Can Your Business Benefit By Letting Users Hide Ads?

Even If Your Revenue Comes From Advertising?

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Contrary to what advertisers might like to believe, not everyone wants to see their ads. This is why televsion advertisers don’t like TiVo. Advertising is how a lot of online businesses make their bread and butter though, and without ads, they simply could not generate enough revenue to stay alive. At least one online business believes that allowing users to turn off ads might actually be in its best interest.

Jack HerrickDespite getting all of its revenue from online advertising, wikiHow allows visitors to click a button to remove ads from the site. The company’s co-founder Jack Herrick thinks letting users turn off ads is actually good for business.
"We introduced opt out ads because it is something the community wanted and visitors love it," says Herrick. "The surprising thing is that letting people turn off ads has not hurt our revenues. If anything, treating users with respect was a contributing factor to why we saw more than 100% readership growth from 2007 to 2008. I often wonder why more Web sites don’t offer this ability." [emphasis added]

wikiHow adsThe opt-out feature is displayed prominently right underneath the ads on wikiHow.  It should be noted that these are Google AdSense ads. When visitors click the ‘hide ads’ button, all ads disappear for 24 hours. Visitors who prefer to permanently turn off advertising, need only register an account.

What about sites that have advertisers coming directly to them? I asked Herrick, "Wouldn’t the ability to turn-off ads be a turn off for potential advertisers? And if so, aren’t you missing out on revenue opportunities there?"

"Actually, I think advertisers should love this," he responded. "By wikiHow not showing ads to people who don’t want to see them, we raise the ROI for advertisers. Advertisers don’t pay to show ads to people who don’t want to see the ads in the first place. And the people who keep the ads do so because they believe the ads have offers or information that might be useful to them. Opt-in ad viewers are better potential customers for the advertisers than those who opt-out."

Of course when ads are hidden, advertisers are missing out on brand exposure that they would otherwise be getting. Whether a user is interested in an ad or not, they are still exposed to brands when ads are displayed, and depending on the advertiser’s motivation and payment plan, this might be a good part of what they’re paying for. If they pay by ad impression, this shouldn’t be an issue.

It is an interesting question though. Can your ad revenue-driven business benefit from allowing users to disable your clients’ ads? What do you think?

Can Your Business Benefit By Letting Users Hide Ads?
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  • http://www.uniquegarageconversions.com Dallas Garage Remodeling Services

    If you have a site that gets over 1k of visitors per day, hiding the ads would not be a good choice. Your site would not make much money.

    I guess if you didn’t care, than do what ever..

  • Guest

    I don’t see a problem with offering the “hide ads” option, this shows good faith to the readers.

    Because think about it, anyone can block ads if they really want to… all you need is Firefox with the AdBlock plus plugin.

    So by this company doing this… they make themselves look reader friendly, which in turn could aid in them getting more clients.

  • http://www.dentalhealthsite.com AliMustafa

    why would you want to hide your ads, after all showing your ads is all about making money

  • http://www.wikihow.com/User:Busbyhead Martyn P

    Dallas Garage Remodeling Services, your argument doesn’t make sense. wikiHow gets around 15 million unique visitors per month (http://www.wikihow.com/wikiHow:Statistics)

  • http://dietdon.com Donald

    You might as well not put any ads on your site if you are going to hide them.

  • http://www.thelostagency.com David

    i agree that some sites will lose a lot of money on this, but is it going to be a great feature for sites that you contribute to or pay a monthly membership fee.

  • http://www.shoesandbootsnow.com Guest

    That makes absolutely no sense if you’re deriving revenue from it. I say that the emperor has no clothes. As long as the ads aren’t in your face annoying I don’t see the problem.

  • Guest

    I think it makes alot of sence. Why do you want to show your ads to people that don’t want to see them. Is their a stat that shows on your advertising how many people opt out so you can track it.

  • http://www.webmarketinggurus.co.uk Web Marketing Gurus

    We agree fully, having less ads, and more relevant content, increases ROI for advertisers, improve the trust in the site, and is something we’ve championed for the past 5 years. We’ve seen sites generate 10* as much revenue, when employing this strategy

  • http://www.ineurodesign.com Guest

    This is a clever idea for a website that draws a lot of traffic. The whole point in advertising is to target your audience as much as possible and avoid wasting money on a public that wouldn’t be interested in the first place.

