According to Signal, a marketing technology company, 45 million Americans and almost 200 million people worldwide use ad-blocking software. One popular brand is Adblocker Plus, which is available as a free Firefox extension; other frequently used brands are Norton Anti-Virus and uBlock.
In China and India, ad-blocking browsers such as UC Browser and Maxthon are gaining in popularity, and UC Browser has over 500 million users at the moment. For mobile surfers, the new iOS9 system is equipped with ad-blocking functions.
What this means for online publishers is that they have lost about $22 billion in potential revenue in 2015 alone due to ad-blocking technology. According to PageFair’s (an ad-block cognizant advertising company) estimates, even Google lost $1.86 billion in 2014 due to ad-blockers. And this was in spite of the search giant paying Adblocker a hefty sum of $25 million to whitelist many of its AdSense ads (i.e., turn them into ‘Acceptable Ads‘).
What is ad-blocking?
The practice of actively blocking the ads of online publishers is called ad-blocking. These ads can take several forms including image, pop-up, audio, text, etc. Typically, ad-blocking software programs target a common feature of online ads, such as the fact that many are based on Adobe Flash or Shockwave, or that they use HTML5 autoplay. Based on this common feature, those ads are ‘filtered,’ i.e., not shown to viewers.
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Most ad block filters are triggered by the following qualities of an ad:
- Specific ad size graphics (e.g., 125×125.jpg)
- Specifically-named URLs and files (e.g., /banner-ad.jpg, click.zip)
- URLs to specific ad servers (e.g., FastClick)
For consumers, the benefits of ad-blocking include faster upload times, improved privacy, a longer battery life, and a cleaner web layout. For mobile users who pay for their data, ad-blocking has the added benefit of saving data plan money. Finally, because many online ads are riddled with viruses and malware, blocking ads reduces the risk of computers becoming infected.
How to get around ad-blocking and still advertise
As an affiliate marketer or online publisher, you are well-advised to learn about ad-blockers and exactly how they operate to block ads. Based on the listed “universal” qualities of the ad-blocking filters noted above, taking action to bypass them becomes self-explanatory.
Don’t label your ads as ads.
If you are organizing your ads into folders on your CMS (content management system), don’t name those folders “ads” or “click ads,” for example. The same rule holds true if you are using ad management software or plugins- remove advertising and marketing labels from any software files that even vaguely hint of advertising and marketing.
Use unique block sizes.
Many ad-blocking platforms target standard graphics block sizes like 125×125 and 120×60. To get around this filter, generate image sizes that are non-standard; for example, create an image size that is 475×50 instead of the typical 468×60. Taking this action is critical to not just getting your actual ads displayed, but even your non-ad blocks, such as those that contain your own profile photo or business logo.
Host your files locally and link them with resources.
Maintain image files and other resources on your own server, if possible, which lessens the likelihood of them being associated with an ad network.
If you have ads that you know are going to get blocked, link those ads to a piece of collateral such as a white paper. Then, inform your readers that they will need to disable their ad-blocking program in order to view, share or download the collateral properly. Sure, it’s sneaky. But it works.
Engage in quality content marketing.
Marketing gurus have been preaching for a few years now about the value of content marketing. Now, it seems like there’s more reason than ever before to lessen the focus on classic ads and pop-ups in favor of informative media and rich content.
In that spirit, spend more time generating quality blog posts, reviews, infographics, videos and podcasts. You can still mention products and services within your content, by the way, but it won’t be as obvious.
If you must advertise, style accordingly.
If you absolutely must place an ad on your website or blog, follow this style guide so that your ad falls in line with what Adblock Plus calls ‘Acceptable Ads.’ Here is a synopsis of what you need to be aware of:
1. Ads cannot act as a pop-up and or need to be shut down in order to view content.
2. Ads should not interrupt the reading flow; i.e., be placed in the middle of a page or require scrolling in order to view content.
3. Ads should be clearly marked as ‘advertisement’ and offer the viewer an easy-to-see button to close them.
4. Text links should be no more than 2% of the total words and should lead only to the intended destination pages.
Once you have styled your ads accordingly, you may wish to contact Adblocker Plus and have one of their agents look over your website. If it meets their criteria for having unobtrusive advertising, your site will be whitelisted.
The Bottom Line
While the future of adblocking has yet to be fully realized, the current trend towards ad blocking means that affiliate marketers, retailers and other advertisers must become more savvy about how they showcase their ads. By complying with a defined set of stylistic guidelines, you should be able to bypass many ad blocking programs and retain your marketing revenue.