Why Blocking Ad Blockers Will Fail

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Blocking blockers will failMy previous post, How to Block the Advert Blockers provides a technique that exploits URL regular expression matching. The method hides your premium content from users who are using advert-blocking technology.

The solution might please some site owners and publishers. Unfortunately, there are several reasons why blocking the blockers is futile, self-defeating, and could lead to less advert revenue.

1. You won’t stop every ad blocker
The code provided will work for some ad blockers some of the time, but it certainly will not stop every one. No single technique will ever be suitable in all situations. Will the cost and effort required to implement multiple solutions ever be recouped?

2. Accessibility problems
Your page will fail for anyone who has JavaScript disabled. It may also fail for those using alternative devices such as screen readers. That might be acceptable to you — those users are not viewing your adverts either. However, it is also likely to affect a proportion of your regular visitors. Be prepared for complaints and additional support costs.

3. It’s easy to beat
Anyone with modest technical skills can prevent your block. The majority of Adblock users are technically literate: all are Firefox users who install browser add-ons, many will understand how the blocker works, and some will edit their own regular expressions.

Your content can be revealed by changing the Adblock rules, viewing the source code, disabling CSS, using an alternative stylesheet, or modifying the code using Firebug or the Web Developer Toolbar.

4. Your revenue may not be affected…
They majority of advert revenue is raised when a visitor clicks an advert. AdBlock users are far less likely to click adverts even if they are forced to view them. Will blocking the blockers really increase your advertising revenue?

5. …or it could go down
Blocking your premium content simply makes it unavailable to a proportion of users. Will that concern them or will they go elsewhere? These visitors are your customers: making it difficult for them could harm your business.

We have already established that visitors using ad blockers are likely to be technically literate. These are the very people who might have blogs, use online bookmarking, or participate in social networking. Will they link to your content if you’re making it more difficult to view? How would that affect your link building and viral marketing effort?

The web is not the same as print and you cannot force a user to view a page the way you intended. Anyone can block adverts, images, CSS, JavaScript, Java, Flash, ActiveX, or modify any aspect of your page to their own personal preference.

If you write articles to make money and are convinced advert blockers affect your revenue, there is a simple solution: start charging for content. Why publish content under the pretense that it’s free/sponsored, then complain about a proportion of users who fail to click ads? What is really at fault — the ad blockers or the business model?

Ultimately, I suspect advert blockers have a negligible monetary effect on the majority of web sites. If revenue is down, perhaps there are more obvious problems to address first?

See also:

Do you use an advert blocker? Are they the scourge of the internet? Are you convinced they have a negative effect on your advertising revenues?

Craig BucklerCraig Buckler
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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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