After recently judging a large number of real estate Web sites for a contest, I was amazed by the number of agents who still actively use automatic "pop-up" boxes on their homepages.

You know the kind, they jump out at you (without your consent) every time you visit the site's homepage, usually asking for personal information or pushing a free newsletter, report or other exciting notice.

While this may appear to be a great use of technology by those who utilize them, it is likely that the agents in question have substantially underestimated just how much consumers dislike the perceived intrusion that pop-up boxes create.

Not only are there a growing number of software programs available on the web, and in stores, designed specifically to block such misuse of the Internet, but now Earthlink (a leading Internet Service Provider) is promising to block these promotional tricks for its members as a way to attract new subscribers, and keep existing ones happy.

According to news reports, executives at Earthlink describe pop-up boxes as "one of the most frequently cited annoyances on the Internet" - which is not really news to the average Internet user.

What is surprising news is just how many real estate agents and brokers, even tech-savvy ones, do not fully understand or respect their Web site visitor's wants and needs.

Why else would a real estate professional, hoping to capture a prospect worth literally thousands of dollars, use such tactics when they are so clearly disliked by the majority of consumers?

As far as I can tell, there are three misguided reasons that real estate Web sites often contain automatic pop-up marketing messages:

  1. The site's owner simply does not realize how much consumer resistance exists to these tactics.
  2. The agent may feel that a single pop-up window isn't really that intrusive, while failing to realize that the same pop-up window is displayed every time the consumer returns to the Home Page; which can add up to viewing and closing the same window numerous times within just one visit to the site.
  3. They have no idea how much business this tactic is actually costing them!

Of the three reasons, it's the last one that's so insidious. Most agent who use automatic pop-up windows will gladly tell you that many consumers who visit their site will respond to them; and some certainly do.

What is missing from their radar is just how many prospects get fed up with the intrusion and leave the site entirely. With a single prospect representing the potential for thousands of dollars in commissions, there are just two questions that these agents and brokers must ask themselves:

  1. How many of the visitors who responded to an automatic pop-up window would not have still responded to a well-designed and placed offer that did not utilize such tactics?
  2. Is this number likely to be greater than the traffic you are driving away from your site?

Of course, few (if any) consumers will take the time to email a site's owner to tell them that they have abandoned the site, and why. Instead, they just move on to your competitor's sites, until they find one that offers what they are looking for without the hassles.

If any real estate professional still maintains that such marketing methods are productive, then put yourself in the consumer's position and answer these questions for yourself:

  1. What percentage of pop-up advertisement do you responded to with your business?
  2. Do you even read such pop-up windows anymore, or simply close them as quickly as they open?
  3. How many sites have you left, or never revisited, simply because their use of automatic pop-up windows slowed your access to information and just plain irritated you?

Finally, and most importantly, what makes you think the prospects on your site are any different?


Copyrighted with all rights reserved by Stephen M. Canale