Paid Advertising VS. Adblock Plus: Major Problem or Not?

By Gina Broom
Paid Advertising VS. Adblock Plus: Major Problem or Not?


I'm going to tell you a quick story: Recently, I was loading up a YouTube video with a friend, and the usual pre-video advertising began it's chirpy message. My friend immediately groaned audibly, "What is this!? Why don't you have AdBlock!?"

My aggressively opinionated friend then proceeded to push past me to the computer controls, and installed it on my browser. My friend reloaded the page, and the ad was gone. Not only the ad at the beginning of that video, but all ads anywhere I went on the internet. 

I have to admit, it was nice. Nothing popped out at me; my virtual-vision was so clear, I could only see what I looked for and nothing else. It was quiet... Too quiet...

I had to wonder, just how big a wrench does this throw into the gears of the internet marketing world? So I gathered up my investigator hat and pipe (by which I mean I paid a visit to Google) and started poking around. 

To start, I'd like to make a brief summary of just how big paid advertising is:

Paid advertising is a gigantic slice of the internet marketing pie. When done well, it's just so much faster than SEO for getting traffic and pushing through sales. This is why internet advertising revenues reach such incredible numbers, as can be seen in Marketing Land's summary of an Internet Advertising Bureau report:

advertising revenue

Yep, it's big. Billions upon billions big, and that's just half a year. So what happens when something comes along that can hide these paid ads? Wouldn't this mess up the whole system? And are you paying for ads that won't even be seen? 

To start, we need to look into how it works.

How does AdBlock Plus work?

The name is fairly self-explanatory, Adblock Plus blocks ads. When an internet-goer has the Adblock Plus plugin installed, they will roam the Internet freely and encounter empty spaces where ads usually are. Boy is this thing zealous. 

It blocks:

  • Paid advertising in search
  • Facebook Ads
  • YouTube Ads
  • All website ads such as banner advertising or pop-ups. 
  • It can even block social sharing buttons! 

You can see more detailed information on the features here

Adblock Plus Features

If you'd like an example of just how much punch Adblock Plus packs, KISSmetrics reported that when installed, it hides one of their CTA's on their own blog: 

KISSmetircs CTA dissappeared

Not so great for any affiliate marketing bloggers! In the blog post, Sherice from KISSmetrics also showed that when it comes to the advertising you pay for, these ads are still being served, just not seen:

blocked ads still being served

Does This Mean I'm Doomed as Far as Paid Advertising Goes?

The simple answer: nope. Not for now anyway. It's true that Adblock Plus is extremely thorough with its blocking of advertising, but it's also true that not enough people are using it to make it a real problem at this point in the game.

A PageFair study shows that there are approximately 144 million active AdBlock users, which sounds like a lot, but that's really only 4.9 percent of all Internet users. Not a cause for panic.

The chances that the majority of your niche market audience exists entirely within that 4.9% are next to none, although it does pay to consider this other point from the study: The majority of AdBlock users are in the 18-29 age group. If your niche revolves specifically around marketing to that age group, then you might need to take precautions sooner rather than later. 

You might also want to think about how tech-savvy your market is, as it tends to be the most frequent Internet-goers who install the plugin....especially considering that the use of this ad-massacring plugin is in fact growing all the time. In the last 12 months usage has grown by 69 percent. If that continues into the next few years, then it could start to become a real problem.

So What Can I Do?

There are different things you can do to make your marketing strategy AdBlock-proof, both with paid advertising and on your site. 

1. Start Practicing Alternative Traffic Methods

The main purpose of paid advertising is to reach more people to get more traffic, right? And you can still use it for that, and it will work. But if you want to ensure that you're safe into the future, you're going to want some other major traffic strategies in place. They're generally a good idea for your marketing strategy anyway.

On-Page SEO

If they can't see the paid advertising, all they see is the natural search results, so your site needs to be in them. One of the best ways to do this is just to ensure that all of your on-page SEO is up to scratch. You can learn more about that here

Link Building

Link building is good for SEO, but it's also great for spreading around mention of your site, and getting traffic via other websites. The link building method outlined here is great for building the kind of links that will make people want to click through to your site.

Social Media​

One of the best things about social media is the ripple effect. One post can reach so many people. It's like free advertising for your website that passes itself around if you do it right. You can learn how to use Facebook as a marketer for free here, Twitter here, or Google+ here

Alternative Inbound Marketing

Last but not least, there are some really effective inbound marketing methods that are commonly overlooked. Check these out here, and play around with them to see how you can get more traffic without paid advertising. 

2. Optimize Your Website Promotions to be Bulletproof Against Adblock Plus

Both Adblock Plus and the PageFair study have shown insight into the general attitude towards advertising, and it's not all negative. Most are quite happy to have ads appear, so long as they're not obstructive to their browsing experience. 

This is where Adblock Plus has a default setting to show ads that live up to its acceptable ads guidelines. You can read about that here. Basically, it's nothing that pops up, nothing with images; just simple text-based ads in a location that doesn't interfere with the content of the page. 

