Many years ago I read a blog post called Customers Won’t Discount Your Dishonesty, where the author was basically talking about internet tricks a lot of online marketers try. The article specifically mentioned this sneakiness when you’re trying to leave a website, only to have a pop up window stop you with a discounted offer without just letting you go. I didn’t like it then and I’m still not a fan of popups.
I remember when my wife and I first moved into this house and we thought we needed new windows. This guy came to the house and was here for 3 hours, first measuring the windows, then supposedly doing all the calculations he had to do so that he could talk to us further. He then dropped the price on us; $36,000. I actually laughed out loud, which is so unlike me, but it was more than 1/3rd of what we’d paid for the house.
He left, but three days later we got a call offering the same package for $16,000; once again we said no. Then four days later we were offered the same package for $9,000. At that point I told the person that I didn’t want their company calling me anymore because I didn’t trust them.
A couple years later, my wife contacted one of the big home improvement chains and asked someone to come look at our windows. This guy gave us a quote where most of our windows came to $70 each, with the big bay window coming to $1,000 on its own; I could understand that, as it’s a different style. We didn’t go for that one, but we did replace a lot of the other windows, at a very affordable price.
That’s actually worked quite well on my main computer… but it’s done nothing for me as it pertains to my smartphone. And Google was supposed to take care of that for me.
The thing is, it’s much worse having popups on the phone than it was on my computer… for the most part. The problem is that often one of two things happens way too soon. The first is that you’ve just arrived on a page and you’re ready to check out the content when suddenly this long thing pops in from the top, totally obliterating what you were about to read to smack you in the face with a newsletter or product offer. The second is that you actually get to start reading when this popup appears and not only blocks the content but is so big that you can’t even X it out.
It’s in these moments when I think back on my initial windows issue back in 2000 and makes me not want to trust the people whose content I was hoping to read. I spend a lot of time online and on Flipboard looking for content to read and later share with my online audience. I hate having my time wasted because I got sucked in by a blog or article title that looked intriguing, only to get a bait and switch that won’t let me see what I thought I was going to see.
It brings two thoughts into my mind. The first is that the content might not be all that good, which is why the owner is trying to get me to sign up for something without being able to read it first. The second is that now I don’t trust them because it seems they’re more concerned with getting subscribers than is catering to their audience.
Just so you know, even though I hate all popups, I do understand why people use them. Some studies have shown that one can increase their subscribers by as much as 40% by using them. Those same studies have shown that traffic and visits to those sites decreases by about 10% over time. If you’re running a large site or making money from your newsletter that’s probably negligible. If not, why are so many so willing to alienate visitors so early?
I may hate popups, but because I understand why some people use them I’d like to put in a request for using them more responsibly.
First, stop making them so big that we can’t close them out on our smartphones. All you have to do is check your own site on your phone to see if it’s bothering people.
Second, stop adding things that have nothing to do with your site as a popup. I have no idea how this happens, but sometimes I’m either getting affiliate program popups or that weird window talking about some type of Facebook survey where I can either win some prize or that I need to take in order to read more of the content. I mean… what the heck?!?!?
Third, stop having popups go live within that stupid 30-second window. If your content is actually good (which means it’s got some meat) then you could set it to go live 60-90 seconds after someone’s been on your site.
I know mobile’s happy with me because I don’t have any popups on any of my sites. I’m not sure that’s translating to more visitors since only 15% of my traffic comes from mobile (more than half of those being Apple phones; I should be nicer to Apple people lol). I’m also not sure if Google’s supposed mobile penalty is actually working against anyone because it seems to still be prevalent based on what I’m seeing.
If you’re a content publisher using popups, have you modified what you’re doing since Google made its proclamation?