree that the article as a whole is “strongly worded.”
    I think it is a well balanced article describing a very odd trend.
    But then, I may be biased.

    • No need to apologize, I appreciate your feedback, and thank you for clarifying. I too, am probably biased :)

  7. I’m 100% with you Jeff, if i see a pop up “I’m solid gone” and won’t come back. I found a great answer to the whole pop up thing in the leitmotiv picture of this post: http://bradfrost.com/blog/post/bullshit-overlays/

    sorry for spamming but it won’t pop up, i promise :)

  8. Jeff, I completely agree with you!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Websites have gotten so tacky and annoying these days.

    Another disturbing trend is when a site forces you to sign in as soon as you open the site. You get an immediate sign-in or sign-up page and cannot opt out of it or close it. So, I am forced to leave the site.

    Pinterest is one example. It used to be a decent site. And many retail sites are doing the same thing. It is crazy!

  9. hey i must say that was some really great info, i am one of those people who hate those pop ups gets me so irritated at time. Thanks for sharing and i will keep coming back for more great post like this one. keep it up

  10. Now-a-days “POP-UP” ads are in full flow i have read many top bloggers like Mr. Niel Patel, he is using pop-up at every page and also every refresh of page so it’s a trick to getting e-mail id so that they will add our email in bulk e-mail list and sending email day by day.

  11. While I agree pop-ups are not great, I have to add testing on (legalnotebook.co.uk) showed that when I had a triggered topup, the bounce rate varied 5% (put it done to normal variance) but opt-ins increased by 2% mark. This being 1.x% increase on the projected increase.

    Granted this is a very small and specific example, conclusion pop-ups can have benefits, especially if extrapolation to a larger site could mean that 1% is 100’s of subscribers.

    • Even if it bumped subscribers by 100% I would not use such deplorable technique. It’s equivalent to the greasy salesman jumping in front of you while you’re walking down the street. It’s no different than spam, imho.

  12. The ones I hate are the ones that popup instants after hitting a site trying to get me to sign up for their email. At that point I’m gone

    I mentioned this to Whitney Hess, she said she struggled with it but for most sites it helps grow their followers numbers. For me, its not good user experience

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Perishable Press is operated by Jeff Starr, a professional web developer and book author with two decades of experience. Here you will find posts about web development, WordPress, security, and more »
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