Adblock Recovery Strategies: The Ultimate Guide
August 22, 2023
In the world of digital advertising, ad blockers have become a major challenge for publishers relying on ad revenue to keep their businesses profitable. Estimates show that publishers lose up to 40% of revenue to ad blocking. Back in 2021, the projected yearly ad block revenue loss was a staggering $40 billion. With the year-on-year proliferation of ad blockers - installed by over 40% of internet users worldwide - finding the right ad block recovery strategy is pivotal for every publisher. In this blog post, we explore the pros and cons of five different ad block recovery strategies.
Strategy #1: Increase ads
Simply showing more ads can be tempting, particularly for publishers unaware of their ad blocker-induced revenue loss. If your current ads aren’t generating enough profit, the answer is to just show more ads. What can go wrong?
A lot, actually. While you might see some quick results (after all, more ads = more impressions seems like pretty easy math), displaying additional ads can be counter-productive in the long run. Especially if the ads shown are annoying and intrusive - by creating a negative ad experience on your site, you’re creating an overall negative user experience. An overall negative user experience causes visitor and/or user turnover, which means less traffic, fewer impressions, and declining revenue. Further, displaying more ads can spur users to install more ad blockers, increasing the subset of hard-to-monetize users.
Pros and cons of increasing ads
- Immediate short-term revenue increase
- Bad UX
- Increase in ad blocker users
- Decrease in eCPM and overall long-term revenue
Strategy #2: Acceptable Ads
Check out our blog post for a more in-depth examination of Acceptable Ads.
The Acceptable Ads program is operated by Eyeo, which owns numerous ad blockers and developed Adblock Plus. The program whitelists ads that are compliant with their Acceptable Ads standard, meaning they’ll be shown to Adblock Plus users. As an ad blocker company, UX is a priority, so the allowed ad formats are more vigorous than other established standards. For publishers prioritizing UX, joining this program can be beneficial. However, because the program’s reach is limited to the Acceptable Ad program partners, only 15-25% of total ad-blocked impressions are recouped. For most publishers, this isn’t enough to invest in new content and keep their business profitable, meaning alternate or supplementary strategies are needed.
Pros and cons of Acceptable Ads
- Based on (passive) user consent
- Non-disruptive for users
- Mandatory 30% license fee of additional ad revenue for large publishers
- Low ad block recovery rate: 15-25% of recovery ratio
- Strict formatting standards reject various popular ad formats
- Declining revenue recovery rate as Adblock Plus loses ad blocker market share
- Requires paying and/or supporting Adblock Plus; some publishers may not want to support ad blockers
Strategy #3: Ad block walls (anti-ad block pop-ups)
Check out our blog post for a more in-depth look at ad block walls.
Ad block walls - otherwise known as anti-ad block popups - is a fairly established strategy, used by 17% of major US publishers. Ad block walls detect the presence of ad blockers during a user session and restrict access to content unless the ad blocker is disabled or the website is whitelisted. Typically, ad block walls function as dismissible (soft ad block walls) or non-dismissible (hard ad block walls). In perhaps the most recent widely-known use of ad blockers, YouTube began experimenting with anti-ad block popups a few months prior.
Like Strategy #1 of increasing ads, ad block walls can produce short-term results. Particularly for non-dismissible ads, users may accept ads to view content. However, also like Strategy #1, the short-term results are offset by bad UX and consequent long-term opportunity costs. Users are most annoyed by intrusive ads that detract from their content consumption and seek ad blockers to block such ads. Anti-ad block popups, then, are even more annoying, by entirely denying as opposed to simply disrupting the content consumption experience. Accordingly, initial gains achieved with ad block walls decline over time as users end up installing stronger and/or additional ad blockers (which then negatively impacts other recovery strategies) or leave your site entirely to avoid ad block wall popups.
Pros and cons of ad block walls
- Based on (active) user consent
- May recover more revenue than Acceptable Ads
- Effective for the first few weeks
- Bad UX
- Increase in ad blocker users
- Increase in bounce rates, leading to lower search rankings and user retention
- Recovered revenue declines over time as ad blockers add filters to block popups
Strategy #4: Traditional ad block circumvention
Traditional ad block circumvention is the process of detecting and re-inserting blocked ads. For example, one type of circumvention involves obfuscating HTML/CSS classes and IDs. By obfuscating the elements, ad blockers fail to detect them as an ad unit, allowing the ad to bypass the blocker and be displayed to users.
Like the prior strategies, the biggest concern with traditional ad block circumvention is sustainability: a publisher’s engineering resources are finite, and ad blockers are constantly producing new filters to block circumventions. Ad block circumvention is effective only as long as the ad blockers fail to circumvent the circumvention. Even a publishing behemoth like Facebook, which has multiple teams dedicated to ad block circumvention, is known for its perpetual cat-and-mouse chase with prominent ad blocker Ad Block. While Facebook may have the resources to continuously update its circumvention technology, most publishers lack the capacity to keep up with new ad blockers.
Pros and cons of traditional ad block circumvention
- Effective in the first few weeks
- Less disruptive than popups without limiting users’ access to content
- Doesn’t involve paying or supporting ad blockers
- Difficult to implement
- Declining recovery rate as ad blockers quickly add new filters
- Incompatible with general ad scripts such as Google AdManager, AdSense, etc.
Strategy #5: Ad-Shield’s browser integrity ad block recovery
Want to learn more about how Ad-Shield helps publishers? Check out our blog post.
Ad-Shield utilizes a virtual layer called the Ad-Shield Runtime, which leverages the technical limitations of ad blockers to implement an integrity-guaranteed layer on top of browsers. By executing advertising scripts on the Ad-Shield Runtime - which ad blockers cannot interfere with - existing ads are successfully displayed to ad blocker users. Like traditional ad block circumvention, Ad-Shield Runtime is a form of ad recovery. However, instead of recovering individual ads via obfuscation, Runtime’s secure layer enables ads to seamlessly and reliably circumvent blockers. While the traditional ad circumvention battle rages between publishers and ad blockers, Ad-Shield has bypassed over 4,000 ad blocker filter updates and recovered over 90% of ad-blocked impressions over several years.
As we’ve covered in this blog post, simply recovering or showing more ads is not conducive to sustainable long-term growth. A viable solution cannot sacrifice UX. At Ad-Shield, we respect the experience of ad blocker users and designed our solution to only recover ads that adhere to Better Ads Standards. Additionally, with publisher consent, Ad-Shield provides an opt-out functionality for the minority of ad blocker users who do not wish to view any and all ads.
Pros and cons of Ad-Shield’s ad block recovery
- 90%+ long-term recovery rate (highest in the world)
- Compatible with general ad scripts, including Google AdSense and AdManager
- Easily implemented with a single line of code
- Prioritizes UX
- Only display ads compliant with the Better Ads Standards