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Contextual Rollover Ads Suck

I’m sure you’ve seen them, those double underlined links from Kontera ContentLink, Vibrant Media, Snap. You rollover the link with your mouse, even accidentally, and you get small pop-up window showing you some advertising. I just found a site who has changed the link to a more regular looking single underline. And the word that was chosen as a link was the perfect word to be a helpful link to information at So I put my mouse on the link to click it, and a pop-up ad appeared helpfully suggesting I go to It was a Vibrant Media ad. I looked and there is no way to opt-out of seeing those ads. At least with Kontera ContentLink, I can opt-out, on a site by site basis.

You don’t think that the publisher doesn’t know those ads are annoying? Check out They added ContentLink to their site, and are using it as a reason that you should register with their site. Quote: “Note that registered members see fewer ads, and ContentLink is completely disabled for all logged in members.”

Please reconsider using this type of advertising. It’s intrusive, distracting, and frustrating when things happen on-screen when you aren’t expecting it. And if you do that type of thing, you should never change the default formatting. We web users have had almost 15 years to learn that an underlined text is a link. Don’t change that expectation, it will hurt everyone in the long run.


  1. Matt M says:

    Well thought note….One consideration is that pubishers are spending millions to provide the best content at no cost to viewers so be patient as we (my business deploys vibrant as one of many revenue channels) find a model that pays the bills.

  2. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for writing in. You’re right, although I don’t know what the answer is, but deceptive advertising like ContentLink links that look like a regular link is going to hurt everyone. Yes, web publishers have a responsibility to their shareholders and investors, but they have a greater responsibility to the greater good. I’m not saying all advertising is evil, just that deceptive and annoying advertising is.

    As I wrote in my next blog post, I just today removed all the advertising from my site, despite spending a couple thousand per year of my own cash for my sites. I am trying to support my family by being a stay at home full-time blogger/consultant/web guy. The advertising route wasn’t a good fit for that goal, even though it brought in a couple hundred dollars a month, enough that I the server was paying for itself. Any business plan that involves ContentLink-type advertising I think is a business that is getting desperate. I really think the advertising bug is going to hurt us as a society more than it is going to help us.

  3. mika says:


    I’m from Kontera, I wanted to mention a few points which were overlooked here. Our ads are distinguished from regular links by a double underline. This is a format recognizable by users to be an ad. At Kontera, we do not recommend the option of a single underline. In fact it an option only made possible to publishers who turn to us and request for it specifically.
    I regret to hear you find in-text ads intrusive. We do constantly aim to advance ContentLinks™ and make it satisfying to the taste of both users and publishers.


    Mika Tal
    Publisher Services Manager

  4. Hi Mika,

    Thanks for writing. I’m glad that you use the double underline (usually) since it allows me to leave the page immediately, or if I really want to read the page, I hover over a link and opt-out. I wish you had a global opt-out. I am this close (put two fingers an inch part) to blocking your site (and the other similar systems) entirely from my home network. The rollover ads are very distracting because they are so easy to accidentally activate. Some users get confused by them. Mike

  5. Scott says:

    I can live with the content ads, but for the love of all that is good and decent DON’T make them pop-up when you roll over them.

    This may be even more annoying than the old pop-over ads that would come up when you entered a site.

    Do the developers of these things even use the itnernet themselves? Guys, you need to think of the user experience, lest you run the very real risk of losing the traffic you are so dependent on.

  6. mika says:

    Hi Scott,

    I understand your claim and I’m glad for the opportunity to read it, though I disagree. With pop-up ads, users have no alternative than to have them display in front of them. In-text allows users the choice whether to see the ad or completely ignore it. Moreover, it allows the option to keep a clean looking site as it can serve to lessen banners and other forms of bluntly displayed advertising.
    In-Text is becoming a popular channel for serving additional information to users. It does so by owing its appearance to a user’s active participation.


    Publisher Services Manager

  7. Troy says:

    Mika, I appreciate your being willing to read through these comments, but I’ll have to say that I disagree completely with your statement that users have to have active participation.

    I use a scroll mouse. If my pointer happens to be in the right place (or wrong), while I’m scrolling, I suddenly get a popup that distorts everything I’m reading. While trying to close that one, I can be hit with two or three others.

    I also have no opt-out abilities whatsoever on it, apparently.

    I also disagree with the concept of a ‘clean looking site’ with up to dozens of these fake link lines all over the main content, and often the sidebars as well.

    Computer Consultant