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How Best to Manage Visitors With Ad Blocking Turned On
to stop or not to stop, that is the question
incrediBILL




msg:532294
 7:52 pm on Aug 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

Web sites that depend on advertising for revenue, like AdSense, seem to be at odds with freeloading surfers that use all the latest technology that blocks AdSense, affiliates and other ad technologies.

Unlike other media such as radio, TV, etc. we can actively sense when ads aren't being displayed on the web page which means we could prevent the content from displaying if the ads aren't displaying. The technology isn't that complicated to stop visitors with ad blockers from viewing the site and a simple technique could even be employed to detect the lack of javascript running.

I envision this freeload stopper showing an alternate page with something like:

"This web site uses modern web technologies and requires javascript to be enabled and banner blocking technology to be disabled."

The immediate worse case scenario I can see is some visitors which currently are non-revenue producing (no CPM ads, no CPC ads, nothing) are no longer permitted on the web site unless they permit ads to be displayed. Banning them would obviously have an impact on total web statistics of visitors/pages that some of us use for selling advertising but in reality these visitors weren't seeing those ads anyway so it's sort of a moot point except for marketing (aka bragging rights).

What do you think the repercussions would be to implement technology on a web site that would block visitors from viewing content if the surfer has AdSense blocked?

Would this possibly call undue attention to AdSense and provoke a invalid clicks by initially "blocked" visitors?

If you had the technology to block "freeloaders", would you use it?

 

bird




msg:532354
 12:38 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

We are then going to develop an ad blocker detector (its not that difficult) and impliment policies.

a) If a single visitor - let them access the content, the potential opportunity to capture the person as a regular reader is worth the loss.

b) If a regular reader of a page ot two per day - let them access the site as they evidently use us as a filler to another site they use more often. If we block them, then they will just stop using us.

c) If a regular reader pulling more than two pages per day, then we are their primary news source, and they are more likely to pull out their credit card.

People will instruct their browser to accept cookies from your site for the current session only. Your system will see them as a new visitor each day, and happily serve them free content.

How about people who don't block the ads? Those who let ads show, but simply ignore them?

How about ad blocking software that loads the ads ("wasting" even more bandwidth), but doesn't display them in the browser? This software exists, and is impossible to detect by the webmaster.

Critters




msg:532355
 12:40 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

bird,
Make a popup when your site loads

"are you going to click on my ads?
YES - NO"

If they press yes they get in, if they press no they get redirected to a blank page telling them to enter their CC info?

That would work.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! :¦

DamonHD




msg:532356
 1:01 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi folks,

Interesting thread, and certainly a riddle-for-today.

I am attempting to provide a free service and have always done so, but the ad revenue allows me to spend more time on it, run faster servers, provide better material, etc, so it's tempting to label those who block ads as "freeloading" for sure.

But:

1) Those who block ads *often* have strong motivations or reasons for doing so and *forcing* them to see ads will most likely make them go away angry, which does not help you or them.

2) Ads being shown to those who don't mind them (or, even, rarely, understand and care about the publisher's economics) probably *do* have higher ROI (as previously suggested) and may even cause AS "smart pricing" to work in your favour for the remaining visitors!

3) Those whose firewalls, etc, are blocking ads without their knowledge are being hurt by misguided policies of their firewall provider. I am replacing Norton for my own PCs by another (paid-for) AV/firewall package by degrees because its engineering and policy seems increasingly broken for my purposes. Why, for example, does it force me to download and install MB of "parental control" crap on each update when I don't want or need it and have ticked every appropriate option and have to pay for the stuff in 3G download fees? The market will move against such stupidity to a greater or lesser degree.

4) If M$ were so stupid as to block non-M$ ads automatically in IE7 I think that G, Y, etc would have them in court on anti-trust (or whatever) cases so fast that you would not see them for dust. That would be such a clear violation of monopoly power in anyone's eyes that I really think M$ would be stupid to do it.

