When I’m researching a topic to either write about or implement a technique on one of my own sites, I usually end up visiting a couple dozen different blogs at a minimum. During this time I get to experience each site as a reader, except that I have this heightened sense of awareness about what the author is trying to accomplish. I suspect its similar to how a screenwriter watches a movie and how he can detect certain subtleties that most regular movie-goers completely miss.
During each blog visit I get to see and read about what these webmasters are doing to obtain traffic and keep readers on their site or coming back for more. I find a lot of great information, but there’s also certain tactics that bother me as a reader, so I could never implement them on my own even if they worked.
Even though there is probably evidence that some/most/all of these tactics work, does it make sense to use these techniques if as a reader you find them repelling? Is the definition of being a successful blog owner mean doing whatever it takes to get people on your site to make more money? Believe me, I would love to make enough blog money to hang up the nine to five, but I don’t want to do it at the expense of what I consider ethical either.
Here’s a list of things I find rather bothersome when I’m visiting other sites.
- In-text Advertising – In-text advertisements are those double underlined words you see in text that pop up an image ad when you hover over the link. If you’re like me and always have your hand on the mouse while you’re reading, you’ve probably hovered over these annoyances countless times. If I see this kind of advertisement on a site, I immediately hit the back button. You might have the most interesting and helpful information in the world, but I’m never going to read it. All I will be to you is a bounce rate statistic.
- Interstitial Advertising – Interstitial ads are usually those big full screen pages that some websites will have you visit before you get to the actual content you requested. When pop ups became the equivalent of spam (find me a browser that does not include a pop up blocker), interstitial ads took its place to bypass the pop up blocker. Surprisingly this invasive ad type is still used by some of the bigger companies. In my search for ethical website traffic generation, I came across a Forbes article that uses this approach. Luckily in most forms, there is a “Continue to Site” or “Skip Ad” button that allows you to bypass it immediately.
- Forced Sharing for Content – I’m starting to see this talked about and implemented more and more, but I find it a bit offensive. Here’s how it works. You click a link in your search engine results expecting to view specific content, but when you arrive at the site it says you have to like us on Facebook or tweet us on Twitter to get to the content. I’m sorry, but that’s just shady. You wouldn’t put up with that in the real world, and you shouldn’t online either. Can you imagine your local library saying you have to send out a tweet before you can take that book out?
- No Control Video Ads – I’m finding more and more news story headlines end up linking to videos when I’m expecting (hoping for) text. Videos are fine sometimes, but I still prefer to read new articles once in awhile. The problem with video is the forced ads at the beginning. If there is not a skip option within a few seconds, I hit the back button. Some sites also have smaller videos that will start to play automatically after a certain amount of time that drive me crazy. (Are you listening Weather Channel?)
- Pop up Newsletter Subscription Box – This is one I’m sure people will disagree with because I’ve read how subscription rates can rise when using this method. This is probably the only one on the list I could be persuaded to try at some point, but for now I’m just not too fond of it because from a readers point of view, I find it’s a minor annoyance. I don’t think I’ve ever signed up for someones newsletter from that initial site popup. It wouldn’t dissuade me from signing up if I was interested in what this person had to say, but I think it’s just second nature for me to close pop ups without paying close attention to them.
Remember, this list is only my opinion based on how I feel as a reader. There’s plenty of extremely profitable sites out there using these techniques with great success, so it’s simply a matter of being comfortable (or not) using these methods. I’d just rather keep my site as user friendly as possible, and there’s no better judge of that than using your own moral compass for guidance.
While I’m on the topic of what users find intrusive or annoying, there’s something I noticed about the Bidvertiser ads on my site that I’m really not happy about. They run a number of image ads that make it appear that you’re missing a plugin. I think these types of ads are cheesy and deceptive and if there’s a way I can block them from displaying, I think I will. Not only is it misleading to visitors, but it also gives the appearance that there might be something wrong with my website with those animated constantly spinning wheels looking like they’re trying to load.
Since the point of this article was to express my feelings about invasive actions I don’t want to participate in, I guess these ads might not apply, but the “false illusion of broken” still bothers me. It reminds me of those links you click that looks like its scanning your computer and its found malicious programs, and when you close it, you are redirected to a site selling malware or antivirus protection.
So, do you think it’s more important to use the techniques that work regardless of how they might be perceived, or do you think it’s important to consider what adverse effects they could possibly have? Even spam and pop up advertising can work, but is it worth it long term? Probably not. Do you remember the X10 pop up blitz years ago? That worked incredibly well from a branding perspective, but there was also the negative backlash it caused by the intrusive nature of the ads delivery method.
Maybe successful websites are like successful politicians. You don’t get that close to the top without pissing off a lot of people or making a boat load of enemies along the way. You think?