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Tackling Ad Blocking: From The Publisher's Perspective

Ad blocking is big news. If you’re still unaware of the size of the issue, check out our blog post 6 Astounding Facts About Ad Blocking. According to research, publishers will lose over $21.8B in revenue to ad blocking in 2015 and that’s expected to increase to $41.4B next year. That’s a large chunk of change no matter who you are.

Given ad blocking’s size, it’s more than likely that you’re losing an increasing amount of money to it. So what’s a humble publisher to do? In this post, we’ll outline some of the options available to you, so you can pick and choose the path that’s best for you.

Detecting ad blocking on your website
Before you start hurling resources to stop ad blocking, let’s take a moment to understand its impact on your site. Ad blocking works by doing one of two things:

  • Hiding elements on your page: By identifying ads on your page, ad blocking can resize ads so that they don’t display on your page. It does this by parsing out the code on your site and looking for iFrames, certain scripts or images that match specific sizes.
  • Blocking requests: By blocking requests for resources, such as calls to 3rd party ad servers, it prevents ads from loading.This is done primarily through blacklisting.

Because of this, there are many ways to detect ad blocking, depending on how much technical jiggery pokery you want to do and whether you want to use 3rd party software or not. Techniques range from simply putting a 1×1 pixel on your site and comparing the difference in page loads between the pixel and your ads to using Google Analytics event tracking (this example uses AdSense, but you can apply the same technique to any ad partner) or installing Javascript or Jquery on your site.

For those of you who want to use 3rd party software, options range from services like PageFair to WordPress plug-ins like Ad Blocking Detector.  Be aware that none of these methods are fool proof, so you may want to use a couple of them to get a better estimate.
Once you know the size of the problem you can decide what you want to do next. Here are some options

Do nothing.  It’ll all be alright.
Not my favorite Britney tune, but a strategy nonetheless. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones and only a few visitors use ad blockers. Or you could decide you don’t have the resources to do anything and so opt to slowly lose revenue until the industry comes up with the solution.
Before you do that, though, read ahead. If ad blocking is a problem for your site, there are some things everyone can do to help themselves.

Jujitsu the ad blockers

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. One way of tackling ad blocking is to tackle it at its source. The most popular ad blocker out there, Ad Blocker Plus, is made by an organization called Eyeo. Eyeo enables small publishers to join their Acceptable Ads program, where they will whitelist your site to serve ads so long as you agree to only show ads that meet their Acceptable Ads Manifesto. Eyeo’s criteria are fairly stringent, but if you apply to be whitelisted, you’ll cut off a large amount of your ad blocking problems, as Ad Blocker Plus is the most popular version of that software.  

Eyeo’s process is as follows:

  1. If your website has ads that comply with the Acceptable Ads criteria, simply fill out this form.
  2. Someone from Eyeo, the company behind Adblock Plus, will contact you to determine the exact ads, and check whether they comply with our criteria.
  3. After you have made any necessary changes, both sides sign an agreement.
  4. We submit the whitelisting proposal in the forum and the ads are whitelisted at the same time. The topic will stay open in order for the community to declare concerns if and when the candidate does not meet the requirements.

Go Chuck Norris on ad blocking
Want to take a more proactive approach to ad blocking? Perhaps you want more freedom to do what you want on your site.  If that’s the case, here’s some additional ways that you can bring the fight to ad blocking.

  • If you don’t ask, you don’t get: some of your visitors probably don’t realize how the ads on your site enable you to write the content. For those visitors, you can place a message that displays only when your site detects ad blocking (there’s many ways to do this.  Here’s one of them). 


    In that message, you can help your ad blocking visitors understand that ads pay for content and ask them to enable your site to display ads by adding it to their whitelist. Most ad blocking software has a whitelist where users can add sites that they want ads to show on.

    The key point here is to educate your visitors, not guilt trip them, so you’ll need a soft touch. Another point to be aware of is that some visitors just dislike advertising, so you’ll never win them over. 

  • Block the Blockers: If you want to get more aggressive than that, you can install anti ad-blocking software on your site. These work to circumvent ad blocking so you can show ads, but they do so in different ways. Some of them work by only showing ads that are acceptable to ad blocking software. For example, PageFair replaces blocked ads with ads that are acceptable under Eyeo’s Acceptable Ads Manifesto. DSero is another company that does something similar. Other solutions look to either disable ad blockers or stop visitors who use ad blocking software from seeing content until they’ve disabled the ad blocker, subscribed to the site, or made a micropayment.

Each of these approaches have their pros and cons. How aggressive you want to be depends entirely on your temperament and what you think will work best with your audience.

So that’s it: a quick run-down of the different ways that publishers can tackle ad blocking. None of the approaches is perfect and all of them require some level of investment and technical know-how, which can put them out of reach of smaller publishers. This is why Sovrn is working with our partners to come up with simpler, easier-to-implement solutions. You’ll hear more about this in the future, but in the mean-time see if some of these approaches work for you.

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