A Guide On Ads & How Ad-Blockers Work

In this article you will learn everything about ads, why so many websites have lots of them, and how ad-blockers work.

ad blocker guide

Introduction

If you’ve ever spent a length of time on the internet, you will have seen an advertisement. They are everywhere. Ads often pop up on the side of your screen or at the top like a banner, or you might have one open up in another window.

If you look around your screen now, you might even have an advertisement glaring at you as we speak. With the rise of the internet, businesses quickly found that online was the best method of advertising.

Gone are the days of gaining traction from the radio or gaining a substantial number of customers from television advertisements. Now it’s all about advertising online and getting people to click through to your website thanks to banners and side adverts.

Ad blockers are plugins or browser extensions that work to remove these ads as far as possible. They might also alter the advertisements so that you cannot see the proper ad in case it is sensitive or age restrictive.

As each page loads the ad blocker reviews the website’s scripts to compare them against a list of sites that need to be blocked. If any are found, the ad blocker will stop them from appearing on your webpage.

Online ads can be annoying and dampen your internet experience. If you’re tired of trying to click off ads every time you Google something or want to enjoy social media, an ad blocker could become your best friend.

Today we’ll be looking into ad blockers, the benefits, and drawbacks of them, why so many websites have advertisements on them, and much more. If you want to learn about online ads and why we’re all seeing them, keep on reading.

Why Do Websites Have Ads?

Now that you know more about ad blockers and what they’re used for, let’s discuss why websites have advertisements anyway. If they’re this annoying to the consumer, why would a business keep them on the site? Surely it’s best to keep the customer happy when wanting them to make a purchase? 

Benefits Of Ads

Online advertising is incredibly important for keeping online businesses alive and thriving. Research shows that more people are using the internet to explore different options for products they need or want, so it makes sense that people would want to advertise online. 

Businesses have the potential to purchase ad spots on a website, and these are sold on real-time auctions, much like that of the stock exchange. Marketers will bid on ad placements, with the best spaces going for the best prices.

These ad placements are not just for one website; however. Once a business has purchased the ad placement, it is then connected to hundreds of websites through an ad network such as Google AdSense. 

Any website that uses Google AdSense for their website will get this ad placed onto their website. The rise of social media has shown us how beneficial online advertising can be. Over one-third of people find inspiration on social media of a purchase. 

As we mentioned earlier, allowing businesses to advertise on your website brings more money to your business that allows you to spend more on advertising, innovation for your website, and more research and design for your products.

There are three main ways that adverts can work on a website, which are called Display Ads, Click-Through Rate (CTR), or Cost-Per-Click (CPC). 

Display Ads

Display ads are a traditional form of advertising and are the most commonly blocked by ad blockers. These are pop-up ads that many visitors find the most irritating because they cover the entire screen and stop them from seeing what they want to. 

For example, Forbes has a display ad pop up every time that you click onto the website. This blocks your vision and interrupts your experience on the website. It might even be enough to deter visitors from returning to the site at all. 

Display ads are not as effective as other forms of advertising online. Research has shown that CTR ads perform 8.8 times better than display ads

However, display ads are also much bigger than banner or integrated ads, so the visitor is more likely to see your ad and become interested or aware of your business. Some believe that the bigger the ad, the better. 

Click-Through Rate 

The CTR ratio determines the number of clicks that your advert has achieved from people who have seen the ad. For example, if 200,000 visitors saw an ad and 20,000 people clicked on it, the CTR would be 10%. The higher the CTR is, the more effective the ad is. This is a win for both the advertiser and the original website. 

The advertiser will be gaining more traffic to their website which might enhance their purchases or their own ad revenue. The original host will be able to take the high CTR rate and show this to other potential advertisers, therefore being able to charge more of their ad placements. 

Cost-Per-Click

Finally, CPC ads concern the amount of money that an advertiser spends each time a consumer clicks on their ad. The more visitors that click on the ad, the more revenue the original website will be receiving from the advertiser. 

