There are big changes coming down the line for online publishers in 2018. As more and more large publishers move to diversify their revenues and as digital ad growth slows even for industry giants, organizations at the top of the advertising food chain are exploring how to keep businesses profitable.
Perhaps the greatest sign of the changing times is Google’s impending move to block advertising for its Chrome users. Here, we’ll unpack when the changes take effect, how they’ll impact your website, and steps you can take to make sure your business’s bottom line doesn’t take a hit.
Google’s New Ad Blocking Feature
Starting February 15, Google will turn on a native ad blocking feature in Google Chrome browsers. It’s not a sweeping move: the tool doesn’t block all ads on all websites. But it does block all ads on any site that displays advertising considered annoying or intrusive. This is important because even if your display ads are mostly on the up and up, one bad ad can cause your entire site to be flagged, causing a major hit to your revenues.
The filter will remove ads that do not meet standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group made up of Big Tech, ad companies, and several large print and digital publishers. Examples of disruptive ads include pop-ups, autoplaying video ads with sound, and flashing animations. You can see the comprehensive list here (as well as read about how the Coalition researched and reached its standards for acceptable user experiences).
Why Would Google Want to Block Advertisers?
The goal of the feature is to stop people from using third-party ad blockers that remove all ads everywhere in an attempt to protect users while still serving publishers and advertisers.
It’s also a pretty self-serving move since Google continues to make the bulk of its money from advertising. Like niche publishers, the tech giant can’t afford for people to block ads from their browsers across the board.
As it’s currently being reported, the feature won’t roll out with a new version of the browser. Instead, it is a feature that will simply turn on for all Chrome users over the course of several days. So by next month, every internet user with this browser will experience some form of ad blocking during their time online.
3 Tips for Working Within the New System
If you rely on display advertising for a significant portion of your revenue, this development might be a little disheartening. But with the right tools in your belt, you can continue to monetize your site without a problem.
1. Focus on Your Site Experience
Disruptive ads are pretty easy to identify—they’re the flashy or intrusive ones that make lots of visitors bounce from your site without clicking or reading your content. So the solution to working around Chrome’s ad filter is actually pretty simple: make your site less annoying.
You can use these tools to see if your site is currently violating any of the better ad standards. This test will give you a starting point to fix the flaws in your display ads before the filter goes into effect. Even if you’re currently in the clear, it’s a good idea to periodically check in with your site’s performance and make sure users are having the best experience possible. Tracking your bounces, time spent on a page, and conversion rates will all help you better understand how much visitors do or don’t enjoy spending time on your website.
2. Diversify Your Revenue Through Paywalls
Regardless of whether or not Google filters out disruptive ads, one thing remains clear. The digital advertising model comes with challenges. Most of the revenue goes to big businesses rather than niche publishers, and as the industry continues to evolve, advertisers will get savvy and realize the declining value of display ads.
Don’t fight the evolution. Embrace it. When you diversify your revenue streams by monetizing your content, you relieve some of the pressure to make money from ads in the first place.
If you’re interested in monetizing your content, remember: strategy matters. Paid content needs to drive results. Results-driven content, also called active content, is effective for acquiring leads and customers. It provides specific instruction so the reader can take action on the material. Instead of merely informing the reader, you are providing a tool for them to use to solve a real problem or fulfill an important need. This is content people will pay for.
3. Rethink Your Ad Offerings
There is more to online advertising than display ads. If you must continue to sell ads, think more about direct response than brand advertising. How can you push traffic to your partner’s website or sell their products on yours?
Sponsored content, influencer marketing, affiliate links: There are numerous ways to generate clicks for your partners and revenue for your business without resorting to flashy, disruptive advertising. When used in combination with larger monetization tactics, your ad offerings can continue to flourish in a “better ad” landscape.
How Sterling Woods Can Help
The Sterling Woods Group teaches clients our five forces to methodically make more money online. The goal: make sure you lock in double-digit growth year after year using the power of digital media. Many companies have experienced over 50% growth using our system. Beyond the financial benefits, clients tell us that – for the first time in years – they feel truly focused.
We offer workshops, coaching, and keynote speeches. Sterling Woods is also an agency that launches new digital initiatives, so clients don’t have to add overhead. Our agency business model is unique in that most of our fees are based on performance.
About the Author
Rob Ristagno, Founder and CEO of Sterling Woods, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. He started his career as a consultant at McKinsey. Ristagno holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.
Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors: A Proven Method for Making More Money Online, set to be published in 2018. He regularly speaks at key media conferences, including at Niche Media events, Specialized Information Publishers Association meetings, and the Business Information and Media Summit.