Internet marketers and publishers are starting to get more and more worried about the rise in ad-blocking technology. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) freaked out when they found out that Apple’s newest iOS would allow ad blockers, calling them wrong and unfair — but promising to introduce less invasive ads that people won’t want to block immediately. It’s clear that the world of digital marketing is going to be affected by this shift, but, is there really a reason to be scared, or have we already found a cure?

The Basics of Online Marketing: Traditional Digital Marketing vs. Content Marketing

Internet marketing pretty much boils down to two basic strategies: traditional digital marketing and inbound (or content) marketing.

Traditional digital marketing is all about the outbound efforts – like when marketers send their advertisements OUT in hopes of bringing customers IN. It’s been around for a long time, like these Amazon emails:


Basically, digital marketers come up with ads in a range of formats, including e-mail blasts, banner ads, SPAM, social media ads, or Pay-Per-Click ads (and more), that they can blast out to a wide audience via the web. Sometimes called interruption marketing, traditional digital marketing technically “interrupts” a person’s experience by showing them unsolicited ads. This is as annoying as it sounds and can actually repel people from your brand.

In contrast – there’s inbound marketing, which has blown up over the last decade. As its name suggests, the main strategy of inbound marketing is to bring strangers INto your business in order to earn their trust and convert them from visitors into customers. Right now the main focus of inbound is content marketing, where really dope content – which offers value beyond simple product or service promotion — draws folks to your business, and, in turn, makes them fall in love with your brand. Content marketing essentially adopts an editorial approach, much like the publishing industry.

Inbound marketing is sometimes called a permission-based marketing tactic, since people are actively hunting down the marketing content you’ve created. A great example is Coca-Cola Journey, a digital magazine launched by the beverage company:


The Rise of the Ad Blocker

There is a reason that many people think of digital marketing – namely ads – as an interruptive marketing technique. Ads are often just super annoying while you’re trying to get stuff done on the web– particularly those pop-ups that take forever to load, flashy banners, or pre-roll videos that you have to suffer through before you’re able to get at the content you really want.

To combat the annoyance created by digital ads, companies have now developed ad blockers, which essentially eliminate the bothersome ads you see on a page. Ad blocking technology scans a website and its scripts, detects if any of it compares to a list of already-known advertiser sites and scripts, then removes or rejects advertising content. Some ad blockers can also fill in the holes left behind with better, more relevant content.

According a report on ad blocking completed by PageFair and Adobe, nearly 198 million people use ad blocking technology worldwide, and the usage of ad blockers grew by nearly 41% globally from July 2014 to July 2015.

For years, the big web browsers like Chrome and Firefox have allowed users to install third-party ad blocking plugins. However, ad blocking made a huge advance this September, when Apple released its most recent OS (iOS 9), which allows for what it calls “content blocking extensions in Safari.” This means that now, users can not only kill ads while they surf the web on their mobile device, but they can also avoid videos, cookies, images, pop-ups, and other annoying crap. There are a host of new ad blocker apps that have been developed for iOS 9, but the most exciting is probably ad blocking powerhouse Adblock Plus for iOS, which is free for download in the app store. (Adblock Plus was also made available for Android users in September 2015).

Ad Blocking Takes Its Toll

Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably celebrating the fact that you’ve finally found a way to eliminate annoying and disruptive ads when you’re browsing the web – even on your cell. But, if you’re like me, you also have a vested interest in digital publishing – which is taking a huge hit with all these new changes.

Digital ads are essentially the building blocks of the Internet’s business model. They have been vital for publishers for decades as the main means of generating revenue from the web — a medium that essentially offers (almost) everything for free. However, ad blockers have caused digital publishers to take a significant financial hit as they have become more available to users. In fact, Adobe and PageFair estimate that ad blockers will actually end up costing publishers $22 billion in 2015. This loss is not only bad for digital publishers’ business — it actually threatens everyone’s ability to view free (ad-supported) content on the web. So how is the digital ad model changing to respond to all of this?

How Inbound Marketing Could Be the Cure

The rise in ad blockers has shown that people simply don’t want to see ad content anymore unless they’ve asked for it. It’s annoying, intrusive, and often irrelevant. So content marketers, writers and digital publishers have been forced to rethink their advertising strategies with more of an “if you build it, they will come” sort of mentality.

That’s the point of inbound and content marketing. Instead of throwing random ads in a crowd of peoples’ faces and hoping a few pay attention, fill your website, social media platforms, and blog (etc.) with high-quality, relevant, valuable content, and you can bring the people who are already interested in what you do straight to you.

High-quality content doubles as stuff that’s relevant and interesting to your audience and also helps pimp your brand by boosting your SEO ranking and ensuring you are tops in search engine results. Inbound marketing strategies also help people see you as a thought leader or expert – which makes consumers more likely to trust (and buy from) you. They also help build customer loyalty and retention, which can even transform some consumers into brand ambassadors if they feel passionately about the value of your brand and content.

When you look at it this way, the threat of ad blocking technology doesn’t have to be much of a threat at all. Statistics support the idea that what you write on the Internet is key for generating revenue. According to Content Marketing Institute, 80% of business decision makers prefer to get information from a company via articles rather than advertisements. And according to Social Media B2B, companies who blog generate 67% more leads per month and have 97% more inbound links and 434% more indexed pages than those who don’t.

As an added bonus to its effectiveness, using inbound marketing can actually save you money. According to Search Engine Journal, inbound leads actually cost companies 61% less than outbound leads do. It looks like you may be able to beat ad blockers with great content marketing.

So, when you’re deciding where to allocate your marketing budget this year, steer clear of the stuff that ad blockers target, and start thinking content. You can make money by adding valuable information to the world, entertaining people, and selling your product – and your customers will love you for being less annoying than those other guys.


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