opinion

Ad-Blocking Software Poses Challenges for Online Biz

Stephen Yagielowicz

Blame it on the abusive marketing practices of rogue website operators, or blame it on consumers used to switching channels, or hitting fast-forward on their DVRs to whiz past commercials; whatever the cause, surfers are increasingly turning to technology to keep many common ad types from being shown on the sites they visit — including yours.

Software such as Adblock Plus integrates with Chrome, Firefox and other browsers to take their native ad-blocking tools to the next level. Simple Adblock for MSIE, AdBlock for Safari and other solutions all vie for the opportunity to keep surfers blissfully adfree.

Surfers are increasingly turning to technology to keep many common ad types from being shown on the sites they visit — including yours.

The advertisements being blocked, however, are the lifeblood of many adult websites that rely on the placement of ads on other sites to generate traffic and sales. This includes the bulk of affiliate marketing efforts; and also includes websites that display ads on their own sites in order to generate revenues, which is a key means of profiting from free porn.

Given these challenges, it behooves website operators to examine the impact that the ad-blocking user is having on the bottom line, as well as to develop strategies for dealing with this profit-killing phenomenon.

But what do you do? Do you block or redirect those visitors? Or allow free access, even if you can’t make a sale? Or do you give ad-blocking visitors a “We notice you have ads blocked: Please turn off your ad blocker or purchase a membership now,” sales pitch?

These questions were posed to XBIZ.net members. Here’s what they had to say:

JoeD suggested the use of a “Bandwidth Donation Button” as one simple alternative, while Hunky Luke underscored the need to ensure that any technological workarounds are tested to verify their effectiveness — an easily overlooked step for busy webmasters.

Faceporn, who told XBIZ that an option will soon be added to the PlugRush traffic platform that will allow clients to monetize users with adblockers installed, opined that despite surfers finding it annoying, one possibility is to redirect those that do not want to watch and click ads, sending them directly to the sites of products you want them to buy.

“Porn surfers in general are used to getting pissed off and shown things they really didn’t intend to look at,” Faceporn explained. “Amazingly, they will still buy or sign up to what they are being shown.”

“Using such tactics isn’t for sites that want to build up a trust relationship with their users,” Faceporn added. “But for general TGPs or other free sites that are already using pop-ups and other annoying things, this isn’t really any worse in my opinion.”

But there are several schools of thought on the subject.

James Slater doesn’t think that antagonizing those surfers that don’t want to see ads is a good way to make sales, and suggests not trying to defeat their wishes via workarounds.

Part of the solution is in understanding the ways in which ad-blockers identify ads — such as clues in the names used in CSS styling, and for images, directories and paths; as well as alt-tags and other indicators. Likewise, links to known affiliate programs, images served from other domains, and those that are standard ad-specific sizes, are all blocked.

As for reasonable workarounds, consider the underlying consumer psychology: don’t assume that surfers using ad blockers “don’t want to buy anything” — they might simply be tired of abusive and intrusive ad practices.

Subtlety is the key: weave contextually relevant text ads and links into reviews or other content on your site, making them part of the website’s overall subject matter. Also, ensure that you serve ad banners (odd sizes are best) from your own server, and consider the use of cloaking and redirects to obfuscate your affiliate links.

These techniques will keep ads safe from most ad blockers, and won’t annoy surfers.

To put the battle into perspective, Kelli Roberts told XBIZ about an embedded ad on a site that launched every time the page loaded.

“I realized I was watching an ad for Bing [which is] owned by Microsoft,” Roberts stated. “Microsoft spent all that money developing a popup blocker for their IE product and then later on in another Microsoft division, worked to create pop-up ads that got around the pop-up blocker.”

“I don’t know,” Roberts added. “I just found that funny.”

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