The average amount spent on a CPC ad is between $1 and $2 per click. If the original website performs well and gets lots of visitors clicking through to the advertiser’s website, they will stand to make a considerable amount of money from their ad placements. 

Another benefit of online ads is that they can fill up empty space and make the website look more developed for less money. Rather than having to spend a lot of money on website developers to make the site full and busy-looking, you can simply offer ad placements to allow advertisers to do all of the work for you. 

Overall, adverts are incredibly beneficial to online websites and businesses, which is why they’re so popular among websites. You’d be hard-pressed to find a website that doesn’t have some sort of advert on it, whether that be a direct ad, CTR, or CPC.

Why Are Ads A Problem?

While ads are loved by many websites due to the additional revenue they generate, they’re not so well-received by visitors who could potentially turn into customers. Direct advertising is the most irritating to visitors due to the interruption of their online surfing. 

We’re certain that everyone has experienced reading an article, being in the middle of a sentence, and being rudely interrupted by an advertisement that takes up the entire screen. We’re not surprised that they’re targeted by ad blockers, but we also understand that it’s a good method of generating revenue. 

Below we’ll look at some of the reasons why visitors might be deterred from your website due to the ads you’re allowing. While an additional flow of revenue is beneficial to you, you’ll need to determine whether it’s worth the potential loss in customers and website traffic. 

Ads Have Become An Exaggeration Of Reality  

Exaggeration is one of the easiest ways to sell a product. Unfortunate but true, there are many people out there who will fall for extreme forms of exaggerated advertising and purchase a product due to the false promises that an ad has offered. 

The advertisers want their ad to stick in your mind and give you no other choice but to click on it. It’s not enough to simply show what the product will do, but they need something amazing that the product can do. Anyone remember when Evian water made babies roller skate and beatbox? 

Okay, so we hope that no one purchased Evian water in the hopes of making their children skate around the house singing. However, there are adverts that will stretch the truth to unimaginable levels in the hopes that you’ll buy their product. 

For example, skincare magically removes wrinkles, age spots, and loose skin. Insecure people might see this advertisement, which is highly exaggerating the effects with the help of Photoshop, and purchase the product in the vain hope that it will work. 

Another example is gambling sites that like to exaggerate how many winners are made every minute, but also fail to mention the number of people who play every day. In reality, the likelihood of winning is 0.000001 percent, but the big flashing letters reading ‘ONE WINNER EVERY MINUTE’ is enough to entice new visitors in. 

These ads can get potentially vulnerable people interested in the products, believing that they’re going to get amazing results from giving the advertiser their money. When they don’t get the results that were once promised, they feel as though they’ve been lied to. 

Again, slight exaggeration with advertising is expected and how the business works. However, major exaggeration can prevent customers from coming back to your page because they don’t want to be sucked in by false claims. 

A Lot Of Ads Can be Inappropriate

By using an ad agency, there is the possibility of inappropriate adverts slipping through the cracks and being shown on different websites. Ad placements are not programmed to filter adverts before they are shown on the website, so there is a possibility that sensitive ads will be shown on the website.

For example, adverts containing sex and religion might be shown on websites targeted towards children or other impressionable beings. Another issue is that an advert relating to these sensitive subjects could pop up on your computer screen while at work or sharing your screen in an online meeting. This is not only unprofessional but also embarrassing to you and everyone else that sees it.

There have been many instances where sexually suggestive adverts have appeared on children’s apps or websites. This is obviously detrimental to the business that is allowing these adverts onto their websites and will start an uproar with visitors, even if it wasn’t the business’s own fault.

Even if your website isn’t intended for kids or vulnerable people, you can still get into trouble if your adverts are not appropriate for your website. You might see a reduced number of returning customers and your traffic will falter as a result. This could reduce the revenue that you’re bringing in from your ads as well.

