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Your Pop-Up Ads Are Annoying Your Prospects

by Guest Blogger  |  
August 10, 2012

A guest post by Trace Anderson.

Many businesses think the route to increased readership is through pop-up ads. Pop-up ads are online ads that "pop up" in front of your website visitors. The pop-up ads actively engage your visitors, which is good, but the ads can also annoy them.

Pop-ups are a distraction that interferes with whatever your users were doing on your site. Many users are ignoring ads found on websites, and an increasing number of users are using pop-up blockers and other ad blockers. An entire industry has been created just to get rid of these things.

Bad in Theory

When a user lands on your site, and you have a timed pop-up, it signals to your user that you may be trying to trick them into doing something that they otherwise wouldn't do. If information was that important, it would be on the page in front of them instead of requiring a pop-up.

Another reason not to use pop-ups is that over the years, users have built up what is called "ad blindness." This is a phenomenon in which users don't even see the ads you are displaying. They are completely ignored. The worst offenders are the flashing banner-type ads that appear at or near the top of the page. However, even text-based ads are being ignored. Pop-ups or pop-unders, whether done upon entrance to or exit from your site, are often viewed in the same way as banner advertisements. And because they are slammed in front of your user, the visitor is forced to look at them. This should increase clickthrough rate, right? Wrong.

Even when many users do click or fill out their name and email, pop-ups are more often closed out before they are ever fully loaded. A visitor then leaves your site thinking that the site is trying to install malicious software on his computer or is trying to sell him something. In a way, the pop-up is like an aggressive used car salesman. It screams "I'm desperate. Please look at me." It also comes off as being somewhat unprofessional.

User Studies

According to web-usability consultant Jakob Nielson, users hate pop-ups. In one study done back in 2004, a total of 95% of 605 users reported that they hate pop-ups in front of their browser window. And 79% of respondents hated pop-ups that float across the screen. Another 93% hated when pop-ups covered what they were originally viewing. Across the board, users hated things that tricked them into clicking on something, having things obstruct their view, causing content to move around, or lacking a close button.

What's surprising is that companies today still violate Nielson's guidelines about ads and pop-ups. Nielson's latest research, done in 2011, suggests that websites still employ pop-ups as a marketing tool---and users still hate them.


Nielson suggests that companies simplify the site rather than use pop-ups. In a study of users viewing ABC news' new website layout for mobile devices, site users thought it was "cool." However, when given the option to switch to the regular, simplified view with just one story dominating the screen, users chose the simpler view over the "fancy" view. Translation: Simpler is better.

Again and again, users--on desktops and mobile devices---prefer simple layouts with no ads and no pop-ups. Instead of annoying users, place the most relevant content front and center. Don't allow users to take more than four or five different actions on a page. Remove banner ads and place links to products and services in the navigation bar or showcase them on the homepage like does.

If you must use pop-ups, make sure the user understands what will happen. Make it obvious that they are viewing a pop-up, and what will happen when they click links that trigger them. Don't just randomly or unexpectedly throw a pop-up in your site visitor's face.

Trace Anderson is a freelance writer working  for

(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Annoyed Boy)

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  • by Jason Hull Fri Aug 10, 2012 via blog

    I don't use the pop-up e-mail signup box for the fear of annoying visitors, as you outline above; however, it's also hard to argue with Dan Zarella's data:

  • by Scott D Lewis Sat Aug 11, 2012 via blog

    All I know is the largest % of signups comes from my pop-up. End of story for me.

  • by Elise Wed Aug 15, 2012 via blog

    I would agree that pop-ups can immediately signal distrust...except in the case of a prompted chat message. Interactive chat has been very beneficial for my company in learning more about our customers. Chat sparks candid, unfiltered conversation with customers who may not normally be inclined to share their opinions with us. At times it leads to faster sales as well.

    As far as layout goes, simple is definitely better. We're currently going through a site redesign, and we feel this is definitely going to affect conversion positively!

  • by Bret Tue Feb 12, 2013 via blog

    I thought it was really funny how a pop up window suddenly appeared obscuring this article right after I loaded the page. Total Fail !!!

  • by Henry Sun Apr 7, 2013 via blog

    Scott - You say that the largest percentage of signups come from your pop ups, but I wonder:

    1) How many people who sign up this way are unsophisticated and think they have to supply their e-mails to get to the content?

    2) How many of these coerced sign-ups are good prospects and actually convert to paying clients?

    3) How many potential clients do your pop ups annoy or scare away before they even get to know your services?

  • by Anonymous Wed Jun 11, 2014 via web

    I hope you can appreciate the irony that a pop-up ad is attached to this article. I actually had to stop and close the pop-up so that I could continue to read your article on why pop-up ads are a failure.

  • by Sally Kumwenda Sat Aug 9, 2014 via web

    I am so happy that someone has written this article. Am one of the people who gets really irritated with these pop-ups Ads and of course I end up leaving the site. It is indeed wrong to advertising whatever you are selling in such a way. It must be understood that some people do not have the whole time to spent on the internet. When they are looking for something they do not want to waste time by these distracting pop ups Ads. Better way of marketing must be adopted. I suggest creating a special site for such so that you get the right people with right intentions on the site.

  • by Joy Fri Jul 8, 2016 via web

    Really, there was a pop up when I got in here that is hilarious

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