Google Chrome and Ad Blocking in 2018

b2b publishers audience development

A few years ago, ad blockers were on the verge of destroying digital publishing.

At least, that’s what a few headlines seemed to suggest.

The rapid adoption of ad blocking technology was cutting off publishers from more and more ad revenue, leading to warnings of a coming Adblockalypse. Members of the UK Association of Digital Publishers were losing $660,000 per year to ad blockers. Worse, it was predicted that ad blockers would cost publishers $35 billion by the year 2020.

While adoption of ad blockers has tapered off and publishers have found ways to curb losses, this doesn’t mean the issue has faded out for good. A major update to Google Chrome—along with a changing publishing industry—means brands must take steps to secure their ad revenue.

Wait, what’s up with Google Chrome?

The most recent development in the ad blocking arms race is Google Chrome’s new built-in ad blocker. Released in February 2018, this feature blocks all ads from pages that don’t meet standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads.

Some of those standards include:

  • Large, sticky ads that take up more than 30% of the screen
  • Autoplaying video ads with sound
  • Prestitial ads with countdowns before content is displayed
  • Full-screen scrollover ads that obstruct content on mobile

If any of those sound like your own on-site ads, it’s probably best to reconsider your ad strategy. Changes to a single browser might not sound like a big deal, but when Google Chrome has nearly 60% of the browser market share, missing the mark on ad quality means missing out on 60% of your ad revenue.

Generally, publishers are cool with the idea of making ads better. It’s giving one company control of these decisions that they have a problem with, especially when the company in question is one-half of a duopoly that gets nearly 60% of all digital ad revenueWhen Google holds all the cards, brands have no choice but to adapt.

Fortunately, only about 1% of publishers fell short of the Coalition’s standards, and about a third of these publishers managed to correct their ads before the ad blocker went into effect.

That frees publishers up to think of ways to combat the broader effect of ad blockers on their bottom line.

3 Ways to Hold on to Your Ad Revenue

With the ad-driven business model under attack by everything from Google to GDPR. companies are on the hunt for ways to diversify revenue. Of course, not all publishers can monetize behind a paywall, and even those who do certainly aren’t abandoning ad revenue entirely.

So how can publishers cope with ad-blocking users and keep generating money with ads?

Improve the on-site ad experience

Ultimately, the goal of the Google Chrome ad blocker is, paradoxically, to keep people from using ad blockers. After all, it was an increasingly poor ad experience that caused users to adopt ad blockers in droves in the first place.

A renewed focus on the user experience could restore audience trust and maybe even lead these audiences to drop their ad blockers.

Improving the experience could mean showing better ads, or it could mean showing fewer ads, as publishers like National Revenue and Meredith discovered. An abundance of ads leads to longer load times, which can push your site further down in search results. Trimming down your ad load might mean additional search traffic, as well as repeat visits, both contributing to ad revenue down the line.

Identify ad blockers and give them options

From showing video ads to mining cryptocurrency, publishers have shown no shortage of creativity in handling ad blocking users. Still, the most common approach is simply asking users to turn them off.

It could be a soft ask, where you ask audiences to turn off ad blockers but still allow those audiences to access content, even if they keep blocking. Other publishers might go with a hard ask, where ad blocking users are met with a content wall unless they drop the blocker.

The success of a soft ask could come down to the messaging.  Try testing different copy to see what tone resonates with your audience.

For investigative journalism, this might be an appeal to the importance of your content; for lighter fare, it might be humor. German publisher Bento experimented with displaying a box telling ad blockers, “If you don’t whitelist us, we will kill this kitten.” Whether it was this stab at humor or a follow-up clarification that they were joking that did the trick, it worked.

Like hard paywalls, a hard ad blocker wall will likely lead to bounces. Unless your content serves a specific niche, they’ll probably be able to find similar content elsewhere. Then again, if these visitors were running ad blockers, it’s not like you were monetizing them anyway.

For anti-ad-blocking measures to be successful, you must have a relationship with your audience. Or, at the very least, your audience must have some awareness of your value. That way, audiences will sympathize and maybe drop their blockers. But how do you build that relationship?

Get the email address

Getting a user’s email address is a way to turn them from a casual observer into an audience you can have a relationship with. This is someone who will come back to your site and view your content again and again, perhaps eventually trusting you enough to let ads through.

Rather than asking your audience just to do something for you, collecting the email address allows you to offer a value exchange in the form of newsletters. By connecting users with a convenient way to view content, you also gain a channel to market indefinitely to them. Visitors from email view more content than visitors from other channels, giving you additional opportunities to display ads.

Best of all, it gives you one more way to diversify revenue.

Monetizing your content with email

Not only is email an effective way to drive more page views, it’s an additional place to serve advertisements. In-email ads are the perfect way to recoup lost ad revenue because they’re:

  • Less susceptible to ad blockers
  • Served to a known, targeted audience
  • Displayed in a focused environment
  • Potentially able to command higher CPMs

By opting into your email, your audience has indicated interest in a particular subject. This is attractive to advertisers, who know they can reach a captive audience with relevant ads. You can drive even more revenue in the inbox by serving programmatic ads in your email or even using dedicated sends once or twice a month.

While ad blockers come between you and your revenue, email can help reconnect you with it.

Want to learn more about recouping ad revenue with email? Download our Monetization Solution Guide.

Editor, PostUp PlayBook