Tag Archives: content

You Can Check Out But You Can Never Leave

Has anybody else noticed the rush to include “exit hover ads” on websites recently? You know, those ads that pop up the second you move your mouse off the page to click on a “favorite” or “back” button on your browser? A lot of times they want to give you a survey or a special offer or get you to sign up for a newsletter.

Whatever form they take, they always come off as desperate. Like an overly tired child grabbing onto your leg as you try to sneak out of their birthday party, you can almost hear Roger Rabbit spitting out the words “Ppppppplease don’t go” as the ad appears. Meanwhile, these hovering ads ignore current pop-up blocking technology and stubbornly obscure the contents of the page until you click them away.

Do a Google search for “exit hover ad,” and you’ll find a boatload of companies telling you how effective they are (because they want to sell you a plug-in to create them, of course). That’s not unexpected, but what is a little surprising is that we humans never seem to learn our lessons.

Pop-up blockers are in demand because people hate pop-ups. Newsflash: people only invent blockers for things they don’t want to see (Is there a Jenny McCarthy blocker? There should be.) And yet misguided marketing hacks across the globe have convinced themselves that the short-term results of circumventing pop-up blockers (“I’ll fill out your stupid survey if you just leave me alone…”) are worth the long-term consequences (“… but I’m never coming to your website again.”).

At least most of these companies have the good sense to stop showing you the ad once a cookie is in your browser (indicating that you are a return visitor). But for many, that might be too late.

I’ll bet the folks behind these ads are the same geniuses who decided that it was a good idea to run all of the radio commercials at one time at the end of the hour. “People hate it when commercials interrupt their music, so let’s tell them we’ve got ‘at least 50 minutes commercial free’  then run all of the ads at once!” Brilliant! Now listeners know exactly when they should change the channel!

People wouldn’t hate radio commercials so much if there were simply fewer of them. Two or three songs, then a thirty second commercial? No big deal. The same can be said of web ads. Put them on the side so they appear at the same time I am reading the content? No problem. Show me a fifteen second pre-roll commercial before my YouTube video? Sure.

But history illustrates that humans simply cannot tell when enough is enough. Greed sets in, and you hear “if some is good, then more is better,” or in the case of these exit hover ads, “if a user choosing to visit our website is good, then forcing them to read and dismiss an ad is even better!”

And therein lies the irony: If your website content is good enough, you don’t need to force users to read an ad before they leave – because they won’t want to leave. They’ve already chosen to come to your site, isn’t that good enough? Now you won’t let them go on their way? How would you like it if your favorite restaurant locked you in until you read the dessert menu? (“Please, just give me the tiramisu, I only want to see my family again!”)

If users aren’t hearing your story from your site without showing them a pop-up ad, then your site isn’t doing a good job of telling your story. Period.

Start improving your content before you start adding exit hover ads. Users will appreciate it, and that’s the kind of relationship that really pays off in the end.

Your Website Will Never Be Finished

I am spending my summer, as I often do, preparing for fall. I teach at a local university (in addition to my work here with {code} Roadies), and this year I have two classes dealing with the creation of digital content for the internet. As I have reviewed textbooks, I’ve come across an interesting contradiction: most authors that write books about the subject of digital content readily admit that their texts are out of date long before they actually make it to print.

Why do they keep writing them? Why do we keep using them? I suppose it’s because they offer a solid – if outdated – way to teach the history and fundamentals of the subject. However, my classes this fall will also feature a lot of supplemental online reading and video viewing from more current sources.

The point of this post isn’t to pick on the inadequacies of textbooks, but rather to illustrate the unrelenting march of technology on the web. The content you place on your website doesn’t really fare much better than that offered by the poor textbook authors toiling away on their old Smith Corona typewriters, chain smoking cigarettes with their Wite-out stained fingers (see, even my imagination is outdated when it comes to the process of writing textbooks). Minutes, days, weeks – months if you’re really lucky – and your content is out of date and in need of a refresher.

Just like that neighbor who keeps tinkering on his 1972 Barracuda but doesn’t take it out of his garage, a website can never really be finished. It is a living, breathing organism that either keeps growing and changing or it dies – search engines ignore it, users bypass it and sooner or later technology simply buries it (R.I.P. Flash – thanks for crashing our computers for all those years).

So give up on the idea that your website is done. Websites, by their very nature, cannot be finished. That’s why a good CMS like WordPress is so important. Just as I am teaching my students how to continually update the web with fresh, engaging content, you, too, need to make a commitment to keeping your online properties (from websites to social media pages) as current as possible. WordPress simply makes it easier to do.

Time to embrace change as a way of life on the web. It makes your life less stressful and your business more attractive to your customers.