How to detect users with ad blockers and monetize that traffic

How would you feel if your boss came to you one day and told you your salary was going to be reduced by 47%? You would still be expected to do the same amount of work, just getting paid 47% less. I don’t know about you, but I would be seriously concerned and disappointed.

Well, a study was conducted to detect users with ad blockers, and the results were shocking. According to the Forbes analysis, 47% of people who go online are using adblockers these days. If you are monetizing your site with ads, that will probably translate to roughly a 47% decrease in revenue.

The first adblocker was developed in 2002. Since then, a wide variety of ad blocking alternatives have popped up and have been gaining users consistently until reaching almost half of the people who are online every day.

Why your users have ad blockers

People use ad blockers for various reasons, but according to the same Forbes article, the top 5 are:

  • Too many ads on one page.
  • Ads are annoying or irrelevant.
  • They are intrusive.
  • Ads affect the performance of the site.
  • People do not want personalized ads.

You can agree or disagree with those reasons. It won’t change the fact that that’s how people feel. And I must admit they are not entirely wrong. Some sites clearly abuse the use of ads. They do not just show more ads than content in their layouts, but by placing those ads in a way that users will click on them by mistake, generating a few cents for the website while delivering terrible user experience. Those websites exist, and they are probably the reason why someone developed the first ad blocker at all.

However, the truth is that by installing an ad blocker to fight those abusive sites, people are also punishing other legitimate websites, big and small. But those rely on the income they generate through advertising to survive and keep creating original and high-quality content.

The available solutions

Many users don’t even realize they are hurting the websites they love by blocking their ads. They tend to think that since they were not going to click on the ads anyway, blocking them would not make a difference. They obviously haven’t heard about CPM ads, where publishers get paid to show an ad, regardless of how many clicks it gets. Or other concepts such as brand awareness, where brands are not that much interested in getting clicks but more in just getting you familiar with their logo, brand colors, etc.

When big sites started noticing the impact of ad blockers on their revenue, they came up with a solution: detect users using ad blockers. And if they are, show them a message explaining what I just said and ask them to create an exception in their ad blocker to allow ads on their site.

Different sites have taken this solution to different extends. Some only show this message and allow you to close it and continue browsing. Or they won’t let you see the content until you create the exception. Like many newspapers, others went all the way and became subscription platforms that require a monthly payment to view their content, most of the time, ad-free.

Now, can you imagine trying to explain all this in a single sentence on a pop-up? Impossible. In a world where our patience is measured in milliseconds, very few people will take the time to understand what’s going on and create exceptions in their ad blockers for the sites they like. In most cases showing such a warning will just through people off and have them close your tab and go to a different source.

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Detect and show alternative ads to a user with an ad blocker

But not everything is bad news today. There is a solution to detect users with ad blockers and serve them with alternative ads, undetectable by ad blockers, and compliant with all the things that people hate about advertisements in the first place.

If you are an experienced developer, you can use some custom code. If you prefer to set up the solution through a UI, use the option available in Advanced Ads.

Custom code to detect a user with an ad blocker

If you like to get your hand a bit dirty, you can copy & paste the above code where you want the ad to show up. Just remember to keep the class names beautiful. Nothing should contain the words “ad”, “banner”, “sponsor” or anything else that ad blockers might identify as an ad.

<div class="the_first_container">
	<!-- your AdSense code goes here -->
<div class="the_second_container"></div>
<script type="text/javascript">
	window.setTimeout(function() { // wait for ad blockers to do their thing
		if ( jQuery( ".the_first_container" ).height() === 0 ) {
			jQuery( ".the_second_container" ).html( '<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="your_new_image.jpg"></a>' );
	}, 1000);
</script>Code language: HTML, XML (xml)

We detect if the user has an ad blocker on line 7 by checking the height of the div that is supposed to contain our ad. There are different ways to detect users with ad blockers. Regardless of which solution they are using, I find that checking the ad container’s height is the most reliable. Once we’ve detected the ad blocker, we proceed to display a static image with an affiliate link (line 8). 

Ad blockers will not be able to distinguish that image from any other image in your article. Therefore, they won’t block it. Also, take user experience into account. If you keep the number of placements down to a reasonable level, your new “ads” won’t be annoying. There is no movement, just static images. They will not have a significant impact on performance. They will not be intrusive, and they will not be personalized. So people using ad blockers should be ok with it, don’t you agree?

Show alternative ads using Advanced Ads Pro

If you are not a technical person and have no idea what the above code does, you can simply use the built-in option in Advanced Ads Pro. It is as simple as creating an “Image ad” unit and selecting it as a fallback for users with ad blockers in your placement settings.

These are the necessary steps:

  • install and activate Advanced Ads Pro
  • enable the Ads for Ad Blockers module in Advanced Ads > Settings > Pro
  • select the ad you want to show to ad-block users in the Ad Blocker Item option of each placement
How to show fallback ads if detecting user with ad blocker
Selecting an Ad blocker item as a fallback for detected users with ad blockers

The simplest way to get started is with the Amazon Affiliate Program. But there are also many other affiliate programs out there offering high commissions. Once you find the one that works best for your niche and implement it, you should start seeing a nice flow of additional revenue. 47%? Well, one can hope!

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