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    Pop-up Ads: The Good and the Bad

    Written by Christian Coman on October 31, 2019

    pop-up ads 2Have you ever gone online to visit a website and BOOM! a pop-up ad appears? How did you feel? Super annoyed or excited to receive exclusive news and deals from this brand? Surveys say it's about a 75/25 split.

    But honestly, are pop-up ads still effective forms of digital marketing? Well, let’s talk about it.

    Pop-up ads became popular during the 1990s and early 2000s. They were a source of lead generation to collect information from new website visitors. Most pop-up ads appeared in large dialog boxes that opened shortly after websites fully loaded and usually asked users to enter detailed personal information such as name, address, phone number and email address.

    Pop-up ads were a popular tool for marketers but fizzled as pop-up ad blockers arrived on the scene in the early 2000s. 

    So, can pop-up ads be an effective form of digital marketing in the 2020s?  What is good or bad about pop-up ads? Let’s start with the bad first.


    The Bad

    It's no secret that pop-up ads are no longer the most-loved form of digital marketing, but were they ever? During their long history on the World Wide Web, pop-up ads began to change form and then disappeared.

    According to customer surveys, 73% of people disapproved  of pop-up ads because they forced them to leave sites before ever clicking anything. This issue caused an influx of pop-up ad blockers. The 2017 PageFair Adblock Report cites a few facts:

    • 11% of the global internet population blocks ads on the web 
    • Adblock usage grew 30% globally in 2016 
    • Mobile AdBlock use grew by 108 million to reach 380 million devices 
    • Desktop AdBlock use grew by 34 million to reach 236 million devices 
    • 74% of American AdBlock users say they leave sites with AdBlock walls 
    • 77% of American AdBlock users are willing to view some ad formats 
    • Adblock users prefer standard display ads

    But even with the rise of ad blockers, pop-up ads still have a role in digital marketing.

    While traditional pop-up ads may no longer be around, they’ve taken on new forms. Many B2B companies today use pop-up ads on their websites to promote offers, assets, and events, with strategically placed CTAs on key website pages to enhance the user experience and the buyer’s journey. Rather then a whole page takeover, today these pop-up ads are often smaller boxes that slide into view without forcing the visitor to stop what they're doing and take some action.


    The Good

    In 2002, pop-up ads became smaller, sleeker, and a little less annoying. They even adopted a new name: light-box ads. Users began to feel more comfortable with signing up with just an email address instead of entering the usual profile information requested.

    Click-through rates and email opt-ins increased when pop-up ads took this new form. AWeber Reports showed light-box ads converted 1,375% better than the old pop-up ads. This increase in performance was fueled by website owners becoming more sensitive to the use and application of pop ups, by simplifying the pop-up form and disabling pop-ups on mobile devices.

    Instapage mentions a few best practices to consider when creating pop-up ads today:

    • The time that it takes for the visitor to show up on your site and time that the pop-up ad shows up in front of your visitor is really important. If you do it too quickly, your visitor will be taken aback, and there goes your opportunity. If you do it too late, you might lose the opportunity to do it at all.

    • Make it easy for your visitors to close your pop-up ad. Don’t hide the close button. No one’s going to spend time looking for that X. They’re just going to leave your website.

    • How many times does your pop-up ad appear, and does a single visitor see it more than once?

    • What does the copy on your call to action buttons say?

    So how should digital marketers approach pop-up ads today? Easy. Just be sure to apply the advice above and be diligent in testing various applications to see what’s driving the best results.

    Not sure where to start? Try testing a few pop-up ads on your website and see which ones engage site visitors the most. Consider this another opportunity to engage your visitors instead of pestering them.

    Want to learn how to make ads other than pop-ups?
    Check out this guide on the most used digital ads specs and sizes.

    Read the Guide


    Topics: Demand Generation and ABM

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