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Pop Ups and Pop Unders are Rude

by Enrique De Argaez

I must confess, I am also guilty. Way back in 2002 when I started this website I searched for ways to build traffic. One of the options that was available and seemed viable, at that time, was "exit popups". The technology was advertised as focused toward the interest of the surfer. I signed up for a free program, one of those that for every two pop-unders shown on your page you earn one impression free on another site.

Traffic increased and things worked fine for some time. However the Internet changes a lot in a short time. The pop unders started to get out of focus, to display bad content that annoyed the site visitors, and the ads gradually became more intrusive.

The reaction from the Internet users was to complain and to avoid the sites with popups, pop-unders, and such sort of things. Taking my visitors advice, I removed all the pop-unders from my sites, very fearful of loosing all the traffic I was getting from that advertising strategy.

An amazing thing happened. Traffic dipped a little bit in the beginning but after a couple of weeks, again traffic started to increase slowly but surely. Today I am glad of my decision because there are many tools to block popups, making them useless, and my website visitors don't have to suffer those intrusive popups and pop-unders any more.

Today it is very clear to me that all webmasters have to have good manners and to take care of not being rude with their website visitors.

Yahoo and Google have pop-up and pop-under ads blockers. So do AOL and EarthLink. Firefox, the new popular web browser from Mozilla, has a built-in pop-up ad suppresser. Even Microsoft offers one in its Windows XP Service Pack 2.

Search the term "pop-up blocker" and you'll find millions of results and hundreds -- if not thousands -- of tools and services, with names like Pop-Up Stopper, Pop Swatter, Pop This and Pop-Up Zapper. You can download them for free in exchange for filling out consumer surveys, participating in various data-mining schemes and targeted ad campaigns, or by paying an annual fee for tech support.

The reason pop-up blockers are so popular is, of course, because pop-ups (and pop-unders) are so unpopular. Many studies conducted surveying Internet surfers have found that almost 80 percent of people surveyed had a "very negative" opinion of pop-up ads. They hijack your screens, often touting products and services that bear little relation to the content you are viewing. One second you're reading an article about the subject you enjoy and the next moment a digital billboard from Orbitz ("Put a thousand miles between you and your next meeting") or ("What's your car worth?") popups.

In a sense, in-your-face ads like these are the browser equivalent of e-mail spam. But advertisers will tell you the reason you see so many of them is because they work. Since pop-ups and pop-unders are so cheap, you only need a small fraction of clickthroughs to earn back your investment. Of course, even this is debatable, and sites that deploy them may be risking reader loyalty.

We experimented with pop-under ads for a while. Our visitors hated them. After removing them our traffic stats suggested that the popups were not helping much in drawing targeted traffic to our websites. Visitors were less likely to explore the site upon a first visit if they got hit with a pop-under when they arrived. Since our goal is to get new users to explore our site and invite them to look around, clearly this wasn't good.

Another study in the UK found that half of the pop-up ads were closed before they had a chance to fully materialize, and 35 percent of ads were ignored altogether. Users saw the company's name or logo in only 2 percent of the ads. The bottom line: Test subjects indicated "a strong and intense dislike for pop-up ads, resulting in a negative attitude toward the website itself and the brand owner."

Although the sample size involved in these two surveys was too small to take as gospel, the results aren't surprising.

A few years back a horrible program called Gator appeared in the Internet and with sly tricks and false promises of faster web surfing talked people into downloading its program. After that you got tons of ads popping up as you navigated. Well, the gator lizard has come back again under a new name. Its now called Claria and offers behavioral marketing. They spy on you and then feed you pop-up advertising that is supposed to be selected according to your needs, and preferences, according to your online behavior. This is the most intrusive and abusive advertising you can get. It is a sure way to get me to click away from that website or that page fast. In my opinion Pop-ups are the equivalent to email spam.

Thankfully the reign of the much-maligned pop-up ad may be coming to an end. I myself resent the intrusive pop-ups and pop-unders, and consider them rude and bad manners. I now surf much faster and pop-under free with my new Firefox browser. In case you prefer the Internet Explorer for browsing, be sure to download the free Google Tool Bar and activate the pop-up blocking feature. Pop-ups may rest in peace. Amen.

About the Author:
Enrique de Argaez is the webmaster of several multilingual Internet websites and author of four newsletters. He is active in Internet World Marketing, and Internet Market Research. Visit his main English website at .
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