    Google Adsense, and most affiliation program, works on a pay per click model. It is more than likely that most people who opt out wouldn’t have clicked anyway, so no arm done.

    For websites that have a bespoke sales team to pitch advertisers directly, the fact that visitors have pretty much opted in means they have a unique and invaluable added value which could potentially help them increase their return by targeting only viewers who could be interested.

  • JM

    A few things to consider…

    1. Unless Wikihow were able and willing to reveal how their traffic was influenced by other sources over the past year, claiming the ad option contributed to it is completely moot. The bulk of the increase could have come from any number of other factors, and unless readers here are aware of them, they shouldn’t give much weight to this ad argument.

    2. Assuming people who don’t want to see ads wouldn’t click them anyway if they left them turned on is unbelievably naive. The truth is that the vast majority of people don’t want to see ads. A well-written ad, however, is specifically designed to overcome those reservations, and they do make people click, leading to sales (and income for site owners). If Wikihow is delivering highly targeted readers, no advertiser in their right mind would be OK with private ads being shut out by the user. The fact that they’re using adsense is quite possibly the only reason it’s worked out for them.

    3. Adsense itself is a problem here. It’s easy in that it’s relatively effortless, but most readers would in fact likely prefer private ads more targeted to things they’re actually interested in than the generic Adsense style ads thrown up. Remember, good enough is never good enough. Point being… there are still other options that might make for happier visitors AND more income (simply a lack of decrease doesn’t constitute success). Heck, the article says it all – a 100% increase in traffic, and all they could say about income is that it wasn’t hurt – Umm, if things were that successful, that income should have grown at least proportionately with traffic growth. Bragging that it wasn’t hurt means nothing.

  • http://www.hemorrhoidshemroids.com/hemorrhoidshemroidsresources/Fibromyalgia.html Donald of Hemorrhoids and other things, like fibromyalgia.

    From reading all the comments below, and the article, and visiting the website, it appears clear that although visitor numbers doubled, revenue did not. In this sense allowing people to hide ads made the website less viable financially.

    Visitor numbers can increase dramatically over time, and so I expect has nothing to do with the ad hiding idea, except that they use it to encourage peope to join up as members. So , I guess one unanswered question, is whether memberships went up by more than 100%? Did increasing member numbers improve the site financially in other ways?

    Other points to think on, is that by asking visitiors to opt out means:
    1… They looked at the ad area and read how to turn it off – so they were already focused on the ad section.

    2… If they click on the why link, we find these people are being asked to contribute to the site! Which is a very big ad!! – So did they get the free or altered content they were after, that they chose to forgo income for? See what I am getting at, forgone income, but was it made up for in value by increase in content quality or quantity?

    Interesting concept, but I don’t see much value in this idea for most web sites. Wiki’s are somewhat unique in that anyone is basically able to edit them.

  • http://www.marketapppeal.co.uk/ Fruity SEO services

    I agree with Donald. If revenue haven’t increased despite their traffic doubling then that means that their average revenue per user has halved.

    This may be acceptable if they argue that, in the short term, user and contributor growth is more important than revenue, however, equally, in the long run most investors will expect a website to generate increasing revenue, as otherwise what’s in it for them?

  • http://www.indiesurf.com Darren Tan

    I think this is a great idea… But doubt its effectiveness.. A risky approach thought.. For the permanent feature though, i think it should be better if it’s a paid membership account rather than free account. Otherwise, i think most people will just register for it and just hide those ads that appear on the website they are visiting. And it hurts the website owner…

    But damn, this is one hell of a crazy idea…

  • http://pcblogger.net Samuel Hagin

    I think hiding ads is a great idea but this will also hurt the sites revenue.It looks like business is still blooming with ads hidden but I doubt this can work in a long-term.Anyway,they could switch to be like Wikipedia where all revenue is from donations.

  • Guest

    Post your ads for free at BARNBID for FREE!!
    Just go the wedsite, click on the WANTED ADS, sign up and you good to go…also you can post on the auction option.

  • Kate

    I have a slightly different concern. I accept ads on my websites, and usually advertisers want their ad to link to their website. In effect, therefore, I am selling links (as is every other website which accepts ads that link to the advertiser’s website). I suppose I could use the “no follow” attribute – but selling ads is still selling links, isn’t it?

