How publishers can engage with people who use ad blockers

Alex Shellhammer June 2017 Monetization, Programmatic

Consumers today expect their digital experiences to be fast and seamless. If they’re not, the outcome can be costly. One bad ad experience can motivate someone to install an ad blocker, and once that’s done, every publisher on the web pays the price. In 2015 alone, ad blocking cost publishers $21.8 billion.1

As of December 2016, more than 600 million devices — 11% of the world’s entire internet-connected population2 — were running ad blocking software globally. Although people say they use ad blockers for many different reasons, the most common cause cited is that there are simply too many annoying ads.

63% of users installed an ad blocker because of too many ads; 48% of users installed ads because of annoying ads.

Who uses ad blockers, and why?

People who use ad blockers generally fall into the following four groups, represented across the entire demographic spectrum in the U.S. and EU. These groups all respond differently to different types of engagement.

Here are the four groups of people who tend to use ad blockers:

1. People who install ad blockers to protect their privacy: This group values choice and control over their browsing experience, and they are more likely to whitelist a site than disable their ad blocker completely.

2. People who simply don’t want to see ads: This group enjoys the convenience of not seeing ads and will likely move on if they run into any roadblocks or requests. 

3. People who don’t realize they’re using an ad blocker: Many people may have had their ad blocker installed by a friend or family member, or they may be using a browser that automatically enables a “privacy” mode. Either way, this group is open to whitelisting or even disabling their ad blocker as long as it’s a quick and easy process. Make sure you provide simple instructions and avoid using technical terms, such as “whitelisting.” 

4. People who are overwhelmed by intrusive, annoying ads: Many people who use ad blockers want to support good content and don’t object to ads on principle — they are simply overwhelmed by intrusive ads and see ad blocking as their only option. This group is most likely to whitelist a site and are open to reasonable alternatives like paid subscriptions. 

Developing your strategy

There are many ways to work with people who block ads on your site, and they all start with engaging with them directly. When thinking about your messaging strategy, keep in mind who visits your site, why they visit it, and why they block ads. For example, if your visitors don’t realize they’re using an ad blocker, simply pointing this out and explaining how to disable it may be enough to convince them to allow ads on your site.

30% had their ad blockers installed by someone else; 54% do not know what "whitelist" means; 50% have allowed ads on at lease one site.

It helps to show people how often they visit your site to let them know why you are worth supporting. A great way to do this is with article counters that show how often a person visits your site. You can couple this with a “soft” wall that sets a limit on the number of articles a person blocking ads can read.

What to consider when asking people to whitelist your site

Asking people to whitelist your site is one of the most common solutions publishers use to address ad blocking. It’s important to continuously monitor your audience’s responses, and adjust your messaging accordingly. When trying to encourage people to whitelist, here are some tips for your message:

  • Keep it short and to the point.
  • Speak to your audience in your own voice.
  • Give visitors multiple opportunities to see your message; they won’t necessarily convert the first time.
  • Be open and honest, not accusatory, and emphasize how ads support your site. For example, “Help our health experts create more content for you.”
  • Avoid jargon. Instead of whitelisting, say “allow ads.”
  • Remind regular visitors of how often they come to your site. One good way to do this is to use an article counter. For example “You must love us — you’ve consumed 10 articles today. Please consider supporting us by unblocking ads or purchasing an ad-removal pass.”
  • Treat your visitors with respect. The goal is to create a positive browsing experience that keeps them coming back.
How unique is the content? Is the site worth the money/effort to whitelist? Will ads be irritating or inconvenient? Is it less effort to go elsewhere?

Five steps to engaging with people who block ads

When you try to reach people who use ad blockers on your site you need to do so in a way that is respectful and elevating. Be sure to follow the recommendations above, and check off these steps to ensure your message stays on the mark:

  • Remove negative ad experiences from your site.
  • Learn why people use ad blockers on your site.
  • Plan your strategy using whitelist requests, article counters, or paywalls.
  • Design your whitelist request messaging around your audience.
  • Monitor how people respond to your strategy.

The most important thing to remember is to respect your audience’s time and experience, both with the ads you host and with your requests to whitelist. By showing people that visiting your site is part of their routine browsing, it makes a strong argument that your site is worth supporting.

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