Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ad Blockers: Let's Talk!

A stick figure girl in red dress holding a sign that says Let's Talk.
There are many different adblockers available in the market for a variety of different browsers. But the one most people seem to complain about, is one that seems to be the most well-known. Adblock Plus is a much-used adblocker. Publishers hate it (well, some do - I do not) because so many people use it. According to ABP, 75% of their users don't mind some types of ads, while 25% of their users want to just block everything. Keep in mind that for those users who just want to block every type of ad and refuse to see any advertising at all, nothing you do will make them change their mind.

But AdBlock Plus isn't the villain here. At least, I don't see it that way. In some cases, the problem is the publisher themselves. They have too many ads on a page from too many different ad providers. Or, the ads they use are intrusive, cutting into a person's ability to read content without being interrupted by advertising. Intrusive and annoying ads will create a poor user experience, and may actually lose you visitors, especially if you are begging them to turn it off.

AdBlock Plus has a feature called "Acceptable Ads", and the criteria for acceptable ads isn't hard to understand, even for users who are less web-savvy. You can turn on, or turn off the Acceptable Ads feature. Some will just leave it off and see no ads, either because they just simply hate ads period, or because they aren't sure how to use it, or how to change it.

A wide variety of different advertising companies and ad types found on the web.
Is it any wonder people use adblockers when
faced with this sort of assault?
If you go to ABP's website, you can see the criteria for acceptable ads. The first thing to note there is the ad placement. Have a look at what isn't acceptable ... see that red block in the middle of all the text? If you've got ad placements like that on your site, you don't fit the acceptable ads criteria.

And note that ABP has the same criteria as Adsense does for being able to tell the difference between ads, and content. Ads should clearly be different than the content so visitors aren't fooled into thinking the ad is content. There are other criteria on ABPs acceptable ads list, such as the size of ads used, on what type of pages ads should be displayed, the colours and styles of ads allowed for acceptability. If your site qualifies, you can apply at ABP's site to be added to the acceptable ads list.

I'm guessing a bunch of you will go running off to the site to apply, without meeting the qualifications for inclusion on the list so, prepare to be disappointed.

It's interesting to note that ABP also uses the requirement of having lots of content on a page. If there is no primary content, or not enough primary content, you shouldn't have ads on the page.

A stick figure girl in pink dress holding a stop sign.
They also have a list of ads that aren't considered as acceptable and don't qualify for the "Acceptable Ads" listing in ABP. Such things as ads that refresh when the page isn't refreshed (so, ads that rotate would be included in that), animated ads, ads with auto play sound or video ads, expanding ads, oversized ads, interstitial ads, overlay ads, pop ups and popunders, and rich media ads. That's a long list of "no-no's", so if you use these types of ads on your site, you are more likely to find adblocking users aren't seeing them at all.

The problem here is that advertising providers (including AdSense) produce these types of ads. In some cases, publishers have the option of not using some of those ad types on their sites. But the ad providers really are the ones who need to adjust the types of ads they serve if they don't want people blocking their ads. With their efforts to entice visitors to have some interest in the advertising, they've stepped over the bounds of what many people consider acceptable.

Publishers need to take note as well, because with too many ads and too many things moving on your site, people will simply block everything, they won't just pick and choose which ads to block.

Even if your site makes it onto the AcceptableAds list, you may still have lots of adblocking visitors. Part of that is because visitors may not understand how adblockers can be customized to their own needs, so instead of notices begging people to turn off their adblockers, try educating them instead. Explain the ease of making the adblocker work to block overloaded sites, or intrusive ads, or specific ad urls and how they whitelist sites they trust.

With so many publishers complaining about adblockers, everyone is looking for a solution. The solution isn't to badger visitors because no matter how great your content is, similar content can be found on dozens of other sites. Sites that are ad-free, or that don't care if people use adblockers. By using the wrong solution, you could be driving your would-be visitors onto another site that doesn't hassle them about their adblocker.

Of course, in the end the decision is yours to make but if you aren't going to be part of solution, there's no point in complaining about the problem. Complainers don't help fix things. Bold turn-off notices don't help. More ads doesn't help. I'm no expert, and like many others, I don't really know how to fix it.

What I do know is how not to annoy my visitors even further.

posted by J. Gracey Stinson


  1. I wonder, in the presence of free ad blockers like the ABP that also have the option of allowing "Acceptable Ads", what would be the purpose of Google launching its new service " Google Contributor " and whether it could be successful (as it offers the same services at a price)? This question needs to be answered because Google undertakes a plenty of research before implementing its strategies.

    1. That's not something I can really answer. Google Contributor isn't an AdSense product and since I don't personally use Contributor nor agree with it much, I have very little knowledge about it.


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