Whether shopping for shoes or reading up on product reviews, site visitors are there to accomplish a task and expect a seamless, non-disruptive experience. However, if ad placements are disruptive, slow a page’s load time, or are irrelevant to the reason they’re on the site, those users are likely to seek out alternatives.
This is why ad blockers have become such a hot topic and concern.
There are nearly 200 million users of ad-blocking software, which is expected to cost online publishers nearly $22 billion in advertising revenue this year. These numbers are sure to soon skyrocket, with ad blockers becoming available in the next version of Apple’s mobile-operating system, iOS 9, which is set to come out as early as this month.
A major reason behind this adoption is the vicious cycle publishers get stuck in when relying on display advertising for monetization. As CPMs decrease, they publish more ads to their pages, in addition to the dozens of hidden trackers and cookies. That, in turn, violates user trust, detracts from the user experience, decreases the number of visitors, and ultimately lowers ad costs that drives lower quality ads onto a page.
Publishers and advertisers need to break this cycle, working together to deliver relevant content and useful ads, taking user experience into account and building reader loyalty.
Here’s how the two can work hand-in-hand to provide a strong user experience sure to keep site visitors from blocking ads:
Provide Relevant Ads in the Right Context
Content might be king for consumers, but advertising is what sustains digital publishers. While many ads may have relevance to users, they’re often presented out of context, making users’ site experience feel “off.” Instead of bombarding visitors with ads, publishers need to find a balance between monetizing inventory and giving site visitors what they want, when they want it, and in the right context.
Gone are the days of consumers tolerating a barrage of ads in return for free content. While some content producers and distributors rely on premium subscription models for a large portion of their revenue (e.g., LinkedIn, Netflix, WSJ, etc.), not all publishers can afford to do so.
For those reliant on advertising to drive revenue, there needs to be a concerted effort to place timelier, relevant ads in front of users in a context that makes sense.
Making Ads Service the User
Sometimes, placing ads on a site can do more harm than good. It’s important to not just throw ads onto pages but consider how to bring them into a full-circle environment to service the user.
To do this, many publishers are moving away from display ads and toward native ads or sponsored content, driven by mobile as the experience on those devices is even more limited in terms of content creation.
Many publishers are also designing page templates to reduce page load times, equating not only to a cleaner experience for users, but also more ad revenue.
New digital publishers are diversifying their business models to better service their users – for example, TripAdvisor and Houzz are keying in on commerce with ads for goods and services featured on their sites, while Yelp has discontinued digital ads on its site to improve user experience.
All three of these publishers rely heavily on subscription and membership models, making their relationship with users paramount. Traditional publishers making the move to digital should take note of how this new breed of digital publisher tailors their ads to truly service their users, providing a richer experience that fosters user loyalty.
The “block shock” is front-and-center for digital publishers and advertisers alike. While newer digital sites like Houzz and TripAdvisor were born taking user experience into account, there’s still a lot to be done for traditional media companies as they digitalize and join the battle against ad blockers.
Publishers and advertisers need to work together to become helpful, rather than burdensome to consumers.
By providing relevant and timely content, as well as well-placed ads, or eliminating ads when they could potentially harm loyal, valuable reader relationships, the two can (and should) serve users above all else – or risk losing visitors, not to mention ad revenue.
Some (most?) people block all ads purely because they can. Sure, advertisers can fool themselves that it's how they deliver the ads or how often they deliver the ads, but to many consumers it's that they even try at all. You won't put this genie back in the bottle so easily.