5) And indeed if any other browser provider (eg FF, Opera, etc) did such senseless high-handed filtering without telling the users what they were up to, they would find themselves unpopular at least, even if not necessarily in court.

So, with this in mind, and remembering that not everyone on the planet has broadband (yes, indeedy!), I have taken a different tack.

I provide a "lite/full" toggle link. In "lite" mode the user gets a stripped down page with very few ads or none, and fewer bandwidth- and CPU- hungry features on the page which saves them and me resources.

I often use "lite" mode myself when doing extensive work on my site.

So actually, a little lateral thought has benefited all parties IMHO.

If I started to feel more militant then I could force "lite" mode for people with ads blocked or JS turned off (I used to disable JS for good security reasons, now I just avoid IE instead!).

Do others think that a "lite" mode is a good general idea, or is it of limited use?

Rgds

Damon

John Carpenter




msg:532357
 1:21 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Make a popup when your site loads
"are you going to click on my ads?
YES - NO"

Which could also help you become yet another starter of a "My AdSense account was disabled" thread.

Critters




msg:532358
 2:00 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

yer, maybe

"YES - I will also click on your ads" let them in
"YES - I will not click your ads" redirect to blank
"No - I can not see adds" redirect to blank

:)

cellularnews




msg:532359
 2:39 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

People will instruct their browser to accept cookies from your site for the current session only. Your system will see them as a new visitor each day, and happily serve them free content.

There are other ways of tracking users without using browser based cookies.

Fortunatly, very few people know about a newish one that is emerging, so it will work for some time I think.

How about people who don't block the ads? Those who let ads show, but simply ignore them?

Much of our advertising is brand-building and direct click thrus are not vital to the advertiser for our site (fortunatly).

How about ad blocking software that loads the ads ("wasting" even more bandwidth), but doesn't display them in the browser? This software exists, and is impossible to detect by the webmaster.

No solution is ever going to be 100% perfect - but we can certainly detect a good percentage. Enough to justify the effort.

cellularnews




msg:532360
 2:44 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Do others think that a "lite" mode is a good general idea, or is it of limited use?

It depends - is your greatest cost the creation of the content, or the bandwidth needed to deliver it.

For myself, bandwidth is dirt cheap but the news articles cost time and money.

A lite version would be useless for us as a solution as it would have an insignificant impact on our cost base.

Palehorse




msg:532361
 2:59 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Noone mentioned TIVO (spelling?) the DVR thing that AUTO BLOCKED television ads. The advertising industry actually caused them to change the way they make thier hardware...

I think of my websites (the information only ones) as television. They don't sell, they inform and/or entertain.

If TIVO "has" to turn off their ad blocker (commercials) then why can't this logic work in our arena?

Many of us write to get paid through advertisment not selling products. These are not ALL storefronts, they are TV stations.

What makes the TV advertising industry "better" then us that they can force the turning "off" of a GIANT and popular ad-blocker?

Let's get real people. We need to take a stand on this.

bakedjake




msg:532362
 3:58 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

If TIVO "has" to turn off their ad blocker (commercials) then why can't this logic work in our arena?

Because I'm going to laugh at you, write my own script, and tell you to go #*$! yourself.

wrgvt




msg:532363
 4:07 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Interesting topic.

My sites are all about content, with affiliate links and ad units. Content comes first with the hope that they will click an affiliate link and buy something, and if the content doesn't quite fit what they wanted, they'll click an ad as they leave the site. One of my sites is all about books. Books are a tough item to sell because people can get them free from the library or quickly get them from their neighborhood book store. Even my mom tells me that if she finds a book on my site where she's convinced to read it, she'll go get it from the library.

Over the years, my site has gradually become known as one the authoritative sites on books. I have thousands of non-reciprocal back links and a good PR. Now if I'd taken the approach of meeting each visitor at the door, so to speak, and told them, "If you're not planning to buy something, then go away," then I'd have driven away the people who eventually added all those links and driven me towards the tops of the SERPS.

