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.