  • http://peopletheatre.com/venu Guest

    great concept by wikihow

  • http://FriendSite.com Rick

    It would seem though that even though their visitors have doubled, their revenue’s haven’t. Technically, with business doubling and revenues staying stagnant, then their profits have halved.

    As long as ad’s aren’t intrusive, in your face, or those annoying smiley adverts people don’t care.

  • http://www.criminalexistence.com mdshare

    ok I’m a tiny player in this publisher ad industry, yet I did try to offer members the hiding of ads a few years ago. It didn’t work out in my case.

    What did work for me and my community

    • dramaticaly reduced the ad spots to just 2, a header 468×60 and a footer 728×90 on the community forums.
    • added a weight value and a extra publisher + direct advertising, this created a influx of different ads to be shown, which resulted in a much higher CTR.
    • google adsense 40%
    • apexgamingads 10%
    • direct advertising 50%

    Downside is that advertisers get less impressions/views of their ad due to this setup, but benefit is that their ad doesn’t gets as fast bored for the community.

    We all know if a person has seen a ad 3 times he will overlook it the 4th time.

    What is the result in my case regarding revenue, with less ad spots almost tripled my ad revenue.

    Regarding the members/visitors, less ads is better so they all liked it and enjoy a much cleaner place.

    • http://homefreetrade.com Alice

      I really valued your comment. I am new to website business but all you wrote seemed to be very reasonable. I am definately going to follow your suggestions!

      • http://www.criminalexistence.com mdshare

        I’m far from a expert more an amateur :p but the above is my own experience. It might be that it doesn’t suit for all types of websites but worked for me.

        The market segment I’m in is online games that are developed with php/mysql.

        So my sites are geared towards php web based games.

        Another one of my sites is reduced to 2 banners again a 468×60 and a 160×600 tower. I’ve got the same revenue gain increase there by displaying less ads.

        So I would conclude ‘less ads’ on a site is better yet you need to use more than just google adsense, put the ad spot in a rotation with others so you can show more different ads to your members/visitors. (getting more clicks due to more different ads)

        Making a rotator with weight values is just a few lines of php to implement in the website. Plenty of script snippets available on the net how to.

  • http://www.lexolutionit.com Maneet Puri

    I really don’t understand the concept. Advertisements are a great medium of brand exposure and craeting awareness about the business. The basic idea is to spread out in the field and get noticed.

    However, if users are given the provision of hiding ads (which they clearly will because no one goes to a website to view ads. They go there for information which they will be able to acquire more easily if there are no ads to disturb them) how will they be exposed to the brands.

    Who would want to advertise on a webisite that doesn’t show the ad to all people? Advertising is not direct mailing. It’s for all!

  • http://www.typemock.com MO

    Very interesting article…

    I think this issue is much stronger when your site is selling its own products.

    In our site we have no ads (at all) becuase we can generate higher revenues by selling our own product, then by advertising others.

  • http://inchoo.net Toni Anicic

    Now that’s a nice and unique point of view on ad revenue. I really like the idea of allowing users to turn off the ads. This could result in better CTR on your ads. It is also very nice way to deliver better results to advertisers if you are selling your ads on PPM ar pay per impression basis.

  • Dana

    I agree with this advertising technique. It’s like the same for opting in for email communications. You want people to want to see your ads or emails. It also eliminates those users who are not interested and not providing a conversion or ROI.

    I’m interested to see how this will pan out in the next few years. I wouldn’t be surprised if sites were forced to do this kind of advertising in the coming years.

  • Jack

    I don’t want more ads in my face! I don’t care if that’s how you make your money. If I come across someone else that does the same thing but figured out another way to make money, I’m going to them instead.

    My site has ads on it, but only for “non-members”.

  • http://www.earringsforever.com EarRings

    It will affect maybe a bit but not by much. If you really don’t want ads you can disable them with a plugin anyway. This just makes it easier for the less savy…

  • RJU

    When we launched our site, the goal was to have a subscription base and no advertisements. That model didn’t work too well. Without advertisements, somehow things didn’t look legitimate – like nobody believed in the site enough to advertise on it. Conversions were low, even for the free newsletter.

    Then we switched to a model with a ton of free content, in fact the only company in our sector to offer this content free rather than by subscription. We started with advertising with a rotator script so visitors didn’t see the same ads each time. User conversions and revenue went up almost immediately.

    I wish we could have stayed with the no ads site, it was a lot easier to manage but it just didn’t work for us. I’m sure it depends on the individual site.

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