Apple's iOS9 Update And How Ad Blocker Extensions Will Affect PPC Advertisers

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Apple’s iOS9 was launched yesterday, September 17, 2015 – bringing with it big changes to PPC advertising.

The latest software update offers new multitasking features, a more proactive Siri, and improvements to overall device performance, battery life and security. Ever-changing the way we interact with our personal devices, Apple claim “You’ll wonder how you ever did without it.” However, the changes aren’t good news for everyone.

Third-party browsers with the ability to block ads have been around for a while, but for hard-core Apple fans that were loyally sticking with Safari – the change is now here for them, too.  Exciting times.

The world of digital advertising, however, is less excited. With a large percentage of paid ads accessed through iOS9, the ability to enable an ad blocker extension looks set to majorly affect that visibility.

Though not an automatic process, the ability to download a content blocker app and then enable it in the phone’s settings will allow users to browse websites that will feel decluttered and load faster while reducing both mobile data usage and battery usage.

So, we thought we would try out the process ourselves.

After upgrading to iOS9 and installing both a free and paid version of the App found in the top results from the App Store, we found that only the paid app was actually recognised as a content blocker within the Safari Settings.

Ad blocker download

Only the paid for ad blocker App (right) was recognised as a content blocker in iOS9

Then it was time to search.  Googling “red shoes” before and after the content blocker was installed and enabled, and no initial change was found – as both results still showed text and shopping ads.

Red Shoes search

Text and Google Shopping Ads were unaffected by the blocker extension, as shown by our before (left) and after (right) screen shots

The fact that the App isn’t free may very well have an effect on the volume of its download, but its existence will still have an effect on mobile paid strategy nonetheless.

According to a recent study by Pagefair, 198 million people (1 in 20 internet users) already use ad blockers on their desktop. Although iPhones and iPads are largely outnumbered by Android devices, but they do represent 52% of the mobile browsing market and 14% of web browsing altogether, meaning the change is likely to have significant impact.

Haven’t we seen Ad Blocking before?

Although Ad blocking Apps existed well before the iOS9 update, users had to browse the internet via the App itself. The App’s proxy would detect and strip out the scripts present in the code of web pages used by browsers to pull content from ad networks. However, the iOS9 enabled extension changes all of that, enabling users to achieve the same results simply through using safari – dramatically increasing the amount of users willing to do so.

ClickThrough’s Zoe O’Neil, explained, “There seems to be a small number of Apps that are recognised for the content blocking extension with the iOS9 for Safari update. As you can see from our test, you have to know which App to download and the specific settings to go to in order to enable it. This will mainly have an effect mobile Display, Remarketing and Video ads, but we will also have to monitor the effect on tracking tools such as Optimizely, Crazy Egg, Google AdWords Tracking and Google Analytics, as cookies may get blocked preventing users from being tracked.”

The content blocker extension will also prevent scripts from doing things like tracking how long a user has been looking at a webpage and monitoring how far they have scrolled down a page in order to serve up more ads.

According to another recent study by Pagefair, 41% of 18-29 year olds currently use ad blockers on their desktop. With numbers like this, large projections could be made for use of such software on Apple products.

“18-29 year olds will be the ones to sit and research what this update means, and once users understand the benefit, they will engage on blogs and forums to promote and advise their peers,” explains Zoe O’Neil.

There is some good news for paid search, however. There are many ad blocker Apps already in use that still allow paid ads to appear. Known as a ‘white list’, there are also Apps that enable users to populate their own white list of adverts that they are happy to appear.

Will I still see Ads in my Apps?

Apple’s iAd service will, quite conveniently, be unaffected by ad blocker extensions – sjowing a distinction between how the iOS9 update treats places adverts placed in apps rather than websites. Other app-based advertising platforms, such as Goggle’s AdMob, could also reap rewards.

Although Apple has announced that it won’t be creating its own ad blocking software, such a stance could now open the way for other browsers and mobile providers to follow suit.

PPC and paid search news from BidCops – the PPC analysis tool.

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