Stepping away from the worst-case scenario with terribly inappropriate ads, some adverts on your website might simply be inappropriate to your website or business. For example, a business about shoes has no need to advertise websites about dogs.

Having adverts that have nothing to do with your business can be distracting to your visitors and make them want to leave your website before purchasing your products. Only utilizing adverts that are concerning your website can prevent visitors from getting annoyed and turning away from them.

Another reason this is beneficial is that adverts similar to your business could fit in better with your website and stick out less obviously. For example, a business about shoes would benefit from adverts about other shoes rather than adverts about paint. Visitors might not notice these ads as much and therefore be less bothered with them.

Tracking and Behavioral Monitoring

Many advertisers are beginning to use behavioral monitoring technology to track their audience to benefit their advertising campaigns. While this is great for advertising companies who can use their gathered information to make their adverts more effective, it’s not so loved by customers.

Behavioral monitoring technology takes information from the customer and show the adverts to a target audience that has shown the most interest in the advert. They do this by collecting cookies from the customer’s browser over time through lots of different page visits.

Once they have enough information, they create a user profile for the person and designate the profile to different consumer groups. These will show your patterns on the internet such as trends, interests, and likes and dislikes.

Now this information can be used to show the best advertisements to you. Advertising companies don’t see an issue with this process, but quite a few customers don’t enjoy the fact that they’re being tracked and monitored by advertising agencies.

With social media, it’s not unknown that we are being tracked by many advertising agencies to ensure that the best ads are shown to us. Our voices, search history, and even messages are tracked so that we are shown relevant ads to what we want or are interested in.

While some people accept that this is the new way of doing things, others are not happy with their personal information being used for advertising purposes.

If your website is using advertising that tracks them in some way, these customers might lose trust in your business and stop visiting your site. This can affect your traffic and analytics, reducing the advertising cost as well as revenue from sales.

Ads Today Are Perceived As An Invasion Of Privacy And A Security Risk

Following on from our previous point, some people avoid online advertising to extreme extents. Seeing an advertisement is enough for them to click off of the website to ensure that their information is not stored by online ad agencies.

This has undoubtedly been around for years with people worrying about how their phones are listening to their conversations and selling this information to advertisers. However, it has been taken to an entire new level thanks to the Facebook scandal of whether they were selling data to third parties.

Data is already taken from smartphone apps and social media platforms, but some people draw the line at website cookies being tracked. People consider it an invasion of privacy to track online usage without their knowledge.

After people find this information out, they feel betrayed by the website and advertisement agencies. This could avoid them returning to your website and reducing your traffic. Alternatively, they might prevent the advertising agency from tracking them from your website.

This can upset the ad agency and cause them to pay less for your ad placements. Alternatively, the visitor could install an ad blocker and disadvantage your business in an entirely different way.

What Is An Ad Blocker?

Before we get into why ads are so popular on websites and whether they’re always a bad thing or not, let’s look into ad blockers in more detail. Anyone who gets irritated with the constant pop up adverts will have looked into installing an ad blocker to see whether it could help them.

We’re also guilty of doing this and downloading an ad blocker without completing any kind of research. But have you ever thought about what that ad blocker actually is and does to your browser? Let’s see if we can shed some light on what an ad blocker actually is and how they work.

Ad Blockers Are Applications That Remove Or Alter The Appearance Of Advertising Content On A Webpage

To put it simply, this is exactly what an ad blocker is. You can either add it to your browser or download the plug-in, and it will work alongside your browser to block as many of the adverts that it can.

While the page is loading the ad blocker compares the site’s scripts to its list of blocked ads to see whether there are any matches. If a match does occur, the ad blocker will either blur the ad or remove it from the page altogether.

Ad blockers are not always 100% effective; however. If the advertisement is not on the blocked list, then the ad won’t be recognized, and you’ll still be able to see it. Ad blockers are not smart enough to scan a page and remove every single ad 100% of the time.

