Adblockers Aren’t Bad for Business
Just Make Sure Your Ads Don’t Annoy
I installed my first ad blocker when I got tired of streaming music stations interrupting the music with ads that seemed to be twice as loud as the songs. I felt like the advertisers were yelling at me, and my choice was to buy a subscription or simply choose another free service.
I understood that the service had to play ads to survive, but they were beyond irritating.
With Apple’s approval – and then disapproval – of adblocking tools for iPhones, several major companies have addressed issues surrounding adblocking software.
Last week, I turned off the one I use on my desktop. I figured that working in this industry, it’s probably best to see just what the average consumer sees. There are also some ethical issues to consider, and we’ll get to them later in this post.
What are Adblockers?
Adblockers are usually browser extensions or mobile phone apps that prevent websites from pulling up ads from certain advertisers. For example, imagine a blog that has an agreement with an ad server to display targeted ads. The remarketing company keeps track of users via cookies and other techniques.
When a user visits the blog, the ad server company sends a targeted ad to the site. If there is an ad blocker installed, the site and the ad server can’t communicate and ads won’t display.
Some advertising groups and websites have agreements with ad-blockers that allow “acceptable” ads. Often, ads that are considered acceptable are just text and links, without video or images.
How Common are They?
According to a report from Reuters, 47 percent of computer users in the U.S. regularly use adblocking software. In the UK, that figure is 39 percent. According to the same study, more than a third of people have felt disappointed or deceived by ads online.
People under 35 use adblockers the most often.
Another study, this one done in conjunction with Adobe, found that adblockers will cost publishers about $22 billion in 2015 alone. The sites that have ads blocked are gaming sites and social networking sites, followed closely by tech/internet sites and educational ones. But no site is immune.
The truth is that Adblockers can make for a better browsing experience. In addition to letting you skip obnoxious ads, these extensions make pages load faster and can help prevent viruses. They can also interfere with cookies, and that makes your browsing experience more private. All of this saves battery life.
Are they Ethical and Fair?
Adblockers essentially steal money from publishers, say opponents of adblocking software. That’s because rather than charging subscription fees, these publishers make their money from showing you ads. Some have called it “highway robbery.”
But they don’t have to be bad for your business.
People who use adblockers aren’t just being stingy. They often point to the ways they improve the browsing experience. They’re giving attention to the publishers and engaging with their content, and they don’t ever click on ads anyway, they say. In addition, they don’t want websites to track them, so they’re just protecting themselves.
I understand both points of view. Coming from the news industry, I am fully aware of how hard it is to monetize content online. I also understand the value of online news and I think it’s vital as we move into the digital age. It’s only fair to pay for this value, it seems.
From the opposite perspective, I agree that being tracked can be invasive. Without an adblocking extension, there are some sites I just won’t visit.
Wherever you stand on the issue, you can’t ignore it.
What Can You Do About Them?
Whether you’re publishing ads or buying them, this (perfectly legal) technology will affect your business. But there are ways around it.
- Get on Ad Servers’ Approved Lists: Since most advertisers have agreements of some kind with adblocking software companies, you can seek those ad servers out and make sure your ads are on the approved list. While Google has yet to define specific criteria for what counts as an acceptable ad, many other companies have done so.
- Try Native Advertising: This is the kind of advertising that appears on a site as part of the regular content. It’s harder to target customers this way because the ads are static, but adblockers can rarely differentiate these ads from site content. One method of native advertising is to populate your site with ads for your company, including things like newsletter sign-up boxes and coupons. The more opportunities you give your customers to convert, the more they will. Another way to use native advertising is to make deals directly with the sites on which you want your ads to appear.
- Don’t Post Annoying Ads: I recognize that the purpose of ads is to get your customer’s attention, but tread lightly. If your ads are bouncy and garish, or if they interrupt the user’s experience, your reputation will take a hit.
- Check grammar and include good writing and high-quality photos. Be impressive.
- Avoid deceptive ads, and make sure that your ads don’t install any malware.
- Consider the entire user experience – not just whether you’re getting noticed. If your ad gets clicked, make sure the user gets a relevant, high-quality landing page.
- Avoid showing the same user identical ads over and over again
- Don’t use vibrating ads for mobile devices or show ads that jump all over the screen
- Don’t use ads that autoplay sound or video.
- Be cautious with expanding pop-ups or mouse-over ads.
- If you do use autoplay or pop-ups, make sure it’s easy for users to find the close button. You don’t want those unqualified leads anyway.
- Make sure your ads don’t slow page load times. This can be tricky technically, but it will be worth it in the end.
Opt for Useful, Relevant Ads
While some users say they never click on ads, the truth is that we all buy things. That’s proof that advertising works. Just think about the popularity of Sunday papers, which are chock full of ads, or glossy magazines, where the ads themselves are part of the value of the publication.
Get to know your users and learn about what they want, and then test your ads carefully. Then, make it easy for users to determine which type of ads they want to see.
Imagine a user who just broke off an engagement, for example. He might have been searching for rings for months, but now never wants to see them again. Instead, you could be showing him ads for sporting gear or furniture or … anything else, really. Let this user tell you what he wants to see, and your business will benefit.
What’s the Future of Adblockers?
The adblocker trend isn’t going away, but advertisers are in a game of cat-and-mouse and will eventually find more ways to get around the apps and extensions.
More and more people will likely install adblockers, according to the Adobe study. At the same time, the software and the users will become more sophisticated. That will probably mean better ads from the ad servers, and more ways for users to choose what they want to see.
As for me, I’m already tempted to turn my adblockers back on. I don’t want to hear noisy ads for car insurance, and I already have way too many pairs of shoes. Make it stop.
I must say, though, that if my loading times slow down too much or if I am pestered by too many obnoxious ads, I probably will go back to the safe haven of adblocking.
Where do you stand on the issue?