Ad Blocking Isn't the End of the World, Marketers

Digital advertising has been having a hard time.

First, a report from Adobe and PageFair found that nearly 200 million people worldwide are now using ad-blocking tools—a trend costing the ad industry $ 22 billion. Next, Apple killed its advertising platform and announced that the Safari browser on iOS 9 would come with a pre-installed ad-blocker. And finally, Samsung revealed plans to support content and ad-blocking plugins.

For digital advertisers, all that is very bad news. And the deluge of ad-blocking options—particularly on mobile—has many marketers in a panic, too.

Freaking Out About Ad Blocking

Here’s the important question: Is the anxiety over ad-blocking warranted?

In some ways, yes. When companies as big as Apple and Samsung publicly support ad-blockers, it sends a signal that the trend isn’t going away. And for marketers who rely on paid advertising to drive a significant chunk of leads, customers, and revenue, that’s very problematic.

Then again, ad-blocking technology isn’t new. In fact, ad-blockers have been around on desktops for years. And when they first came out, the same doomsday scenarios were used as click-bait back then. How’s that working out? Let’s not forget a little company called Google seems to be doing just fine.

The bottom line: Though any pain caused by ad-blocking—decreases in website traffic, leads, and revenue—won’t be easy to stomach, it’s not a sign of the apocalypse.

Here are a few compelling reasons why:

  • About 90% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. It won’t just let that stream dry up.
  • Google Chrome is growing in market share (41.57%), while Apple’s Safari browser is declining (34.12%). Google won’t block ads on a browser it owns.

Now, all that isn’t to say you should continue relying on digital advertising as a main source of traffic, leads, and customers. In fact, I would absolutely suggest diverting some money away from paid to invest in more sustainable, scalable acquisition channels.

A Smart Mobile Ad-Blocking Strategy for B2B Businesses

To give you an idea of what a healthy paid-to-earned media strategy looks like, here’s a screenshot of how our traffic breaks down. The blue line represents traffic from desktop browsers; the red and yellow lines represent mobile devices.

 

Less than 5% of our total traffic came from paid search over the last 30 days. Does that mean we’re smarter than everyone else?

Not necessarily. But I think that data is a good reflection of traffic patterns of most other B2B companies. In fact, a study by BrightEdge of more than 8,500 B2B brands found that just 4% of those companies’ referral traffic came from paid search. If you’re a B2B company, my guess is that mobile-ad blocking will not be the devastating blow (at least in the short-term) that others are predicting it will be.

A Bigger Deal for B2C Businesses

Now, if you’re a consumer business, mobile ad-blocking is a different story.

One report suggests that mobile traffic now accounts for nearly 50% of e-commerce traffic and as much as 25% of retail sales. And historically, those types of companies have relied more on paid search and paid advertising to drive traffic and new customer acquisition.

With that said, ad-blocking will undoubtedly have a bigger impact on your business, and you’ll need to absorb the punches in the near-term. But I stand by my opinion above: Ad-blocking isn’t the end of the world. With the right approach, you’ll still be able to survive (and thrive) in an adless Web.

How?

Take Airbnb— a company recently valued at $ 25.5 billion. Yes, it’s an outlier in terms of success, but the company didn’t grow through ads. It certainly knows a thing or two about marketing to a mobile audience. Its most effective tactics are word-of-mouth and a referral marketing program credited with driving a significant portion of the brand’s early growth.

The beauty of that marketing approach is that it’s untouchable by ad-blockers. When customers, advocates, influencers, and fans happily promote the brand on your behalf, there’s almost no need to rely on paid channels to drive growth.

How Marketers Can Prepare for an Ad-Blocking Future

Though it’s safe to say that the Web is never going to be completely ad-free, you can prepare for any potential dip in paid traffic or improve your current paid lead-generation efforts.

Harness the power of social media and its organic reach

Even if you don’t have a huge following on social, you can use transfer some of your ad budget to invest in relationships with influencers on various platforms who already have the attention of your target demographic.

Try this:

  • Compile a list of popular Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts in your industry.
  • Reach out to the page owners, introduce yourself, and ask whether they offer any advertising or cross-promotion opportunities.

You’d be surprised how many influential profiles are willing to do a few sponsored posts as part of an advertising package. And that’s something that can’t be undone by ad-blockers.

Getting Creative With Adwords

One of the biggest fears advertisers have with ad-blockers is that their Google Ads will go unnoticed. I highly doubt Google will let Adwords be killed off that easy, but you can get creative with your ad dollars.

For instance, if you’ve been using Adwords for any significant amount of time, you probably have a good idea which keywords are driving the most traffic and conversions. Use that insight to compile a list of sites that rank in the top three organic positions for your best performing keywords and reach out to those sites (assuming they aren’t competitors) to ask about negotiating an advertising package directly on their site.

* * *

The key takeaway here is that the less reliant you are on one source—unless it’s a totally organic, owned channel like a fantastic blog or a super-effective referral marketing program—the better.

And let’s not ignore the fact that ad-blocking services aren’t the white knights that many are portraying them to be. Though they may claim to be saviors  sparing us from evil advertisements, the dark truth is that Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are paying these ad-blocking companies big bucks to stay off of their block list.

For the ad-blockers, that’s a very smart, very profitable form of legal extortion. But for consumers and marketers, it should serve as a reminder that ad-blockers aren’t the knights in shining armor we think they are.

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Let’s block ads! (Why?)

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