The use of ad blockers is constantly growing: 615 million people worldwide use an ad blocker, representing a 30% increase in 2017. This massive usage has its consequences on all professionals in the digital sphere: between 8% and 25% of traffic data can be lost depending on the web analytics tool used and the type of site being measured, as ad blockers prevent the display of ads but can also disable web analytics tracking. Remember, collected data can be used in radically different ways (depending on whether it’s for advertising purposes, or web analytics measurement purposes). With advertising usage, data is leveraged for sales purposes, whereas on the web analytics side, data serves to help improve the user experience.
It’s therefore critical to understand the repercussions of ad blockers on web analytics tools and highlight a few truths.
By default, ad blockers prevent analytics tools from capturing information: FALSE
Without any special configuration, ad blockers will prevent ads from showing, based on two things:
- URL domains: Thanks to specific databases, ad blockers know which domains are part of ad networks, and they can directly block calls coming from these domains.
- Names of tags contained in your code: Ad blockers will read each of your tags, and all tags labelled as ads will be blocked.
Web analytics tools are not really impacted by the above points. However, users can edit the settings of their ad blockers to specify if they also want to prevent web analytics tools from functioning. But in reality, very few people actually do this.
It’s impossible to know if your users have installed an ad blocker: FALSE
An ad blocker must be installed to disable web analytics tracking: FALSE
The latest versions of certain browsers (Firefox, for example) include, by default, analytics tool blockers. When a user browses in Private Browsing mode, this setting is automatically enabled. However, when using normal browsing, the user will need to enable this setting himself or herself.
Ad blockers can prevent certain features of your site from functioning correctly: TRUE
Ad blockers work in several ways: by blocking information via the domain name, but also via keywords contained in the code (like “ad” for example).
In the latter case, this can be detrimental to the functioning of your site overall! (Just have a look at this forum featuring many discussions on this inconvenience.) Of course, when implementing a web analytics tool, you must evidently try to avoid giving your measured items names that just so happen to be on the ad blockers’ blacklist. Pay careful attention when creating and updating your website! It can’t be said enough – it’s essential to test your site, with and without ad blockers, each time you push changes live. Spare yourself any bad surprises.
Mobile apps are affected by ad blockers: TRUE and FALSE
The ad blocking system on mobile applications is relatively complex. Once installed, the ad blockers will prevent communication with domains they consider to be ad-related. But unlike with websites, the large majority of mobile ad blockers block web analytics tools by default. However, this does not mean your web analytics tool will be blocked on your mobile apps. To better understand, let’s take a quick look at the technical specificities of ad blocking as it relates to mobile app development:
- Native: Applications developed natively will not have their measurement tools and ads blocked.
- Webview: In webview, there are several possibilities, either by using SafariViewController (in this case, measurement tools will be blocked), or using UIWebView and MKWebView which are not affected.
It’s possible to work around ad blockers: TRUE, BUT…
From a technical point of view, there are anti-blocker methods for working around and suppressing the effects of ad blockers. At AT Internet, we recommend using a system which enables you to collect data on your own domain name. By using www.mydomain.com instead of your web analytics provider’s domain (in our case, that’s www.xiti.com), many ad blockers will let calls through and consider them as legitimate (not coming from ads or third-party tools).
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