Google recently announced that they are preparing to launch a new version of Chrome in early 2018 which will integrate an ad-blocker that will facilitate the supervision of the web’s ad experiences. This gives Google and the Coalition for Better Ads (of which Google now belongs) a mechanism to push forward the Coalition’s new data-driven ‘Better Ads Standards’ agenda by blocking ads on sites that do not comply. What’s more, Google is testing ‘Funding Choices’ that will allow publishers (in good standing with the platform) to get paid for their content in an ad-free browser environment if the visitor opts to pay for the ad-free experience. All in all, this move indicates a major conceptual shift on the horizon, and that our relationship with the internet is about to evolve.
You might ask… Is Google protecting their prosperity, or protecting the quality of the internet? The answer is of course, both, as they are one-in-the-same.
At face value…
An ‘ad blocker’ is software that alters or removes ad content seamlessly while browsing the internet. On one hand, these tools can help users improve their experience (increased site speed, decreased site clutter, etc.) and protect their privacy. On the other hand, advertising allows website owners to gain revenue that they can use to continue creating or procuring content for the site.
Integrating a Google managed and owned ad-blocker mechanism into Chrome is largely a tactically defensive step taken by Google that further empowers content creators to get paid for the content they’ve created, that moves against a growing use of third-party ad-blockers. This new Google ad-blocker aims to become ‘part and parcel’ among Google’s repertoire of services, thus building on their continued bid to develop an ever more useful web experience. Through their new association with the ‘Coalition for Better Ads’, Google is indirectly tasked with improving ad experiences for users across the internet.
As a Gen-X, 80’s web ‘surfer’ (and admittedly being slightly naive with a general tendancy towards optimism) I’m open to this new direction and am willing to believe it will do a lot to improve my browsing experience. Advertisements, for one, should see a noticeable improvement with regards to their relevance and quality. Advertisers will be tasked to comply with a universally accepted ad standard, or they will risk being blocked for users browsing with Chrome. Likewise, content creators that deliver quality content may benefit and continue to create, all while the internet will do as it always has and continue to evolve in the direction of a (hopefully) much more trustworthy body of ever-growing information.
Alternatively, perhaps the recent dissemination of seedy sites that thrive on page views is indicative of a future chock-full of trashy click-bait. If you’re unfamiliar, these are sites that take advantage of human nature to appease our baseline curiosities with tag lines we fall for all too often (i.e., ‘You Will Be Absolutely Shocked by the Next Paragraph in this Blog Post!’). These sites, which often pose as legitimate sources of information, have proliferated in spite of any coalition’s attempts at regulating ad relevance and placement quality. Can this Chrome update help the Coalition to sway human nature by asserting itself into the underpinning motivator of content growth?
Ultimately, Google’s forthcoming Chrome update has the potential to formalize and guide what is naturally coming to pass. Users of the internet-machine are already trying to avoid sites with obnoxious ad experiences. This is what ‘we’ want, right?
Dynamics of change…
Regarding ‘Funding Choices’, the decision to pay for an ad free browsing experience will likely segment by generation and income level. What might the user insights look like after the first year? Gen-X 80’s kids that first surfed AltaVista in 1995 with 14.4k modems likely wouldn’t pay if too many obstacles are in the way. We’ve grown accustomed to advertisements and see it as a natural component of the internet. Why pay to remove ads that have been in front of us for years? Perhaps Millennials or ‘Generation Z/Alpha’ will see it as a norm to pay after growing up with subscription based content (Youtube Red, Spotify, Netflix, etc.). Isn’t the shift from cable television to selective online streaming essentially the same thing?
We are still over half a year away until the ‘ad-blocker’ version of Chrome launches with ‘Funding Choices’. As beta testing progresses this year, we should look out for hints of the potential impact to digital marketing while considering the speed and propensity for consumer adaptability. This new direction will slowly pick up momentum over the course of many years of updates. Allowing the user experience to evolve will be important. We can at least expect that partisan browsing cultures will collide to argue the pros and cons, while hacks will be devised to get the best of both worlds. All the while, Google will do everything they can to continue to improve on their offering and cultivate this relatively new product into something we’ll probably wish had always been there. Paid Search will continue to thrive, organic search optimization will be as important as ever, and relatively lower quality publishers will have to evolve.
New ‘Ad Experience’ optimization tools…
It’s worth noting that the new ‘Ad Experience Report’ tool is available now in Google’s Webmaster Tools and allows SEO’ers to evaluate ad experiences on their own websites to get ahead of and fix any apparent issues.
“The new Ad Experience Report helps publishers understand how the Better Ads Standards apply to their own websites. It provides screenshots and videos of annoying ad experiences we’ve identified to make it easy to find and fix the issues. For a full list of ads to use instead, publishers can visit our new best practices guide.”
Reality check… and my two cents.
- Integrating an Ad Blocker into Chrome has the potential to balance what has been a one-sided disruption into the financial foundation of ‘free’ internet services.
- Google will become the ‘Ad Adjudicator’ for Chrome users.
- This could indirectly create jurisdiction that allows Google to police the web’s less trustworthy sites, if those sites are funded by advertising that does not meet the defined standards. Possibly naïve, but the connection here assumes that quality ad networks are maintaining rules for placements on trustworthy sites.
- Content sites that advertise will need to consider the user’s ‘Ad Experience’ soon to remain in good standing with the ‘Coalition for Better Ads’.