Building an online reputation involves targeting searchers with your brand’s messaging and ensuring that searchers see your preferred content. Using online advertising can be a great way to ensure that searchers encounter your messaging online. But now, the ability to laser target searchers by buying ads could be impacted by a new plan by Google to help millions of users block paid ads.
In mid-April the Wall Street Journal reported that Google is planning to build adblocking features into its Chrome web browser. While Google still may decide not to move ahead with this plan, if they do, this could become the default.
What is Adblocking?
Adblocking is the process of blocking online ads from appearing in a web browser. It generally works via a browser ‘add-on’ or ‘extension’ that can be downloaded for various browser types. The objective is to improve the browsing experience by stopping intrusive, annoying, or unhelpful ads from appearing within web pages.
Adblocking software has been available for about 15 years and while Adblock was the first (created in 2002 by a Danish student), there are now many popular adblocking programs available.
What will Google’s Chrome ad blocker do?
Rather than block all ads, as users may currently expect their adblockers to do, Google’s will emphasize filtering out specific types of ads that contribute to a poor user experience. The choice of which types of ads to block would follow standards released in March by industry group Coalition for Better Ads. These include:
- Video ads with sound that play automatically
- Ads with countdown timers that appear before a user can see a site’s content
This dovetails with Pagefair’s finding that interruptive ads are one of the leading motivations for adblock program usage.
What is the current extent of ad-blocking?
PageFair’s 2017 report revealed the wide ranging use of adblocking technologies:
- 11% of Internet users worldwide block ads on the web
- 615 million devices around the world are blocking ads
- 52 million devices in the US – 18% of internet users
- 11 million devices in the UK – 16% of internet users
- 12% of users in Central and Eastern Europe (including the UK)
Worldwide, use of adblockers on mobile devices (11%) has overtaken use on desktop (7%). However, mobile usage is still mostly limited to countries in Southeast Asia, while desktop usage is primarily in Western countries.
Adblocking software usage spans all ages (PageFair’s study looked at adults 18+, no children) though usage is higher among men than women.
Why is Google considering adding ad-blocking functionality?
It would seem counterintuitive for Google to offer the option to block ads on its browser; ads are Google’s main source of revenue, earning them over $60bn last year.
However, as indicated, Google is not planning to block everything; rather, according to the WSJ, it will ‘filter out certain online ad types deemed to provide bad experiences for users as they move around the web.’
Essentially, Google may be hoping that by improving the default experience on Chrome, users will abandon their third party blockers, providing a win-win for both the user and for Google. With a better experience, the user is more willing to view – and may be more likely to click – on the less intrusive ads they do see, ultimately increasing revenue to Google. Indeed, PageFair’s study found that 77% of adblock users would be open to viewing some ad formats.
While there has been no official announcement from Google regarding the addition of adblocking capabilities to the Chrome browser, the WSJ believes one could be made within weeks.
The full impact of adblocking on publishers and advertisers is difficult to predict, however the segments of (American) users most likely to use them are males and those with a bachelor’s degree (according to PageFair). Companies targeting these groups may currently be missing a wide swath of their potential market due to use of adblocking software.
If Google is planning something in this area, there is potential for advertisers to once again reach users who are currently blocking their ads. Either way, when thinking of how to target stakeholders, it is important to keep in mind that advertising is an important tool in the brand’s arsenal, but only if the ads are designed to be seen – and not blocked – by important market segments.