Google Ad-blockers are extremely popular, and provide a service that helps users (myself included) browse the web in peace without loads of pop-up boxes and strange scripts executing in their browsers. There’s certainly a security aspect of ad-blockers too, which helps prevent browser based attacks from harming users. But ad-blockers are a pain in any marketer’s neck.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were ways to circumvent ad-blockers to reach our target audience? Well, there are actually several methods to beat ad-blockers, but first I’d like to offer a word of caution. Ethically speaking, we still need to respect the user’s wishes. Additionally, do you think a lead would be primed to take action after a link triggered annoying pop-up ad windows which the user specifically tried to thwart?
Probably not...but there is good news. There are strategies marketers can use to overcome ad-blockers without being invasive. Advertising costs significant amounts of money, so ad-blockers should be ethically and reasonably dealt with to reach your target audience. Let’s take a closer look at some of the top strategies.
Gate Content, Ask Users to Disable Ad-Block
The first ethical option is to simply as users to disable ad-block. WordPress plugins can detect if a user has as-block installed in their browser, and resultantly blocks access to a page unless ad-block has been completely disabled. This isn’t wholly undesirable for the user, especially if they are really interested in the content that is gated. I myself have disabled ad-block on occasion for these very reasons.
Furthermore, this isn’t some sneaky diabolical way to beat ad-block and shove ads in people’s faces. Instead, it is a morally just alternative because it allows visitors to make the choice of their own free will. To be polite and soften the request to take action, I’ve seen a lot of sites post a message along the lines of, “Advertising helps support our website, so we can continue providing our services and information to visitors for free.”
Ask Users to Whitelist Your Site
In addition to asking a user to disable the ad-blocker completely, you can simply ask them to whitelist your site. Ad-block users generally find this more preferable to turning off the ad-block plugin completely, because they’ll still have protection from invasive advertising and ad tracking when visiting sites not on the whitelist. Ultimately, the user has the choice to add a specific page URL to the whitelist or the entire domain. As such, I’d recommend asking users to whitelist the entire domain. Ask not, receive not!
Asking a user to disable ad-block and adding the domain to a whitelist are arguably the two best ethical countermeasures to thwart ad-blocking plugins. But if you’re unwilling to ask a user to do either, the next best thing is native advertising because it doesn’t show up on the ad-blockers’ radars. Additionally, it’s ethical for two reasons. Fist of all, the user had to willingly click on the content to view it. Secondly, native advertising typically provides something of value to the visitor, such as a how-to video, a recipe, a free download, etcetera.
If you weren’t already aware of native advertising, note that it is defined as the following: n. material in an online publication which resembles the publication's editorial content but is paid for by an advertiser and intended to promote the advertiser's product.
As such, sponsored content also fits under this category. For instance, if you’re advertising a bakery, you could put your stamp of approval on certain content to advertise by sponsoring select recipes on a food blog.
Getting Whitelisted by Ad-Block Itself
It’s also possible to get whitelisted by the actual browser plugin itself, so that your ads will show up by default without any user intervention. The ad-block user could override the default settings and block your site, but that requires manual configuration, which isn’t the path of least resistance for the masses of ad-block users. I have mixed feelings about this solution, because simply asking a user to turn off ad-block is the most ideal.
However, Ad-Block Plus clearly states the following on its website: We receive some donations from our users, but our main source of revenue comes as part of the Acceptable Ads initiative. Larger entities (as defined below) pay a licensing fee for the whitelisting services requested and provided to them (around 90 percent of the licences are granted for free).
Offer Users Ad-Free Pages in Exchange for a Subscription or a ‘Follow’
Some users simply detest advertising so much they will go to any lengths to view a page ad-free. I myself have run across a few sites that were so laden with ads that they bogged down my browser and loaded extremely slowly. And most users won’t wait forever for a page to load, either. If users have to wait more than a few seconds, they’re going to bounce and go somewhere else.
As such, it might be appropriate to offer users an ad-free version of your site. Instead of requiring them to whitelist your domain or disable their ad-blocker, however, you could require them to take some other form of action, such as following you on Facebook, sharing your content or signing up for a newsletter subscription.
The idea is to build a bridge to the user so you can present them with more valuable content, offers, and ads down the road. Just remember to be honest with the visitor, and allow them to opt out any time. As long as the visitor can exercise free will and make choices regarding ads on their own, there generally aren’t any ethical dilemmas.
Side-stepping and countering ad-blockers can be ethically confusing, but there are undoubtedly wholesome, ethical and respectable ways to mitigate the effects ad-blockers have on your digital marketing campaign. Last but not least, however, I would caution you to disregard methods of circumventing ad-blockers which involve tinkering with code or Server Side AD Injection, because these methods don’t respect the wishes of the visitor. As such, not only will the user likely become irritated, but they may also feel taken advantage of.