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How Pop Ups and Ad Blocking Extensions Hurt Publishers (and What To Do About Them)

by Matt Gillis, on Mar 19, 2021 3:29:19 PM

A study by Statista recently found that roughly 27 percent of internet users in 2021 have ad blocking extensions installed on their preferred web browsers.

These free and increasingly popular extensions block all ad banners across all visited sites, which means that a quarter of the advertisements on the typical publisher website never reach an audience or bring in any revenue.

But the study also found that users are often willing to turn off their ad blockers if they want to engage with relevant content and help fund a publisher to which they feel a strong connection.

example of ad blocker

Many online publishers will prompt users to disable their ad blocker in order to view their content. But if you as the publisher have not taken steps to properly protect your site from malvertising, this can become a risky and frustrating gamble for end users.

And you're the one who will end up footing the bill.

A Failed User Experience

In one example that was recently brought to my attention over Twitter, a user posted about a bad ad that appeared while they were on the website of the Harvard Crimson — the volunteer student newspaper at Harvard University in Boston.

                              Malvertising exampleTwitter complaint about malvertising

In this case, the user was familiar with ad blockers but decided to turn her's off while reading the student run paper in order to support one of her favorite news sites. She was disappointed when she was redirected to a phony Verizon survey site —certainly looking to gather and sell her data— while reading one of the articles on the Harvard Crimson site.

When she reached out on Twitter for help, the first bit of advice she was given was to turn on her ad blocker in order to prevent these kinds of incursions.

Think about that.

The Crimson’s failure to protect a user from malvertising has now driven that user to turn on their ad blocking software and, in doing so, cut into the Crimson’s ad revenue while also tarnishing their brand on Twitter by sharing a uniquely frustrating user experience on the Crimson’s website.

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Protect Your User, Protect Your Revenue

For any kind of business, online or not, user experience is key to developing customer loyalty, trust, and repeat business.

Similar to having a bad meal or frustrating experience at a restaurant, when a user comes on to a publisher website and is suddenly faced with pop up ads and redirects, they will likely feel frustrated and want to prevent that kind of experience from ever happening again. 

They may even share their bad experience by word of mouth and/or posting a negative review, increasing the impact on your business by tarnishing its reputation and warding off new customers.

The Crimson and similar online publications invest heavily in producing quality content and driving traffic to their sites, and the ROI of this is based heavily on ad revenue. 

If you’re going to spend all that time and money generating content and web traffic just to give users an experience that forces them to protect themselves from your website (either by installing ad blockers or by never returning to your site), your ROI will take a hit and so will your brand’s reputation. 

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Read the Case Study

How cleanAD Completely Eliminated Malicious Redirects, Freeing up 60 Hours of AdOps Efforts per Week, for Venatus Media

Read the Case Study

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How To Engage Viewers With Ad Blockers

As mentioned above, roughly a quarter of online users already have ad blockers installed on their devices.

So, how do you get your users to turn off these extensions and engage with the ads on your site?

The first thing you need to do is make sure whatever ads they experience after turning the ad blocker off will not irritate them so much that they turn it back on.

An important preventive measure for this is investing in anti-malvertising software (such as cleanAD) which protects your users by blocking malicious redirects and pop-ups from ever appearing on your site. 

Another thing to consider is the design of your site itself.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • How many ads are you running per page? 
  • How many pop ups are users experiencing during their time on your site? 
  • Is your content worth putting up with the amount of advertisements? 
  • Can your audience find the same content somewhere else without disabling their ad blockers?

Optimizing the number of ads your audience is served is important to developing healthy ad revenue, but site retention and customer loyalty are a far more effective way of achieving this than bombarding a user with ads, only for them to install ad blockers or never return to your site. 

Once you've created a tolerable ad experience on your site, you'll want to find a way to ask your users to disable their ad blocking extensions when they visit your site. Programs like Detect Adblock and IAB Ad Block Detection Code, among others, offer free solutions that will detect when a user has ad blocking extensions installed. 

After you have found the script that works best for you, you need to decide what to do with those users. Some sites will totally shut out users with ad blocking extensions, while others will notify them and ask them to turn them off. 

Design your strategy around what you believe your users will have the most positive response to, and try to be as straightforward with them as you can.

Let them know that their ad revenue is what makes it possible for you to create the content they enjoy, and ask them to turn off their blockers to help support you and your efforts to deliver high quality content.

The Bottom Line

As a publisher, users and subscribers are the lifeblood of your business, and you have a responsibility to protect their user experience.

There are many solutions available on the market today to combat malvertising, so not taking the time to invest in protecting your users' experience is irresponsible at best and may even hurt the reputation —and revenue— of your business.

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Topics:MalvertisingMalvertising 101

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