It’s been a little over two months since Google implemented its native ad blocker in Chrome. In the days and weeks leading up to it, many advertisers were concerned that the ad blocker would negatively impact their online advertising.
So, what have we learned?
The short answer: If you’ve been practicing effective online advertising techniques before and after the ad blocker went live, you might have noticed an increase in performance if anything.
The long answer: Let’s take a few steps back.
The goal of Chrome’s ad blocker was to eliminate negative ad experiences for users. To do this, the blocker focused on websites. If a webpage was displaying a certain percentage of ads that Google considered to be invasive, the browser would block all ads on the page from showing up.
To set the ad blocking filters, Google followed these recommendations of the Coalition for Better Ads (which Google is a member of):
The common theme among all of these ads is that they’re singularly focused on getting the attention of a user. They’re ‘annoying’ — pop-ups, auto-playing videos with sound, ads that take up large portions of the screen. If they’re not holistically tied to the website (like a pop-up lead capture form) they interrupt a user’s natural Internet experience. Short-term, users might close out a window or a tab. Long-term, users might start to preemptively ignore all online advertisements.
Before Chrome’s ad blocker was in place, advertisers who followed the principles of effective online advertising were being punished. Their ads, no matter how optimized, were being shouted over. Now that the filters are in place, an optimized ad has a very small chance of displaying next to an annoying one. Ads are competing against each other based on the relevance to the user and the effectiveness of their content.
We should note: we’ve never used any of these ad types in our online marketing. In every online advertising experience that we create, the relationship between the user and the advertiser is of utmost importance. A more ‘annoying’ ad, taking up more space on a screen, could grab attention. But you’re paying for that exposure with a negative advertiser experience — and research has shown that it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one poor one.
So, long answer? We’ve learned that the ad blocker has actually made good ads more effective by leveling the playing field and promoting advertisers who are nurturing relationships with customers. And we’ve learned that the three principles of effective online advertising are still king.
The three principles of effective online advertising
The three principles of effective online advertising are simple: audience, context, and content. Check them against your campaigns to ensure that you’re not only complying with Chrome’s ad blocker, but making your advertising compelling and engaging.
Every time you create and serve an online ad, you should have a specific audience in mind. Display advertising is different from paid search marketing, where you’re largely focusing on the intent of a user in the moment. Here, you’re largely focusing on an audience defined by the data that you’re matching users against or that an online publisher is providing you about their users.
You have to write for humans — not bots, and not your own subjective idea of who your audience is. With no data to serve as a compass, you can’t guarantee ad relevance. You’ll lose engagement to other ads competing in the same space. If you need help defining audiences or personas, follow our guide. When it comes to applying these learnings, you need to think about ad context.
Online advertisements aren’t viewed in a vacuum. A user sees your ad in the context of their current browsing session — their device, their environment, their time of day. When creating an ad, you need to understand how this will influence user engagement.
For example, if a user is viewing your ad on mobile during the day, they’re probably at work. You need to focus more heavily on the imagery to make it eye-catching. Or, if a user is on a desktop, they’re more likely to be closer to a purchase decision. You can change the content to reflect their place in the buyer’s journey with direct sells or specific content offerings.
Content can refer to both the copy of the ad itself and also what you’re teasing in the ad.
Most ads depend on micro-copy to convey meaning and compel action. When you have a limited space to work with, this task gets significantly harder. At 829, we’ve learned how to write compelling micro-copy by creating, cross-referencing and optimizing ads in multiple industries over many years. If we had one key takeaway, it’s to keep the user in a heightened state of urgency. To compel an action with an ad impression, it helps if there’s a time-sensitive or limited-quantity offer.
A good way to get users clicking and subsequently converting, however, is to offer value in exchange for engagement. White papers, ebooks, web courses, and discounts are all examples of content that can be gated behind a contact form and used to generate leads coming from ads.
Great content won’t necessarily qualify leads on their first touch point, but it’s a way to offer value and develop your relationship with your audience in a meaningful way.
Chrome’s ad blocker should inspire you to focus on the customer experience. If you want to take a renewed look at your ad campaigns and strategy, let’s chat! Sign up for a free online advertising analysis with my team. We’ll outline your current performance and lay out a clear plan for improvement.