The dramatic rise of adblockers continues to climb with no end in sight. Users have lost trust in many ad agencies based on tracking, autoplay videos, and malicious banners. Unfortunately, web publishers are often the ones to suffer from the misdoings of ad networks.
And even though many websites do not run these kinds of ads, they’re still lumped into the group of sites permanently blocked by adblock extensions. But web designers can try different methods for handling adblock users to (hopefully) build back trust.
I want to share a few tips for handling adblock users from the web design side of the equation. Different strategies yield different results, so you should be open to many different ideas and see how they work.
Blocking Adblock Users
This is perhaps the most common solution, and it’s based on the idea that content is a website’s product. The idea goes as follows: content is monetized by ads, so if the user isn’t willing to deal with ads, then they shouldn’t get access to the content.
If you go this route, you should expect reduced pageviews and higher bounce rates. Other major sites have tried this strategy, and the results have been unsurprising.
Most users just leave the site and look for the same content elsewhere. But if your content is good enough, you might be able to get away with blocking adblock users. Different techniques use fullscreen modal windows and/or page redirects to let users know they cannot access the site.
One prominent example is Forbes, which first implemented their blocking feature sometime in late 2015. Users never see the actual page they’re trying to view, but instead see a message stating they’re blocked from viewing the site until Forbes is whitelisted.
This is meant to encourage users to let Forbes display ads in return for visiting the site. This isn’t a terrible deal; however, the message can come off as a bit pushy.
This is one of the few live examples of blocking adblock users that has continued to work (for almost a year).
A more recent example can be found on Designmodo, where you get redirected to an adblocker page if you try to visit the site with adblock enabled.
This is a little different, because you can see the page for a second, but you’re quickly redirected to the adblock page every time.
Each individual pageload checks if you have adblock enabled or not. So if you disable adblock to access the site, then re-enable adblock, you’ll still never see the content.
Designmodo is one of the few design blogs to attempt blocking adblock users. It’s still too early to tell how this will affect the site, but it’s clearly a viable option if you’re willing to lose out on some pageviews.
Try Asking Nicely
Instead of outright blocking content, you can instead place small notifications on the page asking the user to whitelist your site. This way everyone can read your content, and adblock users can be asked to let your site run ads.
This is perhaps the equilibrium between doing nothing and completely banning adblock users. The content is still accessible, but instead of letting your ad units sit empty, you can add a message asking users to whitelist your site.
For example, if you visit an article on Business Insider, you’ll get a modal window asking you to whitelist the site’s ads.
This modal window actually offers two options. The first is to whitelist Business Insider and the second option upsells their paid service.
Some users may be willing to shell out money for blogs they read all the time. If a handful of readers pay some money per month for no ads on a website, then you might be able to recoup losses and still maintain a site without ad revenue.
Unfortunately, this modal window still acts as a hindrance for adblock users. The window doesn’t have a “no” option, so you either need to disable adblock or pay for an account.
But you could apply these same principles with an option to let users ignore the message and keep reading. This would keep pageviews up while ideally still getting some users to whitelist your site.
While browsing The Guardian, you’ll find a small banner fixed to the very bottom of the screen. This banner only appears for adblock users and doesn’t even ask them to remove adblock.
Instead, the banner asks users to pay for a monthly subscription to support The Guardian. This is a much more user-friendly technique, because content is still visible and readers might actually donate to help the site.
You can get decent results by gently encouraging users to whitelist your site. If you ask every user to sign up for a paid account, you’re likely to have far worse results. But a large publication like The Guardian might see a decent jump in paid users.
Think about how you’d want to proposition users and where you could place the message. There are endless possibilities with this technique, and the goal is to increase revenue for the site.
Alternate Filler Ads
Adblocker extensions only block scripts from loading external ads. But if you have static images or scripts locally on your domain, these can usually bypass all adblockers.
This offers a solid alternative that doesn’t ask the user to do anything. Rather than banning users or asking them to whitelist your site, you can display local ads just for adblock users.
For example, articles on The Next Web have a large slide-down ad near the top. These ads are powered by their new canvas ads, which were released alongside TNW’s redesign.
These canvas ads display for all users whether they have an adblocking extension or not. This offers a nice supplemental solution if you still want to fill your ad space with something.
If you’re able to run your own ad inventory, you might even try contacting specific companies or advertisers. This may lead to sales where you can maintain ads locally by bypassing all adblock users.
Or you might try display ads that sponsor your own website. This is the strategy on Hongkiat, where adblock users see images that advertise HK’s dev resources category.
Blocked ad spaces autofill with these local display banners, and they all internally link further into Hongkiat. Even though very few people click on banner ads, they can still be effective at increasing pageviews and keeping the page “filled up” without empty ad spots.
You could also try self-hosted banner ads that link to other monetization methods.
Two popular choices are lead-gen programs and basic affiliate marketing, where you make a commission on each sale. Many blogs monetize through affiliate marketing so you could display banner ads with affiliate links. This is how ShoutMeLoud handles their sidebar with affiliate banner ads.
Either way, this solution is much friendlier to the end user and doesn’t pose as an obstacle to the browsing experience.
Adblock extensions are gaining traction, and webmasters need to accept this fact. There are plenty of ways to handle adblock users, but there’s no way you can stop users from installing adblock on their machines.
I hope these tips offer a few reasonable solutions for the adblock dilemma. In a perfect world, advertising would be safe and non-intrusive. But until that world arrives, we’ll have to deal with adblocking and meet somewhere in the middle.