That's my most popular site and it has links to my other sites, passing some of that PR to them, as they build in popularity. Even if someone visits one of my sites, finds the information they wanted, and leaves without clicking on an affiliate link or ad unit, I was glad to have them. Maybe they bookmarked my site. Maybe they know next time when they are in a buying mood or looking for more information, they'll be back because they know where to find what they're looking for.

For reasons that have nothing to do with AdSense, all my affiliate links and links to content on other sites are done with javascript. My site logs show almost 100% of my visitors have javascript enabled, and that may be because over time, people with javascript disabled stopped visiting my site. It's never been more than 1% of my visitors. My initial feeling about this was that people who disable javascript are going to be people least likely to buy online or click an ad. I wouldn't make that same characterization about people just looking for information I have on any of my sites.

Most web site visitors who like the content on any site they visit tend to build links, bookmark, or be a repeat visitor. While they might not buy on their first visit, they are more likely over time. If you don't want these visitors, please send them my way. I'll take all comers.

jetteroheller




msg:532364
 4:10 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Possible options:

Option no layout
================
I use a special layout system.
Without javascipt on, the system shows normal the page in VGA layout.

The javascript looks at the windows size and moves accoring to VGA, SVGA, XVGA or print mode (content only)
<DIV> blocks around.

Instead of showing VGA without javascript, it could be to show no layout.

Option annoying red rectangle
=============================
If
position:absolut
would not be set in the CSS, but only in the javascript,
the page would loose the layout complete.

An other option would be to put a <DIV with an annoying red rectangle exactly whehre the ads are. The ad to over write the red rectangle.

Option no pictures
==================
I have also a trick to burn several domains on a CD.
Normal is a link from
my-first.domain to [my-second-domain...]

But this would not work on a CD.

So the link is by javascript translated.
The javascript checks where the own document is
In internet of on a local drive.

When it's on a normal drive, the link
[my-second-domain.com...]
is changed to
../../my-second-domain.com/folder/file.htm

A similar trick could be used with all pictures on a web site. The links in the code are invalid.
The links in the code are changed by javascript.
No javascript, no pictures.

jetteroheller




msg:532365
 4:14 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

How about ad blocking software that loads the ads ("wasting" even more bandwidth), but doesn't display them in the browser? This software exists, and is impossible to detect by the webmaster.

When javascript is not running, I just posted 3 possilbe options.

When javascript is running, but the ads are surpressed,
an own javascript could check the existence of some Javascript variables used by AdSense.

If they do not exist...

buy_online




msg:532366
 4:31 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

I am still having trouble calling a segment of my visitors "Freeloaders."

Like it or not, these folks have arrived at your door. Are they there for a free download, or something else that is so wonderful that I am going to spend many hours agonizing over how to alienate them? Just what is it at an "Advertiser Supported" website that is so awesome and cool? It also sounds like some need a better business model. If "Freeloaders" are mooching/leeching something from a site, then stick a paypål button on it.

Not for me.

If they block my ads, so be it. I will not alienate them though. I would rather spend the time more positively by making the site better or building other sites.

F

sven1977




msg:532367
 4:44 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

My website is only really usable, if javascript is enabled. If disabled, the biggest assets of my page (its interactive feaures), won't be usable. Thus I don't worry too much about people switching off their javascript. They won't have fun with my site anyway.

incrediBILL




msg:532368
 7:00 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

YOU WANT STATS, YOU GOT EM! - ALMOST 25% HAVE NO ADS

People are curious about hard stats so since we're at the beginning of August I thought it would be easy to sort out one of my high traffic pages. This page has 36 sub pages, (Page 1 of 36, 2 of 36, etc) and here's what we've gotten for the first 2 days of AUGUST.

