Ad blocking is an emerging technology which allows a user to hide advertisements on websites they visit. Recently ad blocking has reached a fever pitch. Apple joined the movement with it’s iOS 9 update. This move triggered a media frenzy adding fuel to the fire and introducing ad blocking to millions of new users who were previously unaware.
The highest usage levels are seen in websites targeting the technology/gaming verticals and male/millennial demographics. Those ad blocking levels were estimated to me be some major publishers to be around 40% of all site visitors. Other verticals and demographics have been estimated as low as 5%. But, don’t make the mistake of think your site is immune. If left unchecked ad blocking will come for us all.
Every publisher should be taking ad blockers seriously. The technology threatens to erode website advertising inventory of sites with good and bad user experiences alike. If a user makes the decision to block advertising from their browser it will block them from your site when they visit whether you like it or not. I have gathered a few guidelines to follow to help reduce the spread of ad blocking
Put your user experience first
Installing ad blockers is response to publishers who the user feels have prioritized advertising revenue before the user experience of the website. When making advertising decisions the first question you ask should always be, “How will this affect my user experience?” If the experience would annoy you then it may annoy the user enough for them to install an ad blocker.
Educate your users
As an industry, we can do a better job of educating our users about why we sell advertising. The advertising space pays for the rest of the site to be free and can provide some value when ads correctly move people through the purchasing funnel. Don’t be afraid to explain the advertising on your website to disgruntled users.
Measure your site’s ad blocking level regularly
Things never seem to be quite as scary when they are well understood. The same holds true for ad blocking. If advertising makes up a significant part of your business model you should consider having a technology vendor measure the user traffic on your site which has ad blockers installed. By understanding the level of impact ad blocking currently has on your business you can will be able to make better decisions moving forward.
Two good options for this are Moat and PageFair. Though I haven’t worked with either of these particular vendors they do come highly recommended to me by some of the largest publishers in America. Typically, they work by applying two pixels to your website. One is for ‘baiting’ the ad blocker into blocking it by using information known to get blocked by ad blockers. The other uses information known to be safe from ad blockers. The vendors can then use the ratio to approximate the number of users who are blocking ads. Moat can provide more detailed analysis such as geography and device.
If you do not have the budget to work with a provider thenthere is also a good option to use some open source code which the IAB can provide you with to make similar measurements.
Be more strict with ad quality
People simply don’t install ad blockers because of just a few animated gifs per page. People install ad blockers because of intrusive ads with large file sizes who eat up their data and slow down page load times. Most of these issue can be resolved by having a tighter grip on you ad quality. If you know of major threats like ads redirecting people to an app sore, take it seriously. Consider showing your own house ads for impressions who bid below a certain threshold. Bad ads are often served by the lowest bidders. It could be more beneficial in the long term to not monetize those impressions.
Implement a pay wall
Looking for a last report? If you have a great user experience and keep ad quality high, but, still find ad blockers eating into your revenue, then you may need to find an option of last resort. Some publishers prompt users who have ad blockers installed to choose one of three options, whitelist the site from the ad blocker, pay a monthly subscription fee for accessing the content ad free, or leave. Most users are apparently choosing to allow ads and continue accessing the content for free.