The rise of ad blocking is disrupting the digital marketing industry. People are no longer willing to tolerate intrusive ad experiences or ads that dominate too much of their screen space. They are demanding more control over the ads they see and use ad blockers to avoid poor user experiences while browsing the web.
Most ad blocking users are in the UK, France and Germany. Germany has the highest number of ad blocking users, with 32.8% of internet users using some form of ad blocking. In the U.S., roughly one in four internet users will block ads this year on at least one of their devices. A common misconception is that users are mainly blocking display banners (retargeting) and pop-up ads, however, banners and text links commonly used in affiliate marketing are also are subject to the same restrictions. Many ad blocking apps are powered by large filter databases that allow anyone to submit ads to their ad blocking lists.
As ad blocking becomes mainstream, marketers are looking for ways to mitigate its impact on their affiliate programs. Here are three strategies to help you identify and reduce the likelihood of being blocked within your affiliate programs:
When trying to determine whether your placements are blocked, one of the easiest ways to do so is to sign up for ad blocking software and then audit your publishers’ sites. By using an ad blocker on your browser, you’ll see when ads or links disappear from the publisher’s website if they are blocked. It’s also important to review EasyList, the primary list used by many ad blockers, to see if your tracking domain is listed.
Once you do your research and find your affiliate placement is blocked, you can appeal to be whitelisted in the Acceptable Ads initiative, get whitelisted. Some companies may be asked for a monetary fee for whitelisting licenses.
Collaborating with your affiliate network or software as a service (SaaS) platform can help minimize the impact of ad blocking. Many affiliate networks and platforms have developed solutions for mitigating ad blocking technology. They often require code changes to a brand’s site so keep in mind that you’ll likely need to get your technology department involved.
Some platforms offer dedicated tracking domains for traffic. These are unique to the brand’s affiliate program, which lowers the risk of being added to an ad blocking list. These custom domains can be updated as needed if they are ever flagged. Other solutions provide a fallback analytic URL for tracking or server-to-server tracking for managing ad blocking.
Often, people turn on ad blockers after a bad experience with disruptive, irrelevant online ads. Effective brand marketing builds relationships with consumers and affiliate marketing has proven to be a successful way to build authentic relationships. Content partners, for example, are known for creating meaningful content and sharing their personal experience with the brand, which establishes trust and authority with their followers. Customers are often more receptive to this approach than banners ads as they have access to more information and value access to quality content.
Take, for example, blogger Money Saving Mom’s relationship with KiwiCo. Money Saving Mom shared a review of KiwiCo’s monthly subscription service offering kid’s educational projects, crafts and activities on different themes. In her post, the author shares how much her kids enjoyed their KiwiCo box and she includes an affiliate link to the site for readers to explore KiwiCo on their own. These personalized insights are meaningful and relevant to potential customers, offering a better user experience that feels less intrusive than a banner ad.
If your publishers do use banner ads in their promotions, make sure they are compliant by following guidelines for standard sizes, placements and other best practices as defined by the Acceptable Ads criteria. This can help ensure your ads aren’t inappropriately standing out and flagged by ad blockers.
Publishers who deliver quality, relevant ads will provide the most value to brands. The reality is that the era of disruptive ad experiences is coming to an end and being replaced by personalized and meaningful content that reflects the aspirations and interests of the customer. With careful planning and monitoring - and working closely with industry partners – affiliate program managers and marketers can better navigate the challenges inherent with ad blocking.