3,372 actual Aug 1-2 page impressions reported in logs
2,725 single banner ad impressions on the same pages
2,5xx ad page impressions which includes PSAs

The results actually stunned me as banner ads are being run MORE than AdSense according to their numbers, not mine ;)

It's not possible that the 4 search engines I permit on my server, or even scrapers, account for over 850 missed impressions on a group of 36 pages in 2 days as I would see that sort of high volume traffic. The only real shocker is the banner tracker reported 210 more impressions than AdSense as I assumed more banners would be blocked and it's just the opposite.

Keep in mind that this is a small subsection of my site, the only section that has a specific banner tracker running on just that one page which made this information easy to isolate. A different sampling (or a site wide sampling) of my impressions might render different results but I have no banner tracker running elsewhere to compare against AdSense with detailed specifics.

[edited by: incrediBILL at 7:15 pm (utc) on Aug. 3, 2005]

jomaxx




msg:532369
 7:15 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

You have to remove web spider activity from those page impression stats or they're meaningless.

jetteroheller




msg:532370
 7:27 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

If "Freeloaders" are mooching/leeching something from a site, then stick a paypål button on it.

I had many years a paybal button on my site.

$10 from a personal friend in the US,
about 1 million visitors pais nothing.

incrediBILL




msg:532371
 7:28 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

You have to remove web spider activity from those page impression stats or they're meaningless.

I mentioned spider traffic, it can't account for 850 page views on 36 pages in 2 days.

I've only been crawled a couple of times this month so let's deduct about 108 page views for the 3 spiders I see in my logs and none of them did a deep crawl yet this month so it's probably too much, they just did a surface crawl.

Ok, that's still 700+ pages with no ads, still a real big number.

Based on my current CTR and average CPC I would estimage, assuming they were real visitors and not anonymous bots masking as visitors, that I lost a potential $11.00 on those pages alone in 2 days which would be around $150/month from that small segment.

If those stats actually held up site wide and were actually real visitors we're talking a potential loss of $4K last month. That's why I'm working on trying to figure out if these are real visitors using blocking technology or just random bots crawling the site as that's a serious amount of money to ignore or a serious amount of wasted bandwidth on bots to ignore if that turns out to be the case.

incrediBILL




msg:532372
 7:37 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

I am still having trouble calling a segment of my visitors "Freeloaders."

Let me qualify the term Freeloaders as that seems to be a sore spot as I do include rogue bots that hit my site under the umbrella term of freeloader.

Many people I deem Freeloaders aren't even aware they are freeloading as they are just naive users of technology that is increasingly hostile to web publishers.

Heck, the latest FireFox even has technology to not display images that come from a 3rd party server (I think enabled by default) so many FireFox users never see a single affiliate banner. The irony is FireFox leaves a gaping hole on the page with the link to the affiliate so it's not a complete banner ad block even, but it might as well be.

zCat




msg:532373
 8:51 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Heck, the latest FireFox even has technology to not display images that come from a 3rd party server (I think enabled by default) so many FireFox users never see a single affiliate banner.

It's been in Mozilla for a while (don't know how long but the menu option seems familiar). It's a little easier to find in Firefox but it's not enabled by default (AFAIK, at least not on the non-Windows platforms I regularly use). I'm sure I would have noticed.

zCat




msg:532374
 9:01 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

The results actually stunned me as banner ads are being run MORE than AdSense according to their numbers, not mine ;)

How are your non-AdSense banners included? Client-side or server-side?

glengara




msg:532375
 9:02 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have JS disabled, I may enable it for specific sites I'm familiar with, otherwise forget it...

incrediBILL




msg:532376
 9:03 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

How are your non-AdSense banners included? Client-side or server-side?

