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The State of Ad Blocks: How Ad Blockers Affect eCommerce Analytics and Advertising

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ands up, who’s blocking ads on the internet right now? Statistically speaking there is a good chance that you are, especially if you’re reading this on mobile. According to PageFair, who recently published a comprehensive report on the state of adblockers, as of 2016 there were over 600 million devices running adblock software globally, of which 62% were mobile devices.

Adblocking is multi-billion dollar business and it’s taking a huge chunk out of the market for online search and display advertising. It also presents a huge challenge for marketers and publishers when it comes to digital advertising and analytics.

Annoying

and intrusive advertising

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t’s quite fair to say that people don’t use adblockers because they hate all advertising. They just hate intrusive and annoying advertising. The PageFair report states that:

“Adblock usage is driven by specific problems with delivery of online advertising, and is not a rejection of digital advertising itself.”

According to another survey by HubSpot, the most hated ad formats were online pop-ups, mobile and video ads. In other words, the three ad formats that are arguably the most in your face and obnoxious. Users quoted that the most frustrating experience when browsing online involved having to find an “X” to make a full page pop-up advert go away.

Adblocker usage

in numbers

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Mobile adblock usage is particularly popular especially in Asia-Pacific and has overtaken desktop usage. This is mainly due to successful partnerships between adblocking browsers & device manufacturers/distributors in the region. Mass adoption in North America and Europe is growing organically, although it could rise quickly if manufacturers/distributors were to partner up with software companies and to start shipping their devices with adblockers pre-installed.

Data shows that:

  • Global adblocker usage grew 30% YoY Dec 2015-Dec 2016.
  • As of December 2016 approximately 11% of global internet population was using adblockers.
  • This amounts are 615 million devices with adblockers globally of which 62% are mobile devices.
  • 94% of global mobile adblock usage is in Asia-Pacific.
  • Adblock adoption on desktop continues to grow despite the decline in overall desktop use.

Source: https://pagefair.com/downloads/2017/01/PageFair-2017-Adblock-Report.pdf

The cost

of adblocking

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ince many publishers rely on digital advertising for a source of revenue, ad blocking carries considerable financial implications for them. According to some estimates, U.S publishers are losing approximately 10% of their ad revenue due to ad blockers, although among the more tech savvy audiences this could be as much as 50%. And as the use of ad blocking continues to grow, one study predicts that ad blocking could cost publishers $35 billion globally in 2020.

Ad blocking has implications for marketers too, although it’s not necessarily all doom and gloom. The main argument against adblockers is that they reduce the number of impressions per ad, thereby causing marketers to potentially lose valuable leads, money and time. Since many ad serving platforms count even blocked impressions towards the totals, businesses using cost-per-view (CPV) based advertising could be losing money every time someone blocks an ad.

However, it could be argued that since those users are the least interested in seeing ads, they probably wouldn’t have clicked on them anyway. And if people are so tired of seeing ads, perhaps adblocking can actually help rid the internet of the most disruptive forms of advertising by prompting marketers to innovate and push for change.

Adblockers

and analytics

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hen there’s the issue of analytics. Most online merchants rely on analytics data to understand their customers better. The issue with adblockers is that they don’t just block advertising; some adblocking software will also block analytics scripts before they load, which means those visits will go unreported. Although this won’t directly impact sales, it could mean that merchants are left with incomplete data.

It’s very difficult to gauge just how much of the overall traffic is impacted, but as the popularity of adblocking continues to grow, so will likely the number of visits that will go unreported. The list of adblockers that are known to impact analytics includes some of the most popular blockers out there including Adblock and Adblock Plus, Ghostery, Purify and uBlock Origin.

If you’re a Google Analytics user and would like to know just how your analytics are affected, there is an excellent tutorial that discusses how to measure the impact of adblocking on your website.

However, measuring the impact is only one step. The real challenge lies in the fact that as of yet there is no real workaround to stop this. For now though, at least being aware of roughly what proportion of your traffic goes unreported can help you take take this into account when budgeting, analysing your demographics or planning campaigns.

Built-in adblocker

for Chrome

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inally, a potential game changer could come from Google as it plans to introduce a built-in adblocker to Chrome, the world’s most popular internet browser. Rumours around this have been circulating for a while now, with the company recently confirming that the integrated adblocker for Chrome would be released in February 2018.

At first sight it might seem counterintuitive for Google to want to block ads, considering that the company relies on advertising for a large portion of its revenue. However, the built-in solution won’t of course block all ads – only those that that it considers low quality and spammy. The built-in blocker will cut down on the most intrusive types of advertising such as full page and flashing adverts as well as those that autoplay sound and video. In other words, it’s combating the types of advertising that users find the most annoying.

There may several strategic reasons behind this. Limiting low quality, irrelevant advertising across the internet may over time result in increased consumer confidence and less desire to block ads in the first place. With Chrome’s 60% market share, the company is in strong position to steal business from companies such as Eyeo – makers Adblock Plus – which is currently blocking some of Google services such as Analytics.

Of course, it is unlikely that this will get every current adblock user to uninstall their software overnight, but it is a pretty strong signal from the search engine giant that it intends to fight companies that limit the visibility of its ads and protect its dominant position as the internet’s biggest ad company.

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