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The theory of evolution: How ad blocking makes it survival of the fittest in digital marketing

We’ve all seen the death notices about Pay-per-Click, left for dead after a brutal assault by ad blocking, but to paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of its death were an exaggeration.

It’s easy to understand why people may think it extinct – recent studies have shown that the practice shows less than 1% in click-through rates. The reasons are numerous, from a mistrust of companies collating our information in order to pepper us with unwanted, irrelevant content, to slower functionality as ads upload, to a general distaste for anything that even resembles an ad online. Whatever the reason, it’s a challenge for those trying to reach their digital marketing objectives.

More and more people are using ad blocking apps and software, for the reasons we discuss here, with around 30% of all internet users adopting them, increasing at a rate of 43% last year alone. According to the PageFair and Adobe 2015 Ad Blocking Report, the number of people worldwide using ad blocking has far exceeded 200million. This is costing the marketing industry more than €25billion per year: 14% of the money spent on ads globally. This undoubtedly does have an effect on the value and effectiveness of PPC and online marketing in general.

However, there are blogs from 2010 telling us that PPC was dead and buried, yet six years later we are still talking about it, and marketers are actually investing more in paid for search ads than ever before.

The argument that rising costs for search ads and PPC, and the level of competition involved in trying to bid for the keywords your brand needs to promote your content online, is making the strategy of PPC content creation untenable, is also understandable. Yet if the costs and competition are rising, wouldn’t that suggest that the overall strategy is in fact still working? That enough people are clicking on this content to make it worthwhile? Well, yes and no.

Ad blocking certainly doesn’t herald the end, just the need for change, and savvy digital marketers are recognising this need to adapt or be left behind.

dont-be-a-pay-per-click-dinosaur-evolve-to-inbound-marketing.jpgJust as the dinosaurs didn’t really die out but evolved into creatures we know today (the successful ones at least), so it is with paid for searches. Online publishers need to start creating better ad experiences by aligning searches with better results that are more relevant to a person’s needs, whether they are using ad blocking or not, ensuring visitors to your website find the information they want, and stay there. If they don’t, they go the way of the dodo.

In the survival of the fittest, the digital marketing agency who will last out and succeed is the one that turns inbound to understand what their target market wants, and how to provide the information they need at the right stage of their customer journey.

These are the ones who will adapt their PPC strategy to target specific segments of their potential customer base with great content that is useful to them at their own specific stage of the purchasing cycle, providing the right content that brings them to the right landing page with the right content offers to suit their needs. The marketer who continues to pay to have their content appear at the top of search results regardless of where a person is on the buyer’s journey, will pass into history.

PPC will remain, but its use will be adapted by the wiser marketer so that it evolves into something very different. What form will this evolution take? The answer lies in inbound marketing.

Google is the T-Rex of the online world, but it’s size brings many problems, the biggest of which is the cost of paid search content. There are other options out there though. Yahoo! for instance, and Bing, have a slightly older demographic than Google, which can work well within an inbound marketing strategy that targets a specific customer base. Though they account for only a third of online search traffic, their combined algorithms and paid ad platform, and their lower costs, as well as their growing sophistication, means they could be a viable alternative in the short-term.

Longer term though, an effective inbound marketing strategy will help a brand identify, focus on and engage with specific demographics and types of internet user, resulting in far more targeted marketing, which in turn reduces competition (and therefore cost), and optimises returns.

The real area in which marketers need to evolve is in their focus on creating the right content for the right people at the right time, to attract visitors through organic search, and as such, PPC and search ads need to be seen not as the main strategy to attract potential customers, but as a supplementary, even secondary aspect of the overall online marketing process. As this blog by Ali Moghadam for Koozai puts it: ‘This is evolution, and anyone who relied solely on advertising to make their money was doing it wrong anyway. Maybe they deserve to die out.’

Tough, but fair.

An effective inbound marketing strategy will identify who your potential customers are, where they go on the internet and why, with this information driving the creation of great content that provides the information they want and the solutions they need, precisely when they need it in their customer journey. The right content will draw in visitors, with the right offers and landing pages bringing them to the most relevant information to their specific case. For example, those in the initial research phase can be offered an ebook, those in the consideration stage, a webinar, and those ready to make a purchase, a product or service page.

Knowing and understanding the customer’s needs and catering for them through an integrated system that can track their journey means that all of the targeted information you provide will be useful and relevant to all of your potential customers, all of the time.

This strategy will build your brand as one that offers true value, building your reputation, which in turn brings exponential growth, not only in online search, but in monetary terms. If the marketing world has become the survival of the fittest, this is the sort of evolution necessary to not only survive, but to succeed.

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Adam Hyland - Chief Editor

Adam Hyland - Chief Editor

Adam is the most vital link between your message and your audience, ensuring your tone is on brand and optimised for engagement.

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