Client side, standard 3rd party banner ads from a site I know Norton Firewall blocks out of the box.

swa66




msg:532377
 11:15 pm on Aug 3, 2005 (gmt 0)


3,372 actual Aug 1-2 page impressions reported in logs
2,725 single banner ad impressions on the same pages
2,5xx ad page impressions which includes PSAs

With people surfing the web being utterly without patience and just breaking away from your site, or clicking before a page has fully loaded this is normal and not an indication they're using ad blockers.

The html hit will have to complete before the javascipt file can be known to the browser to start to look up the name in dns, contact the other server, get the script, have the server look up in its database what ad to serve, get the content to the client, ... the user could very well be viewing something different by the time the ad would get delivered (i.e, not get delivered for all adsense cares).

The more components you have, the longer a page takes to load, the more likely the visitor is to leave before it is fully loaded.

Just check it on a page with an image on it (most browsers people use for general purpose surfing have images turned on), you'll see nearly the same difference, even if you generate the image to avoid caching.

Remember the ToS: no sites made for adsense, make your site for providing free info and be happy with what adsense gives you in return (while it lasts). It's the only thing my visitors will put up with in the long run.

asp4bunnies




msg:532378
 12:26 am on Aug 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

Glad to see this make the front page. It's a worthy topic.

Freeloaders aren't just "freeloaders."

They may not see and click on your ads, but they may send your link to others who do.

incrediBILL




msg:532379
 12:50 am on Aug 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

With people surfing the web being utterly without patience and just breaking away from your site, or clicking before a page has fully loaded this is normal and not an indication they're using ad blockers.

OK, good point assuming these people are on dial up.

If they are on broadband it's a bad point as the site is running on a dedicated dual Xeon server, pages load in about 1-2 seconds flat including the ads, far faster that the average impatient joe can click away

The fact that more banners loaded (200 more) than adsense would tend to imply they are waiting for the pages to load as the banner is located at the bottom of the page, not the top. AdSense which is being undercounted is at the top of the page which is why the stats rattled my cage.

I'm speculating at a minimum at least 200 people that saw the banner on the bottom of the page that didn't see AdSense either had something blocking AdSense or javascript was disabled.

Remember the ToS: no sites made for adsense, make your site for providing free info and be happy with what adsense gives you in return (while it lasts).

When the ads aren't even being displayed the Google terms and conditions are meaningless to those particular visitors and the site existed long before Google did, let alone AdSense, so it was never developed for that.

incrediBILL




msg:532380
 12:54 am on Aug 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

They may not see and click on your ads, but they may send your link to others who do.

Which is the only logical idea that has ever stopped me from just locking the site down.

incrediBILL




msg:532381
 1:25 am on Aug 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have one idea that may account for SOME pages downloading but not displaying ads: PREFETCH

Anyone know how to detect prefetched pages so I can get some stats on that activity?

jomaxx




msg:532382
 1:30 am on Aug 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

I hate to prolong this thread but there's an additional problem with your assumptions. The reason more banners were served than AdSense blocks may be this:

In my experience, going from page A to page B and then clicking the back-arrow to return to page A does NOT normally generate new AdSense ads (thus no new impression).

Banners are usually displayed with "cache-busting" code, which means if you hit the back-arrow a new impression DOES result.

(As for prefetch, IMO that's probably only a microscopic factor. But I still think you're underestimating the number of weird unannounced and non-robots.txt-obeying bots that are prowling around.)

encyclo




msg:532383
 1:31 am on Aug 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

Prefetch I can help you with:

# block prefetch
RewriteCond %{X-moz} ^prefetch
RewriteRule .* - [F]

No more prefetch problem. ;)

incrediBILL




msg:532384
 1:53 am on Aug 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

But I still think you're underestimating the number of weird unannounced and non-robots.txt-obeying bots that are prowling around.

You think that can account for as many as 700 instances of 36 pages being displayed in 2 days?

The only easy thing I can see to identify bots vs visitors is bots never download any images, unless it's indexing images. Typical bots only download pages and no graphics so perhaps that demographic will let me identify who's downloading what.

Back to log analysis.

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