From the March 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

Entry pop-ups are annoying. Online consumers hate arriving at a website, only to be immediately bombarded by an in-your-face message intended to distract them into taking the action the website owner wants. The pop-up message is almost never relevant, and the timing is so inappropriate that it can annoy visitors into leaving. So are pop-ups dead? Not exactly. There's a pop-up which, if relevant and timed right, can be an effective and nonintrusive marketing tool: exit pop-ups.

Since they're displayed as visitors leave the site, exit pop-ups don't distract your potential customers from completing their mission: conducting research, placing an order or some other action. At the end of their visit, they're more receptive to seeing your marketing message. You can use an exit pop-up to do one of two things:

1. Invite them to take additional action. You can create a pop-up to invite your website visitors to subscribe to your e-zine, download a special report, request a free quote or shop now to receive a discount. These may encourage your site visitors to order before they go, or at least give you their names and e-mail addresses so you may communicate with them in the future.

2. Ask them to complete a survey. You can learn from your visitors how to improve your site by asking a few survey questions in your exit pop-up. Ask three or fewer questions, and offer a list of possible answers. You could ask questions about who your visitors are, what they want or what they didn't find on your site.

You could even use an exit pop-up to survey visitors and market to them simultaneously. For example, if you have a gift-basket site, you could ask which kinds of baskets they're interested in and invite them to sign up for your online gift-reminder service.

While entry pop-ups often fail because they're inappropriately timed and irrelevant, exit pop-ups can help you serve your marketing objectives and your potential customers. You may persuade them to stay longer now and return later.

Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Seda owns an internet marketing agencyand is author of Search Engine Advertising.