Growing popularity of ad blocking highlights best practice for website owners
As software that allows website visitors to block ads and other third party content becomes increasingly popular publishers are rightly worrying about the future implications for their ad revenues.
But as more people use ad blockers there are some useful lessons for website owners and content creators that can help them strike a balance between providing a great online experience and making some money.
By getting that balance right, publishers can protect themselves from revenue-damaging software and also improve their chances of achieving their conversion goals.
A recent survey by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), a UK-based trade association, revealed that ad blocking is driven by certain types of ads on certain sites and not a universal objection to seeing any advertising anywhere on the web.
And when presented with the prospect of having to pay for content, the vast majority would rather keep the ads and get the content for free.
Why people block ads
The IAB survey also highlighted some of the best practice website owners can adopt, not only to avoid prompting users to turn to ad blocking software, but also to avoid turning away potential customers.
When asked about the factors that would make them less likely to block ads the most common responses were seeing ads that didn’t interfere with what they were doing (48 per cent); seeing fewer ads on the page (36 per cent); and seeing ads that were more relevant to their interests (14 per cent).
These findings are consistent with separate research identifying some of the common pitfalls that cost website owners traffic and conversions. A study published in the Journal of Marketing earlier this year, for example, showed that sites burying their content with annoying ads performed less well against a number of metrics.
“The practice of running annoying ads can cost more money than it earns, as people are more likely to abandon sites on which they are present,” the study’s authors said. “In addition, in the presence of annoying ads, people were less accurate in remembering what they had read.”
On the flip side, sites that follow best practice can reap the rewards with more visitors, an improved user experience and more conversions. For example, brands that are able to build awareness and trust with their audience see much more positive response to their online ads.
Research published in the Journal of Retailing in July revealed that the most trusted brands could see improved clickthrough rates of up to 27 per cent.
What publishers can do to protect their revenue streams
A traditional publisher like a newspaper group must feel constantly under attack from the internet. The digital revolution has eroded their circulation numbers, decimated their classified ad revenue and forced most of them to give their content away for free.
Online ads are a life-raft for many of the old publishing companies struggling to reconcile their cost structures with the modern day reality of newer, leaner, slicker competitors like Facebook and Google. Ad blocking threatens to puncture that life-raft.
In response, some publishers are returning the favour by denying access to visitors running ad blockers on their browsers. To get at their content, those visitors will need to disable the software or white list the publisher.
This might sound drastic, but the results of the IAB survey suggest website owners might be open to it. A decent chunk of respondents said they didn’t object to all ads and would also rather see ads than have to pay for content.
Brands that follow best practice with their advertising and can make the case to visitors that content is only free because of the ads stand a decent chance of avoiding full on ad blocking Armageddon.