Depending on the ad blocker’s list of blocked scripts that it looks for, some ad blockers are much more effective than others. This is down to how much time and effort the creator has put into programming the scripts into the application.

If the list of blocked scripts only has a few entries, the ad blocker is going to be much less effective than an ad blocker that has thousands of scripts to block.

Strictly speaking, the ad blocker does not remove the ads themselves, but rather the web requests that can download the add into your browser. If the web request isn’t ready to be blocked, then the ad is still going to slip through the cracks and be shown to you.

Ad blockers play a key role in protecting our privacy and providing a smooth browsing experience, so finding a high-quality one is important so that it works how you want it to.

How Do Ad Blockers Work?

We’ve already touched upon this simply, but now let’s really look into how ad blockers work to remove the ads from each webpage. Ad block technology relies on simple lists, called filter lists, that determine what to block and hide, or what to allow appearing on the pages you visit. These lists simply consist of a list of URLs in the form of either an “allow list” or “block list”.

The ad blocker will watch the webpage’s scripts as they load to see if they can match to any URLs on the filter list. If there are any matches between the webpage and the filter list, the ad blocker will block them and direct the browser what the render.

Rather than the webpage having the final say of what’s shown to you, the ad blocker will give the final call. Different ad blockers will have their own way of removing the ads. Some will leave a blank space where the ad should be, while others will replace the space with other content.

Looking at the Google Chrome extensions and the download counts of the ad blockers, it is clear that there are a few fan favorites.

  • Adblock Plus, by eyeo – over 10 million downloads
  • Adblock, by GetAdBlock.com – over 10 million downloads
  • uBlock Origin – over 10 million downloads
  • AdGuard – over six million downloads
  • Ultra Adblock – over three million downloads
  • Ghostery – over two million downloads

The method above is a simplified explanation of how all of these ad blockers would work. Due to the sheer volume of downloads for each of them, as well as the highly rated reviews, we can assume that these ad blockers are all excellent at what they do and are effective at removing ads from your webpage.

What Do Websites Do About Ad Blockers?

A lot of websites won’t bother themselves with ad blockers – they don’t mind if you use one or not. However, some do concern themselves with ad blockers and either block all the ads for you or block the ad blocker from working to its full potential.

Some websites do all of the work for you and block the adverts themselves. They do this to prevent the readers from having their focus being swayed away from their content. They don’t want the adverts to take visitors away from them, so they remove the threat altogether.

This can be beneficial for the reader as well as the website as more often than not this will make the reader want to visit again. Before you know it, the website has another common reader and the brand behind it gains business and publicity.

On the other hand, some websites might prefer to block the ad blockers. This is due to the revenue that they get from the advertisers. This money can help to pay for the service that the webpage provides, so less money is coming out from the website’s pocket.

For example, without advertisements paying for the top journalists in their business, the journalists might move onto another business offering more money per article. So, allowing ad blockers could be detrimental to their business. This is why some websites will block ad blockers, and you’ll see all of the adverts anyway.

The Pros & Cons of Ad Blocking

The majority of ad blockers will do all of the work for you and won’t require you to do a thing. This can be both a blessing and a curse, as you won’t have any say on which ads you can see and which you cannot.

If you are only using an ad blocker to block age-sensitive content, you won’t see them anymore, but you also won’t see any ads at all. However, some ad blockers do allow you to whitelist websites if you wanted to support them.

Some websites won’t work with an ad blocker installed, for a number of reasons. One could be due to the website blocking ad blockers and therefore not allowing you on the website until you disable your ad blocker.

A few bank websites won’t load properly if ad blockers are installed,  so you’ll need to whitelist these websites before you can use them properly. Some people have also had issues with Google Drive loading properly if an ad blocker is installed.

Below we’ve accumulated some of the most common benefits and drawbacks of ad blockers to see whether it’s worth downloading one for your personal circumstance.

