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You’ve probably seen the headlines calling ad blockers the “death of online advertising," and anyone who works in PPC advertising knows a thing or two about them.
But while ad blockers gained popularity back in 2016, three years later, advertising revenue is as strong as ever. Still, some worry that the rise of ad blockers in popularity and adoption will continue to grow, affecting long-term advertising growth potential.
It’s true, ad blockers can have an impact on your PPC growth potential, but only if you allow them to. In fact, pragmatic advertisers see ad blocking as an opportunity more than a hindrance. And once you understand the real scope and impact of ad blocking features, you’ll also gain clarity on your path of growth.
The first step to overcoming the challenge of ad blockers is understanding why people use them. After all, at least some portion of your target market is using ad blockers.
As of 2017, roughly 40% of laptops and 15% of mobile devices in the US used ad blockers. Globally, more than 600 million devices were using ad blocking software in 2016 -- and all industry predictions expect they will grow.
More than any generation, millennials are the driving force behind ad blocker use, as they’re the most disenchanted with intrusive online ads. This represents a significant and accelerating problem for advertisers, as millennials have already overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest generation. And perhaps not surprisingly, their buying power is also expected to more than double over the next four years. Perhaps ironically, the generation with the greatest potential to drive ad revenue is also the generation paying the least attention to ads.
That said, millenials (and others adopters) actually have very good reasons for why they use ad blockers. According to PageFair’s recent ad blocker report, the number one and number two motivations behind ad blocker usage represent about 60% : (1) Exposure to viruses and malware, (2) Interruption. The biggest takeaway? Nobody’s saying they hate advertising. They simply don’t want to be exposed to malicious ads or be exposed to ads that detract from their web experience.
As a PPC marketer, you know that not all ads on the web are spammy, intrusive, or irrelevant. But, unfortunately, a high percentage of them are.
While it seems ad blocker adoption is an attack on low-quality advertising, the ad blockers themselves are indiscriminate. While you might have a highly targeted, relevant PPC campaign that helps your audience convert, it won’t reach anyone who uses ad blockers.
Ad blockers may seem like bad news for advertisers, but really they’re a response to a problem. Even if your ads are unintrusive and highly relevant to your audience, would you want them to appear alongside spam ads and clickbait? Low-quality advertisements give the whole industry a bad name, discrediting honest, customer-centric PPC advertisers.
If nothing else, ad blockers are a way for consumers to fight back against spam adverts. And they’re more prevalent than you might think. According to a recent AdGuard survey: 57% of web users were attacked by scammers through online ads representing a major intrusion in the advertising market -- a fact not lost on the advertisers.
Even Google, which makes 90% of its money from advertising revenue, created an ad blocker people can use with Chrome in response to research released by the Coalition for Better Ads, detailing the types of ads that make it difficult for people to browse and use websites.
While its ad blocker doesn’t impact Google PPC or social media ads, it does block ads that create a poor browsing experience. The tech giant launched their own ad blocker iAd blockers that may help cut down on bad ads and spam ads. But there’s no getting around the fact that they can negatively impact ad visibility and returns for quality marketers in the process. So what’s the solution?
The short answer is: a change in strategy.
Instead of viewing ad blockers as a hindrance to growth, it’s better for PPC advertisers to perceive them as an opportunity.
There’s a certain group of people who are always going to ignore advertisements, ad blocker or not. So why bother serving ads to people who are only going to ignore them? You shouldn’t. Instead, it makes more sense to invest your time and advertising spend reaching people who are receptive to your marketing message -- people who are actually paying attention.
Also, the idea that one day in the future nearly every consumer will use an ad blocker (like nearly every person with a computer now using antivirus software) is unlikely. Advertising isn’t inherently malicious (like malware), and consumers understand this.
According to Hubspot research:
Consumers are open to the idea of viewing advertisements as long as they’re quality ads that don’t take away from their user experience on the web. So why not make efforts to meet this need with your advertising strategy? If you create quality, relevant, unintrusive ads, you'll show your audience there’s no need to use an ad blocker.
Of course there’s the issue that even if advertisers make these changes, the people using ad blockers are never going to know about it. But that’s not necessarily true either. Ad blocking software is predominantly used on desktops and laptops. In fact, only 22% of people who use ad blockers use them on their mobile devices.
So the same people who have tuned out advertisements on their computers can still be reached with targeted ads on their phones. There’s still an opportunity to reach them with targeted PPC ads, which can be even more relevant when you use advanced mobile targeting features such as location-based targeting.
Marketers who actually understand and appreciate the reasons people use ad blockers are much better positioned to develop an advertising strategy that doesn’t annoy them. Not only will this make them more receptive to viewing ads, but they’ll also be much more likely to convert.
That said, even if advertisers can’t recapture the attention of people who use ad blockers, there’s still everyone else. Ad blocker penetration is still extremely low. At the same time, the number of new internet users is always growing. If the advertising market can eliminate intrusive, spammy ads while providing a more relevant message, new users will be much more willing to see ads than old-time internet users. And the more advertisers can do to prevent their audience from considering using ad blockers, the better.
