The Five Online Advertising Deadly Sins

I’ve recently been submitting some sites to directories (oh god) and the thought did float across my mind “These are all… awful”, badly designed and coded and purely there because some berk thought it would be a great idea to populate the web with ANOTHER poor quality space waster. The main thing that irritated me was the terrible advertising strategies used on these sites, although directories are a special case as most directories exist purely to scrape revenue off adverts, I have seen some of these adverts on other ‘real’ sites. In this vein I though it would be a good idea to list these in the hope that people will steer well clear of these strategies for the sake of users and customers alike.

1: Page-Wide Adverts

This is something that infuriates me to no end and that’s why I’ve put this to the top of the list. As far as I am aware there is only one company who is guilty of hosting this type of advert but their reign of terror seems to have spread far and wide across the interwebs, the culprit in question is www.adbrite.com and they should be avoided like the plague. Essentially for those of you who have not come across this type of advert let me explain; a page-wide advert is piece of code put into a web page so that every so often the page will be covered by a fade-in advert displaying another site or service. This advert completely obscures your view of the page and to escape from it you must wait for the intruding page to load then you have to click ’skip this add’ in the top right hand corner.

For those of you who have this on your website, you have no IDEA how many people are going to leave you site within seconds of having to deal with such an advert. It completely destroys the idea of stickiness on your site, by moving the users attention away from the current site and displaying a completely different site you are breaking the users train of thought, whether that thought was “ooh that’s interesting” or “I might buy that!”. Worst case scenario being that a user is viewing your site (say Bobby’s Bedrooms) and an advert comes up for “Barry’s Bargain Bedrooms” and the user decides to leave your site and purchase from the advertised site instead or even worse continues browsing not realising it’s an advert at all and in fact part of your site!

Secondly, users will simply just not bother with sites that force them to perform any task that inconveniences them. The average users attention span when browsing a site is microscopic, if a user encounters anything that annoys them about a site they’ll leave, full stop. There are many websites in the world and I can assure you those that are easy to browse, easy to use and don’t force feed potential customers adverts earn far more than those that do.

2: Pop-ups, Pop-unders and “Pop-ins”

Ooooh yes, the classically annoying and most commonly despised advertising format is still going strong today. I’m sure we all know what a pop-up is but the other two might not be so clear, I’ll outline a quick definition of each of these three things to avoid.

Pop-Ups

A pop-up is a usually smaller window that ‘pops up’ in front of the window you are currently viewing. These adverts are often advertising a company or deal that is sure to lose you money if you’re stupid enough to give it a second glance. Due to the advancement in current browsers such as Mozilla’s Firefox, the larger part of pop-up adverts are caught in built-in filters that stop the windows appearing unless the user specifically allows the window or site (this is useful as some sites use pop-up windows legitimately to display a form or an upload box etc.).

Pop-Unders

A pop-under is much the same as a pop-up except its more sneaky than its counterpart, these adverts appear ‘under’ the window you are currently viewing, this is to avoid being caught by pop-up filters on browsers and so that users don’t realise the window has appeared and therefore has not closed it immediately. Browsers DO have filters to block these but some still slip the net occasionally, chances are however that you’ll only realise it once you’ve closed your main browser window and find yourself staring at a desktop of flashing adverts for portable armpit grooming kits.

Pop-Ins

No, this has nothing to do with the fictional babysitter in P. L. Travers “Mary Poppins”; these are far more sinister. I’m not sure if the term “pop-in” is a commonly used name for these but I decided it was the best to describe its function. A pop-in is the sneakiest and most unavoidable of all (with exception of turning off your browsers JavaScript), this little bastard appears within the window itself often sliding in from the top or sides directly in front of the content you are trying to read. In order to get rid of these you must either click the close ‘button’ on the advert or click the advert itself before it will go away. These adverts are awful and should be banned from all use, they are often found on submission and contact forms to cover up the fields so you cant tell what you’re filling in.

3: Epilepsy Adverts

These in my opinion are sick. These adverts show a complete disregard for anyone who may have an epileptic condition, and show just as little thought towards those who don’t. We’ve all seen flashing adverts on sites advertising ridiculous crap you’re never going to buy and those are bad enough, *blink…blink…blink*. Some advertisers have gone a step further and have become so bitter they wish to inflict fits and migraines on any user who views their advert, they achieve this by blinking like a bloody strobe light *BLINKBLINKBLINKBLINK*. These give me terrible headaches, I can’t actually look at a web page with one of those on it for longer than about 5-7 seconds without reaching for the aspirin. A user cannot concentrate on the contents of your web page whilst a small rave is going on at the top of the page. If you are using an online advertising program who you suspect hosts this type of advert; ditch them immediately.

4: Misleading Link Text

This particular crime is committed all too often by directories which involves misleading a user into going to a different website with a vaguely similar URL to the link text. For example; say you are submitting to a web directory (http://www.exampledirectory.com/) and you find a category you wish to submit to, you then briefly look around for the correct link to take you to the submission form and sure enough you find it (or so it seems). So you click the link entitled “Submit Site” and BOOM you’re presented with a site called “Submit Site Directory” or some such bollocks. Sometimes this has been written in by hand or sometimes it is a very thin strip of Google Adwords in a place where you would expect a menu to be. Both of these types are inexcusable and destroy any glimmer of trust the user or customer had in your website; “If you’re going to trick me with something like that, who knows how else you’re going to screw me over?”.

5: Intrusive AdWords

This is the last in the list however this is still something that must be avoided. Through bad placement and overuse of Google AdWords you can irritate a customer. You should not:

  • Place AdWords in-between input boxes in a form.
  • Place AdWords at the very top of your page or directly underneath your banner.
  • Place AdWords in the middle of an article or other form of page content.
  • Place AdWords in close proximity to other similar looking links to trick the user into clicking the link by accident.
  • Have more Adwords links than you have real links
  • Place adverts inside a menu (you can place it underneath a menu provided it is obviously separate).

Conclusion

Right well that’s about it for just now, I hope you are now educated! I’ve found a couple sites to demonstrate some of the above advertisements, these being:
http://www.888.com/ (Pop In Adverts)
http://www.biowatchmed.net/ (pretty much guilty of the lot)

Ciao