Benefits

One of the most obvious benefits of an ad blocker is that it removes the majority of distracting adverts, making your internet experience easier and more enjoyable. It can be irritating trying to read a serious article and being constantly interrupted by a colorful game advert.

Another advantage is preventing advertisers from tracking your website usage. There is so much that we are tracked on nowadays, from what we say to our peers to what we purchase online. The amount of tailored ads we get can be unsettling sometimes.

So, ad blockers can prevent you from being tracked in just one way. You’ll still be being tracked in ten other ways, but it’s nice to know that you can control one method.

A little-known fact about adverts is that they can drain your battery, if you are mobile, much faster than it would if there were no ads on a page. This is due to the additional energy being consumed by the videos that you’re forced to watch.

Moreover, adverts can also increase your bandwidth, which is the time taken to get information from the internet. This will increase the time taken to load your webpages, which is incredibly frustrating for internet surfers.

We think that it’s unreasonable that ads have the power to reduce our battery life and increase our bandwidth all at the same time! To avoid these two annoyances, a high-quality ad blocker can be installed onto your browser.

Some adverts display fake news which can be confusing and detrimental in many ways. Several companies will advertise fake news to get more clicks to their websites and generate more traction. However, impressionable people might believe this news and spread it to others.

Finally, an ad blocker can protect you from downloading malware onto your computer. Some ads will have fake competitions being displayed that could entice internet users to click through to the fake website. Here malware might be downloaded and cause damage to your computer.

Drawbacks

For the internet surfer, there aren’t many drawbacks coming from ad blockers as they are generally rather helpful. However, there are a few instances where the ad blocker can be more of a hindrance than a helpful tool.

The ad blocker needs to make its way down a list of scripts to see which need to be blocked and which are fine to keep. This should be done in a timely manner, but if you’re running multiple web pages at once or are using an older computer, it could lengthen the time the page takes to load.

As we already mentioned, ad blockers can sometimes cause a website not to load properly which can prevent you from using it. This might prevent you from being able to access important information, such as from your bank.

Another potential drawback is that the ad blocker could not work as thoroughly as you’d like it to. Some ad blockers are much better than others at what they do, meaning that there are some that are pretty useless.

Using a low-quality ad blocker can be more annoying than the ads themselves because you’ll feel disappointed about the ads still being shown to you. The good news is that this drawback can be amended by doing some research to find which is the best ad blocker for your computer.

Ad Blockers Can Mess With Your Analytics

Ad blockers might be beneficial for the users, but they also can have detrimental consequences for online businesses. This is due to them messing with analytics beyond your control. For many years, we didn’t even know that this was happening until Jason Packer conducted an experiment.

Packer from Quantable, an optimization and consulting business, published his findings of a simple experiment in 2016. He was trying to confirm his suspicions that many online users now block Google Analytics. With the help of seven different ad blockers, he concluded that 11 percent of site visitors were blocking Google Analytics thanks to an ad blocker.

With this revelation, more people have been investigating and found that it’s not just Google Analytics that is being blocked, but lots of other analytic platforms as well. Blocking analytics can affect how visitors see your site as well as reducing the functionality of it.

If visitors are not able to use your website easily, it could prevent them from completing a sale on your website. While blocking analytics won’t directly affect sales, it could prevent new visitors from returning to the future.

An existing customer would be able to find the product that they want and purchase it from your site. They would complete the sale, and you would benefit from the sale. However, if the images are not loading correctly a new customer could be deterred or not be able to find what they want to purchase.

Another issue is with the analytics not being recorded overall. For example, if 11 percent of your traffic wasn’t being recorded, you wouldn’t be able to see this in the analytics, and therefore you might find that you’re budgeting incorrectly.

For example, imagine that the majority of the 11 percent of your blocked traffic was masking how popular the sneaker section of your website was. Your analytics would be showing you that your athletic wear section is much more popular than the sneakers section, which is incorrect.