The truth is, the rapid growth in desktop ad blocking is nothing more than a tough lesson from which advertisers can learn. There are still plenty of opportunities to create better marketing messages for your target audience that address the problem -- particularly for PPC search advertisers. Hubspot’s survey also asked which mobile ad formats people find most valuable or useful, and search ads were the top result.
Consumers have multifaceted needs when it comes to online advertising, but there’s a clear path to success. Focus on the right key areas and it’s possible to grow your PPC revenue despite the rise of ad blockers.
Start with consumer data
If you want to deliver relevant, helpful ads to your target audience, your most important tool is data. The more you understand the interests, needs, and intentions of consumers, the better you’ll be able to target them.
There are many different sources of behavioral data advertisers can mine to gain insights:
First-Party Behavioral Data
This is information your business collects about your audience through tracking cookies and site form fills. Most marketers collect this using their website analytics tools and CRM platforms. First-party data is the most common kind of data marketers use and is often considered the most valuable. But there are other important sources that can broaden your understanding of your target audience and their needs.
Second-Party Behavioral Data
Second-party data is behavioral information collected by other businesses. Form a partnership with another business that targets a similar audience to yours, then you can share behavioral data and insights to get a deeper understanding of the interests and needs of your audience.
Third-Party Behavior Data
Third-party behavioral data comes from publishing networks and data aggregators. They collect information about people’s behavior on other sites around the web. Third-party data is a great way to learn more about consumer demographics and what kind of information they’re consuming on the web. You can use this to optimize your marketing message. Third-party intent data can also help you uncover qualified leads who haven’t yet interacted with your business directly.
You can use these sources of information to flesh out your buyer personas and inform major marketing strategy decisions. Understanding buyer intent can help you better target warm leads, increasing your conversion rates in the process.
Businesses that are customer-centric consider the needs and desires of their audience over their own agenda: getting clicks, driving revenue, etc. And when you really do prioritize your audience, it will help drive your advertising goals in the process.
Consider these top reasons people click on advertisements, according to HubSpot: Two of the top reasons are negative: (1) It was a mistake, (2) The ad tricked me into clicking. Using deceptive strategies to get people to click doesn’t prioritize the needs of the user. And while it may be a great way to improve click-through rates, it likely does little to convince these leads to become paying customers.
What’s the main reason someone would click on an ad by mistake? Likely because it’s intruding into the content they’re consuming. People don’t visit a web page to look at ads, they want to consume the content without interruption.
Advertising networks have made some efforts to make ads less intrusive. Google, for example, now penalizes sites that display interstitial ads on mobile. But unfortunately, this issue is still very common (You’ve probably seen ads that don’t fully block the page but still prevent you from reading the content.)
Serving ads that block or distract from the content experience isn’t a customer-centric marketing strategy. Making your ads less intrusive to maintain a good user experience is. And it’s the job of both advertisers and the platforms serving these ads to ensure audience needs are the main priority. Then the only reason people will click on an ad is because they want to.
Remember, most consumers are open to seeing ads that are relevant to them. To achieve this, it’s not just about targeting people with products or services that interest them. You need to also serve these ads at the right point in the consideration process.
Take for example a woman who purchases a pair of leather boots online. Then the next day she visits another webpage and sees an ad for leather boots. Since she’s already made the purchase, the ad is completely irrelevant. Even if she likes the style and color of the boots in the ad, it’s unlikely she will buy two pairs of boots in two days.
The goal here is to get your ads to appear in that small window of opportunity when someone’s suggested they have purchase intent but haven’t yet made a purchase. Your intent data can help you identify this key timeframe.
In the PPC world, the best way to tackle this challenge is to optimize your reach and frequency. It’s possible to use intent data to set frequency caps, make bid adjustments and optimize your audience targeting to ensure your ads show up when they’re most helpful to searchers.
Most advertisers don’t even attempt to do this because the sheer volume of actionable intent data out there is too large to begin to derive actionable insights. By the time they’ve made the necessary adjustments, the window of opportunity has passed.
The solution that will help you deliver timely, relevant ads to your audience is technology. Use a bid adjustment tool to derive key insights and automate changes in your PPC accounts. Without some amount of automation, it’s virtually impossible to serve the right ads at the right time to the right people.
There are also key advantages when you engage in predictive advertising. Use a technology that incorporates AI and machine learning to understand major market trends before they happen. This way, you can be proactive in your advertising strategy, making necessary changes to gain future ad visibility during these key points of relevance. Because the more relevant and timely your PPC ads, the more your audience will appreciate and respond to your advertising message.
Ad blockers aren’t just an impediment to be overcome by advertisers -- they’re indications of a greater problem with digital advertising. If people are going so far as to install software to prevent seeing ads, then you know there’s something is likely wrong with the digital advertising strategy and approach.
Customer-centric businesses want to serve ads that inform, help and ultimately convert their audience into customers. And customers often appreciate these ads. The reason? They provide relevant products and services when they need them the most, providing a crucial stepping stone in their own buying journey. The good news is that the public is ready to see these ads whenever marketers are ready to serve them.
At the end of the day, it’s about making their customers want to click. Advertisers will start succeeding in their battle against ad blockers when they get to the root of the problem, embracing it not as an obstacle, but as a new opportunity to help meet their customers’ needs.