Check what Adblock Plus hides on your website

I'd suggest that you take a look around your site, make a mental note of any banners you have, or even opt-in forms, install the Adblock Plus plugin, and look at which ones have magically disappeared.

The best way would be to use two different browsers (e.g., Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome), install the plugin on one and not the other, then load the same pages. You can then compare them directly.

Use Advertising that Meets the Acceptable Ads Guidelines

If you have at least some advertising that meets AdBlock's outlined criteria, chances are they'll show up even for people using Adblock Plus. Unfortunately, it's not guaranteed. If you have anything being blocked that you don't feel exceeds the guidelines, you can apply to have it whitelisted here.

Having these types of ads is beneficial to you, not just for the sake of AdBlock, but because people have expressed that they appreciate the non-obtrusive nature of these ads. Going back to the study from before, "According to PageFair, less than 1% of adblockers choose to opt-out of its acceptable ads."

The issue is negated, on your website at least, by using these types of ads, and you'll be better received by your audience for doing so.

Use Content to Promote Products, Rather than Ads

One of the best things that you could do, moving away from the idea of advertising for a second, is think about how powerful content is when it comes to promoting products. 

Write reviews of products that you're promoting, and link to the product from within the review itself. That way, you get an entire page to sell, rather than one small ad. Add links into the content of your blog posts, put the links into e-books, as suggested in the inbound marketing lesson mentioned above. 

These are all effective ways of getting people to click on your links, while pre-selling them the product in the process. It provides more information and value to them, and it can't be taken away by AdBlock, so you've got nothing to lose. 

Let's Play a Game of Good News, Bad News

Overall, when studying the issue, the flow of highs and lows from my discovery went like this:

Good news: Paid advertising, when done well, is great for getting lots of traffic fast!
Bad news: AdBlock can stop people from seeing your ads.
Good news: You can create “acceptable ads” by Adblock’s standards. Allowing these to show is the default option.
Bad news: Your ads aren’t guaranteed to be seen as acceptable.
Good news: You can apply to get the ads on your site whitelisted (if they meet AdBlock's guidelines).
Bad news: Users can disable acceptable ads if they so choose anyway.
Good news: The number of people doing this is really not worth worrying about, so no need to panic. And if you are worried about it, there are ways around the whole matter to avoid running into any issues, for now and for the future.

The main advice to take away is that you don't need to stress. It's really not that big of a problem. If you are concerned that you might be losing money to ad-blocking, particularly if it's more commonly done by your typical niche audience or you're worried about it for the future, here's what you can do:

  • Practice the other traffic building methods mentioned in this post.
  • If you use adverting on your site, try to meet the acceptable ads guidelines.
  • Apply to get anything that's being unfairly blocked whitelisted.
  • Focus on promoting your affiliate links within your website content, rather than doing it via advertising

I'd love to know your opinions on the issue, so leave a comment below if you've had a personal issue with ad-blocking, would like to contribute to the discussion, or would like to know anything else about the topic.

Paul Newman 10 years ago
A key element was missed.

If you have stuff blocked then make a note of that stuff in the "open blockable items" popup (like was stated).

Then go into the things that are blocked(.php/.css/ETC) and change the id/class/div names across the board (using something like ultraeditor). Make sure you make a backup of this stuff and also be wary that updates will not transition these types of edits over to the new version/revisions.

If you look into the filter preferences, things are getting blocked by names, not by mechanism/status.

You can't do the above w/ anything that uses frames though as you have no access to change stuff in the backend of where they're displaying from.

You might also use an adblock detector that reverts to a different advertisement that isn't getting blocked. Like adsense to some other CPC/CPM, but they're also going to be blocked if they're widely known.

A lot of people say savvy users don't convert of the regular stuff. If you're in the tech niche or something along those lines, then it could be different. However, you want your CTAs/OPTINS/ETC boxes and socials to appear though.
Melissa Johnson 10 years ago
Paul, thanks for the fantastic tip!
Alf 10 years ago
Is there any chance of having that answer in normal English for those of us not qualified in techno speak?
Hexder INC 10 years ago
@GinaBroom- AdBlock is good for YouTube but it is not "FREE" you have another option?
Melissa Johnson 10 years ago
Hexder, AdBlock Plus is free. I use it on both of my browsers.
Paul Smith 9 years ago
I think you'll see facebook start to ban users who install adblock and have a fb account as it will eventually loose to much money. I see google and other big players doing something similar. At least I hope they would be smart enough to do this.
Melissa Johnson 9 years ago
Paul, I think it's more likely that Facebook will require users to create an exemption for its site in order to access some key features. Facebook, as ubiquitous as it is, doesn't necessarily have the power, or the right, to dictate what services people use on other websites or what people install on their computers. They're limited only to what people do on Facebook or with the Facebook apps.

Ultimately, the issue comes down to losing money from users who don't want advertising or losing users who don't want their web experience to be intruded upon. Given the US and EU's policies on spam and how much emphasis is given to consumer protections, I have a hard time believing a few websites could strong-arm the entire Internet into being forced to accept advertising when they don't want to.