ss-ad-blocking
14 April 2016 | Asad Imam

Adblocking means SEO is vital for brands

The rising use of ad blockers is currently a hot topic in the digital media industry. Publishers and paid media providers have been increasingly engaged in legal skirmishes with courts, ad blocking providers and web browser companies.

The latest in the legal losing streak comes from Germany, where a court has rejected claims that ad blocking providers are illegal. As ad blockers continue to be popular expect similar lawsuits becoming a common occurrence in other countries too.

The use of ad blockers is by no means new. What did, however, cause an escalation of hostilities was Apple’s release of iOS 9 which allows users to enable ad blocking within their mobile browsers. Suddenly the prospect of having an ad-free search page or ad-free content pages was brought center stage to a much larger audience.

According to the Internet advertising bureau stats, the use of ad blockers has gone up from 15% in June last year to 22% when the figures were revised in November, clearly pointing towards the impact the iOS update has had. Ad blocking apps also rose quickly to earn their place in the Top 10 Paid Apps.

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Combined with the rising use of smartphones as the preferred platform to search online or to visit a website, this suddenly becomes a significant issue for paid media suppliers and brands as advertisers.

This is clearly a threat to the foundation of online advertising and, as a mean to combat this, Google and other big players appear to have struck deals with ad blockers for their own ads to be deemed as ‘non-intrusive’.

Despite this tactic the rising use of ad blockers has heralded a steady decline in revenue from paid advertising. Perhaps, as more users are finding out about adblocking deals and how the big players are managing to work round blockers, the antipathy towards ads has escalated and users are now actively seeking to block ads altogether.

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So what does this all mean for brands as advertisers?

For brands relying on acquiring users solely through paid media, there are significant implications on their long term customer acquisition plans.

Industry commentators are suggesting that the rising popularity of ad blocking will lead to a decrease in ad inventory and this will result in publishers competing quite heavily for the limited places. For advertisers or brands, this means,

  • Ad prices will go up
  • New users will be more difficult to acquire, and eventually
  • Return on investment will reduce

This leaves brands/advertisers with important questions to ask about their marketing strategies, especially in terms of new user acquisition and whether other unpaid or organic channels should take precedence.

Planning SEO to overcome the impact from ad blockers

While this tug of war is active on the paid side of the digital marketing spectrum, it is inevitable that the perceived value of organic search will rise in the eyes of the marketers. After all, organic search is how search marketing began and using search engines will remain the most viable option for the users to find new information. Therefore, the need for a successful and effective SEO strategy for increasing the visibility of products and services is more vital than ever.

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Key areas to focus on for organic growth

As more brands notice the drop in ROI through paid channels and look towards organic search, the SEO playing field will become even more competitive. To face the challenge brands should immediately begin focussing on the following;

Content: Brands that have kept content marketing on the back burner either due to lack of resources or lack of belief that it is relevant, must urgently begin planning long-term content strategies. Every business targets certain customer personas, and a persona based content strategy is a good place to start. Also, ensure that optimisation is fulfilling user intent and that keywords are used in the right proportions.

Social Promotion: Promoted content on networks like Facebook will not be affected by ad blockers. Therefore the prospect of an integrated strategy which creates content, for long term SEO gains, and uses paid promotions on social media for instant eyeballs could serve as a good solution.

Influencer engagement : If brand awareness is a requirement then engaging with a handful of thought leaders is another useful tactic. If done well, influencer engagement can lead to referral traffic, conversions and long term ranking boosts. It can also generate some useful digital assets that can be used on an on-going basis.

Technical SEO: In this day and age of manual actions, penalties and real time indexation, technical optimisation of a website is more crucial than ever. Some of the key areas to focus on are mobile-friendliness, page speed, duplicate URLs, broken pages, site structure, crawl budget, multi-lingual and multi-regional set up etc.

Knowledge graph: With Google being obsessed with organising all the information in the world, taking into account structured data optimisation of your assets and entities will be a must for the brands in the coming days. It is widely anticipated that historical implementation of structured data tags will become a key ranking signal in the future. Therefore, implementing these now can keep you ahead of the curve.

On-page optimisation: While certain aspects of on-page optimisation are now redundant, including relevant keywords in a few key areas still go a long way in improving visibility.

The true impact of ad blockers on the paid media industry is yet to be seen. However, after its fair share of battles in the form of regular algorithm updates and constantly contradictory views and practices by Google, organic search is certainly emerging as the channel with the most to offer digital marketers in the current environment. We’ll be keeping a keen on eye on how brands must react to the changing landscape.

Asad Imam

Asad Imam

Search Director - Responsible for directing SEO strategy and implementation to achieve industry-beating results for all agency clients.