Pop-ups are click fraud

In Media Sites: Say No to Pop-Ups, I don’t think Adam Penenberg spent enough time on one point:

One survey conducted in 2004 by Bunnyfoot Universality, a U.K.-based web consultancy, determined that as many as nine out of 10 users who clicked on a popular pop-up ad were really just trying to get rid of them and clicked through by accident ‘because the close button was so difficult to find.'”

This means that pop-ups are essentially click fraud. If you advertise online and you buy pop-ups you are most likely overpaying. Nine out of ten accidental clicks means you could be paying 10 times too much for pop-up ads, for clicks that won’t do anything for you.

Don’t take my word for it, take a look your logs. Compare how long a visitor from a pop-up ad spends on your site with how long a visitor from an in-page ad sticks around. I’ll bet most of the pop-up ad people close your site before all the images on your page load.

[Update: MeFi is saying that there was a pop-up on the Wired story, and one person got a screengrab before Wired removed it. Physician heal thyself.]

[Update 2: Adam Penenberg posted a comment apologizing and saying that “the ‘money side’ of the house is investigating the matter.” There is generally a separation of editorial and advertising in news organizations and while it was kind of embarrassing in this instance, it’s a good thing to have a wall between the two. While it prevents a writer who bad mouths pop-ups from keeping pop-ups off their own article, it also prevents an advertiser from telling a writer what they can and can’t say about the advertiser.]

2 thoughts on “Pop-ups are click fraud

  1. George, George, George. It’s not about the click throughs, it’s about the brand recognition. Recognition that your brand is evil and deserves the same level of hate as spammers.

  2. I was as surprised as anyone when a pop-up popped up on my column. I contacted the appropriate Wired News editor and we posted this correction:
    A stream of reader e-mail has come in, pointing out the irony of a columnist (that’s me) criticizing media sites for deploying pop-up ads, only to have his publisher (Wired News) serve up one (for Blockbuster) on this very same column. I hadn’t encountered one on Wired.com in the eight months I’ve been writing this weekly media column, and my editor had assured me the site hadn’t used them since even before then.
    I’d now like to add Wired News to the list of clueless media sites that rely on pop-up ads for additional revenue but who, judging by the reader reaction, may instead be alienating its audience. The “money side” of the house is investigating the matter.
    My apologies.
    –Adam L. Penenberg

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