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Google, Apple, and the New Ad-Free Web

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Google developed Chrome in 2008—and now has 63.6% of desktop market share worldwide. Meanwhile, Apple’s Safari is used by 14.59% of browser users worldwide, second only to Chrome.

Why is this market domination significant? Whatever these two web giants do seriously affects how users will consume information, with long-term implications for both brands and publishers.

Upcoming Changes in Chrome and Safari

We’re expecting a lot of changes this 2018 as Google and Apple have announced their plans to create a better browsing experience, targeting and blocking the most annoying ads. Here’s a rundown:

Google Chrome

As the leading web browser on almost all devices, Google Chrome’s changes slated for early 2018 will affect publishers with poor ad standards.

  • Blocking ads automatically without the use of adblockers
  • Blocking prestitial ads: Refer to this page on the least preferred ad experiences for desktop and mobile. In summary, pop-up ads, ads with auto-playing videos with sounds, ads with countdowns, and large sticky ads are the most annoying and least preferred types of ads.
  • Ads will be blocked but user tracking will still be available.
  • Chrome will let publishers give their readers an option to whitelist their site to display the ads or pay a small fee to view the content.

Apple Safari

Safari has already updated its functionalities last September during its OS update to High Sierra, making the most out of machine learning—dubbing it as an “intelligent tracking prevention” feature that will stop websites from tracking browsing data.

Here are the other major changes implemented in Safari:

  • Stop playing audios and videos automatically
  • Let’s users browse a site in Reader mode: Removing ads and other layout elements
  • Improved data privacy: Safari will block third parties from tracking what you do online, therefore remarketing may become more difficult as browsing data is not available.
  • This may deliver a cleaner, leaner browsing experience, but it can make it more difficult for publishers to display ads on their website.

The Great New Wall

“Your move, publishers.”

It’s a chess game between these two giants against the millions of publishers online. It’s a big wall to penetrate—an obstacle that publishers may be affected if they display too many ads, especially the more intrusive formats. Displaying too little also affects revenue, so where’s the sweet spot that will return the best yields?

Publishers shouldn’t worry about this impending change and instead pivot to serving ads that would be compliant with new ad standards.

Paid subscription, on the other hand, may not work for small-time publishers. Paywalls by newspapers and magazines were effective as their circulation revenue dramatically increased year by year. In a report by Reuters, only 11% of US consumers pay for ad-free content, and the numbers haven’t changed ever since. Chrome’s funding option to charge for content access may not be as profitable as they think it may be.

How to Adapt and Survive

What do we consider as intrusive ads?

Again, if publishers will move towards better user experience and industry-compliant ads, then it wouldn’t hit them hard as they thought it would. What do we consider as intrusive ads?

  • Animated Flash Ads
  • Autoplay Video Ads with Sound
  • Deceptive Links
  • Intracontent Ads
  • Large Sticky Ads
  • Pop-up Ads
  • Prestitial Ads with Countdown
  • Retargeting Ads
  • Sponsored Social Media
  • Welcome Banners

If your site runs one or more of these ad types, then it would be best to stop using them and changing your approach.

Provide an “ad-lite” experience for users

AdPushup has previously published a guide on How to Create an “Ad-Lite” Experience for AdBlock Users. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Ad Placements: Optimize for viewability, do not disrupt the visual flow of the content
  • Ad Sizes: Again, ads that block the view or flow of the main content must be avoided.
  • Ad Creatives: “Publishers also need to take care NOT to implement popups and interstitials, autoplay audio/video ads, and other similarly annoying ad formats as noted by Adobe Digital Insights and Coalition for Better Ads research.”
  • Ad Behavior: Consumers are now aware of different ads, and they can easily distinguish which is which. Aside from intrusiveness, consumers are also concerned with bandwidth, privacy, and security.

AdSense Best Practices for 2018

AdSense compliance will help publishers stay on track and avoid having their ad inventories blocked. Here are some pointers from the AdSense team:

Optimizing Ad Layouts

  • Ad placements should be geared towards UX, but without compromising the chance for revenue.
  • Make sure that you stay updated with new policies.
  • Follow AdSense recommendations for mobile and desktop.
  • Placement is just the icing on the cake; create engaging content that will reel in audiences.

Thinking Mobile First

  • It’s becoming a cliché, but it is high time that you understand the need to be mobile-friendly. More searches are coming from mobile devices, 48% of consumers start mobile research with a search engine—but 33% go directly to the site they want.
  • Desktop and mobile ad strategies should be different from one another.
  • Mobile website responsiveness and speed are both important.

Increasing Ad Quality

  • Develop an ad strategy that wouldn’t compromise content. Too many ads on a page or misleading ad layouts are not better ad experiences.
  • Check the Ad balance subtab. Reduce the number of ads you show to your users—serving only the best-performing ones, therefore positively impacting UX and user engagement.
  • Follow the AdSense Code Implementation Guide and Compliance Guide.

Improving Content Strategy

  • Yes, content is involved in improving your strategy, that’s why you should improve readability to adopt a better ad strategy for your website. Consistency is the key to keep on gaining followers and retain subscribers as well.
  • Create content that will steadily bring in traffic to your website by creating evergreen content. Viral content may help you gain a short-term burst of traffic, but a more sustainable, steady flow of traffic is more profitable in the long run.
  • If possible, incorporate videos into your content to make your audience stay, as well as raise brand awareness. The average user spends 88% more time on a website with video.

The Internet may take on a different shape next year, or on the following years to come, but the demand for a better browsing experience remains the same. These restrictions only make the game harder, but not impossible to play. Make the most out of what you have—integrate SEO and Social Media into your strategy to continuously bring in traffic to your website.


This is a guest post by Henry Hernandez, a leading web strategist and partner for Texas Digital, an SEO Digital Inbound Marketing Agency. He aims to make holistic digital marketing easy for businesses to adopt and transition for maximized business growth and opportunity.