If you were to fill a room with marketers and ask how they feel about obnoxious ads that have auto-play video or completely block the text you’re trying to read, their answers wouldn’t be too far off from what everybody thinks of those things. They’re obnoxious!
Ask those same people how they feel about the tools many consumers now use to avoid those things—ad blockers—and you’ll hear a lot of similarly strong opinions. How can people expect to enjoy free content if they block ads? Ads are an important part of the internet ecosystem! And that’s not to mention how bad ad blockers can be for a company’s demand generation strategy.
There’s no inherent contradiction in those two opinions. You can believe ads have an important role to play both for the web in general and your marketing in particular, while still being annoyed by the more disruptive types of online ads. In fact, Google’s on the same page. They both have a business model completely dependent on advertising and have just launched a new ad blocker that will automatically block ads for anyone using their Chrome browser.
On February 15, Chrome launched its ad blocker, which differs significantly from other popular ad blockers by being built into the browser. That means people don’t have to take the intentional step of downloading or opting into an ad blocker, they now use one just by using Chrome. And by most counts, over half of all internet use happens on Chrome.
To those worried about the effect ad blockers have on the marketing world, this may sound like chilling news. But Chrome’s ad blocker shouldn’t be lumped in with the others.
Most ad blockers attempt to block all ads, even though many of the consumers that use them are primarily offended by certain types of ads. HubSpot’s research found a wide spectrum of feelings about different types of ads, with pop-ups and ads that show up on mobile being seen as the worst offenders and text-only ads like those on the SERPs being the least bothersome of online ads.
But while many people are quick to condemn some ads, 83 percent said that not all the ads they encounter are obnoxious. It’s just the really bad ones they want to block.
And Chrome’s ad blocker seeks to do just that. It won’t block every ad on every page a person lands on, but it will try to identify the websites that consistently use the types of ads people hate and block ads on those sites.
The standards they’ll use to decide which ads have got to go are those developed by the Coalition for Better Ads (an organization that Google itself was a big part of). For desktop computers, the types of ads that will no longer stand are:
For mobile devices, the list is even longer:
Chrome’s ad blocker is designed to penalize the websites regularly using these types of ads. So rather than automatically blocking each specific instance of ads in these categories, they’ll evaluate websites to see if there’s a significant number of ads of this type in use. If there is, the website will get a warning and a chance to clean up the offending ads.
Website owners can check their website now using Google’s Ad Experience Report to see if they’re in danger of violating the Better Ads Standards. If you have, then you have an advance warning that it’s time to make some changes.
Google obviously has an interest in online advertising continuing to thrive. Their goal in unleashing an automatic ad blocker on over half of all internet users isn’t to keep ads from working, it’s to keep bad ads from ruining advertising for everybody. The prevalence of ad blockers that block all online ads is bad for all advertisers. This ad blocker is only bad for the subset of websites employing ad practices everyone hates.
If it keeps more people from downloading ad blockers, then it’s a win for the overall advertising industry.
Some of the ad types Google is working to make obsolete may have you worried about your demand generation strategy. But trust that this isn’t a change you can’t overcome—relatively easily even. Here are a few steps you can take now to make sure your demand generation strategy isn’t negatively impacted by Chrome’s recent change.
First things first, you need to figure out if there’s anything on your website that isn’t in keeping with the Better Ads standards. You won’t have to worry about Chrome’s ad blocker at all if you can stay on the right side of their rules.
If going through your site to look for pages that may have issues sounds like a pain, consider if you might be overdue for a website audit anyway. If you can combine this work with an overall content and SEO audit, then it could ultimately end up being a productive project on multiple levels. You can clean your site up in Chrome’s eyes, find ways to improve and repurpose your best content, and look for opportunities to strengthen your on-site SEO all in one fell swoop.
For a lot of businesses, the biggest concern on the Coalition for Better Ads list of ad types to avoid will be pop-ups. They’re used often for a good reason: they’re a strong demand generation tool. Putting that encouragement to sign up for your email list or download your eBook front and center where there’s no way your visitor could miss it often pays off in new signups and leads.
While pop-up ads are on the Coalition’s list, there are some significant exceptions to the rule. Namely, most pop-ups triggered by some kind of behavior, such as when a person has scrolled down to the bottom of the page or when they’ve been idle on your page for a while, are considered OK.
The pop-ups that bug people most are the ones that block the content before you’ve even gotten started or that make it hard for you to find out how to close the pop up to move forward. As long as you use pop-ups that only show up at times when they’re not disrupting a visitor’s content consumption and that they can easily close if they’re not interested, you can keep them as part of your demand generation strategy without worrying about Chrome’s ad blocker.
Of course, there’s a whole type of marketing that’s based around avoiding the types of distracting interruptions people hate and interacting with them on a positive level instead: inbound marketing. While pop-ups and display marketing can sometimes be good supplements to inbound marketing, when inbound is the main focus of your demand generation strategy, they’ll be just one part of your overall toolkit for reaching your target audience.
All of the best inbound marketing tactics are immune from ad blockers in general, including Chrome’s ad blocker:
Great content won’t necessarily create leads on their first touch point, but it’s a way to bring your audience to you more naturally than an ad does and in a more meaningful way. People who get value from your content will associate your brand with the help you’ve provided and be that much more likely to come back, sign up for your email list and think of you first when they need the kind of service or product you sell.
Promoting products to people who don’t know you yet can feel salesy in a way that promoting helpful content doesn’t. Getting your content in front of potential leads gives you a way to build trust before you start making the hard sell. For brands selling products that consumers take some time to research and consider before making a purchasing decision, starting by promoting the useful information you’ve created can be a better long-term demand generation strategy than serving up product ads.
Inbound marketing is all about building trust and relationships as a pathway to making sales. That makes your email list the best inbound demand generation tool you have. When someone gives you permission to get in touch with them regularly, it opens the door to an ongoing relationship that includes (but isn’t all about) more direct product promotions. Use your other inbound marketing tools to communicate with your email list—then you can promote both your deeper-funnel content and your products to your email list.
A good way to get visitors to cross the line over into actual leads is by creating content that goes above and beyond what you offer on your blog and other open channels. Ebooks, white papers or web courses that are extra valuable can be used as gated content to encourage high-quality leads to provide their information to you. If you can figure out the topics most valuable to your audience and produce content a cut above what they can find widely available on the subject, gated content assets can be another strong inbound demand generation tactic.
The Chrome ad blocker should simply inspire marketers to do something they should have been doing all along: thinking about how to prioritize the customer experience in your marketing strategy. Disruptive ads may be an easy way to get attention, but they’re also the best way to annoy the people you’re trying to reach. By switching to tactics that are more considerate of how potential leads will want to interact with your brand, you can start the process of building a more positive relationship with the people most likely to become your customers.