You might budget to spend more on advertising your athletic wear as this is the main driving force of your revenue – or so you thought. The incorrect budgeting could do your business more harm than good, with poor choices being made to prevent your business moving forward.

With an estimated 41% of consumers between 18 and 29 years old using ad blockers, the potential for them to block your important analytics is a big threat to your business. This is another reason why some business owners choose to stop ad blockers from working on their websites.

Potential Dangers Of Ad Blockers

There have been a few issues of developers disguising dangerous malware as ad blockers and freeing them onto the market. People download the extension believing that they are getting an ad blocker, while in reality, they are allowing the program to infect their computer.

In 2020, the original developer of Nano Adblocker and Nano Defender sold the rights to these extensions to other developers. Within 13 days, the new developers had added a malicious code to infect users’ browsers.

People reported their Instagram accounts being tampered with as well as other strange happenings. It has been estimated that over 300,000 people have this ad blocker extension on their browser which could be putting their information at risk.

This is not the only time that ad blockers have caused issues with downloaders’ browsers, but it is still relatively unknown that ad blockers can contain malware. It can be difficult to know whether your ad blocker has malware until it’s too late, which is why it’s worth taking the time to research before you download an ad blocker.

The majority of us will want an ad blocker that is free and easy to download, although these are the ones more commonly used to get into users’ laptops. More reputable ad blockers may require a monthly fee, but they will be safer for you and your computer.

If you find anything suspicious about an ad blocker you’re using, it’s important to report it so that others don’t fall for the same thing. You also need to remove the extension as quickly as possible to avoid any more of your information being taken.

Summary

Ad blockers are beneficial to people online who don’t want to deal with pop-up ads and distracting banner advertisements. They’re effective browser extensions that can remove the advert altogether or alter the way that it looks on the screen.

Ad blockers work by running through a list of scripts before loading the webpage to ensure that none are found on the blocked list from the ad blocker. While they’re incredibly popular among customers online to make their internet searches more enjoyable, they can sometimes make it more hassle than it’s worth.

This is because some ad blockers affect webpages loading correctly, preventing pages from opening or images appearing. So, the ad blocker could interrupt their online experience more than they’d have hoped for.

Some websites use ad blockers to remove ads already so that the customers can focus on the content rather than adverts. This adds more credibility to the website and makes it more likely for customers to return again as they’re not greeted with annoying pop-ups.

However, others disable ad blockers from being used on their website because they want their customers to see the ads. Ads are very beneficial to website owners due to the additional revenue they bring in.

There are many benefits and drawbacks of blocking ads for customers, but ads often only offer online businesses benefits. Ad blockers can also affect the website’s analytics, which is why they’re so often blocked for many websites.

With three major types of ads being displayed on websites, there are different ways for you to gain revenue from advertising. Direct ads are commonly most susceptible to ad blockers, and they can deter customers from returning to your website because they are intrusive and annoying.

Click-Through Rate and Cost-Per-Click adverts are less intrusive than direct ads because they are integrated into the webpage rather than covering the information that the visitor is there to look at.

These can be very lucrative for your webpage if your visitors interact with the advert in any way. The more your visitors click on the ads, the higher you can charge for your ad placements.

Sounds like adverts are only beneficial for your business, so why wouldn’t you make the most of them? Unfortunately, there are a few instances where adverts can become a problem to your website outside your control.

A particularly big issue is that if the advert generated to be shown alongside your content is inappropriate to the audience. This might concern sex or religion and can prevent customers from returning to your site and damaging your reputation.

Other issues could arise from customers not appreciating that your website is allowing advertising agencies to track their data and behavior, and showing ads that are exaggerated. These two things can also damage your reputation and site’s traffic.

We hope that you’ve found some useful information in our guide to ads and ad blockers on the internet. While they might not be favorable for customers, they certainly aid businesses and help them to thrive.