Adblockers and their threat to online publishers

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Dec 15, 2008 by Paul White

The Firefox browser is the preferred browser by most webmasters and power users.  One of the benefits of firefox is its ability to download plugins that add functionality.  One of these plugins is called Adblock Plus.  This plugin blocks most advertisements you normally see on websites.  Similar to the days of VHS recorders where people would record their favorite shows pausing out the advertisements.  This plugin has the ability to dramatically affect the profits of big publishing houses like google, yahoo, msn.  Even if you aren't a big guy, and just sell a few ad spots within your site.  Depending on how you code these ads, they may be blocked by this plugin. 

On my own blog for whitesites, I run google ads to generate a little advertising revenue.  After installing the adblock plugin my ads no longer are displayed.  This was both exciting as it makes my viewing experience much faster, but also alarming.  This means that anyone who has this plugin will never see my ads, and therefore never click my ads either. 

How online advertising works

When a Publisher uses an Adserver (Google Adsense, Yahoo, or internal )

1. User Requests to view a page
2. Server Responds with the page
3. Browser then requests all objects on page ( images, external CSS, external Javascript, Advertisements)
4. Server recieves Ad Request.
5. Server selects an Ad from its pool of running ads, saves stats about user, increments a counter, and sends ad to browser
5. Browser displays page with ad.
6. User sees webpage with Ad
7. 1.5% chance user clicks on Ad
8. Publishing house tracks the click, and records stats to publisher's account.
9. Publishing house pays Publisher.

How Adblock prevents ads from adserver

1. User Requests to view a page
2. Server Responds with the page
3. Adblocker scans HTML for known Ad requests ( google adsense, yahoo, and other )
4. Adblocker removes HTML code causing Ad Request.
5. Browser then requests all objects on page ( images, external CSS, external Javascript)
6. User sees webpage without Ads
7. no chance user clicks on Ad
8. no chance or profiting from this user.

Other ways adblocker hurts publishers

Ad blocker also checks URL references.  Even if you don't run your own Ad Server, and Ads are either generated dynamically on the page, or are static, how you name your ads can hurt you.
For example if you Ads are stored as images at
Adblocker would detect these as ads and block them.
A better idea would be to save your ads in a directory that can't be detected as advertisements. 

Why do users want to block ads?

Its not that the user doesn't want to see your ads.  Its that they don't want to wait for your ads to load.  Even though google for the most part is pretty quick about feeding ads. There are times where it takes google a few seconds before they send the ads over.  Since the user can't interact with the page until everything has loaded. The user's browser stays locked until the ads have loaded.  With how fast computers have gotten, users want to click and browse as fast as possible.  Ads slow down the browsing experience.

Why do Publishers use Ad Servers?

Most Ad Servers use a javascript call to retrieve the ads. Since only real browsers can make these calls, The Ad Servers are only tracking ads to organic traffic ( real people ) as ossposed to bots or crawlers.

How do I combat this?

Even though Google Adsense is a quick and easy way to get advertisers on your website.  You can always make more money with direct advertising. I recommend you code your own ad system.  Either have your in house Web Designer do this or hire someone who can. 
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