Is This Firefox Addon Eating Into Your Adsense Income?

UPDATE: I have found a cool anti-adblock plugin for WordPress that seems to work like a charm, for now at least! :)

"I installed ADblockPlus as I was getting tired of all the silly banners and annoying popup ads that hinder my web surfing experience. However, a few days later when I visited my own MFA site I could not see the Adsense ads! WTF??" ;)

As silly and ironic it sounds, I am sure it is the running thought of at least some ADBlockPlus users who also happen to be Adsense publishers! Honestly, this was also the very first thought I had when I could not find my Adsense ads (although I don’t have MFA sites, I do have sites where I put Adsense alongside other ads to supplement my income). A little search into Google and I dug this article up which will explain the whole issue a lot better than I could!

Once upon a time Firefox and Google™ used to be bosom friends. However, this addon threatens to sour that "sweet" relationship. :D Jokes apart, this addon may be eating your income without your knowledge, especially if your ads primarily JavaScript-based or flash-based ads from a well-known third party ad network, such as Google, EBay, etc.

Since I don’t use Amazon™’s JavaScript/flash ads I have no idea if they are "blacklisted" as well. :D One thing I can tell you is that my "in-house" JavaScript ads have no problem with the adblockplus addon, so it is not that it blocks any and all JavaScript; it works based on a filter you subscribe to!

Clarification: Just to repeat, the addon itself does NOT block any ads unless you subscribe to one of the "filters".

Stuff blocked by Adblockplus+easylist filter:

a) Adsense™ ads-Text ads, image and flash ads, Custom Search Engine, etc: Yep, believe it or not, the big G is losing big time thanks to the popularity of AdBlockPlus (in fact, last time I checked it was the officially recommended addon for Firefox, so you can imagine the impact it is having on web publishers). Is a lawsuit by Google against the adblockplus devs in the offing? ;)

b) EPN (EBay™ Partner Network) Ads that are based on JavaScript or Flash

c) Wait, it does not block just ads, but also the JavaScript based tracking codes you may use to track your website traffic! I use Statcounter and Google analytics side by side, and in my tests ADBlockplus blocked both of them!

Fortunately I also use a php-based web stats program alongside these two big giants and it is immune to the adblocker; the flip side is that it does not offer you any more information than the list of keywords and the referrer domains which lead people to your website.

[Note to Self: Hmm, so this is why I see such crazy stats over at analytics and Statcounter, and such a huge drop in my Adsense income! Hmm hmm :D ]

What it does not block (yet): Plain HTML ads-containing text, image, links, etc. These ads can be included in your webpage either "as is" or by means of iframe (perhaps the easiest to implement and also compatible with majority of web browsers, but lacks the flexibility offered by PHP includes or SSI), Server Side includes, PHP includes, Curl include (perhaps the hardest to implement, security issues notwithstanding), etc. I also mentioned that my "in-house JavaScript ads" are not blocked by the easylist filter either, probably because it is my "private, unknown ad network". :)

How to verify my statement:

Test#1: Okay, if you have got a Firefox browser, and a Adsense site, then just install the ADBlockplus addon, subscribe to one of the lists (in my case it is "easylist"), restart Firefox and visit your site. Can you still see the ads, or just "empty white pages"?

Test#2: Here is another test I tried personally. I use a Google custom search form on my site. Check these screenshots for yourself (you can also check it live by going to my site, provided that you have AdBlockplus installed and enabled):

Screenshot of Search Page with AdBlockplus Enabled:

Click on the image for a larger screenshot

Hmm, 100% clean page with no ads! How sweet! ;)

Screenshot of Search Page With AdBlockPlus Disabled:

Click on the image for a larger screenshot

Yuk, soo many ads! :D

Is it fair: Yes and no. Ethically speaking, a person who installs such an addon is someone who does not want to see ads, either out of disgust or because the ads slow down/hinder his web surfing experience. If we put ourselves in the shoes of such a visitor who is paranoid of all ads, then it seems fair that he won’t see the Adsense ads either! On the other hand, it does not seem to be too fair to web publishers, especially those who heavily depend on Adsense for their sustenance.

Now, I am not taking about ezinearticles, much less the cr*ppy MFA sites and spammy blogs. I am talking about the large number of good, informative websites where webmasters take great pains to put high quality content and hope to make a few dimes from Adsense!  In a sense, I feel (and so do others) that the more people install and use this addon, the narrower will the "world of free content" become!

Yes I don’t use Adsense on THIS blog but I do use it on a couple of other blogs. My aims and aspirations with this blog are quite different and I don’t want to throw them all down the drain by putting Adsense ad codes all over it. But a lot of blogs, some way better than mine in terms of content quality, rely heavily on Adsense income. Now just imagine the fate of these publishers. Maybe they would have to go back to their old rude bosses who they fired with such enthusiasm in the hope of being able to earn dimes and dollars in their shorts aand dollars in their shorts and G-strings! ;)

On another note, if web surfers want, they can whitelist your domain so that AdBlockplus does not block ads from your site. But tell me, why on earth would any AdBlockplus user do this when they hate ads so much that they went as far as to installing an adblocker? :D

So, what could you do to save yourself?

Solution#1: Well, if you are a programmer you can probably whip up a script that blocks all Firefox users with the addon enabled; this way they would be able to access your content only after disabling the addon.

Solution#2: Restrict access to your content to paying members only.

Solution#3: Giveaway only half of your content free and charge for the rest!

Solution#4: Stop using Adsense™.

Solution#5: Show different ads to the AdBlockplus users.

Solution#6: Stop worrying about it and focus on multiple streams of income. Use Adsense, but at the same time, don’t put all your eggs in this basket alone! If one site is monetized with Adsense, another could be earning revenue with plain text/HTML affiliate ads, yet another can be monetized using plain image ads!

Personally this is what I do. At the end of the day you will discover that not many ad networks pay as good as Adsense and even if they do, most of them either display ads that are out-of-context (and hence a huge waste of your real estate), offensive, or stuff that would terribly slow down the loading time of your webpages!

I would suggest you look for smaller ad networks as they are less likely to be blocked by adblockplus and more likely to give you a better payout than the big giants. Ultimately, you would need to test, test and test each ad network and pick what works best for you!

Another thing you can do is to build your own ad network. This can be done in two ways:

a) Install a free script such as Openx (expect a big leaning curve here, although they also offer a hosted solution for a monthly fee), Oasis (no personal experience and I don’t even know if it is supported or not), ADMP (it sounds cool and is free, but I am yet to use it), or a commercial script of your choice on your server. All of them would work on a typical LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) server!

b) If you are inexperienced in installing/maintaining scripts then you can get a hosted solution. Only difference is that instead of your server, the ads would be served by a third party server, and you pay a monthly fee! A quick Google search took me to Bitads (again, no personal experience with them, so please do your due diligence); they seem to offer a free account for small websites.

Three big differences between using a hosted solution and one that is installed on your server are that:  

1) If the folks behind the hosted solution go out of business, change their terms and conditions, or face an extended downtime/DDOS attack, it might result in a loss of revenue for you. Not saying that these things cannot happen with your own server, but when you OWN a server, you usually have much more control over it!

2) You also need to make sure that the ad server is displaying your ads only and not inserting some third party (porno) ads in between! :D I remember having such an issue with a hosted ad serving solution I joined years ago. I cannot remember anything else about that company except that I abandoned it once they started showing ads which DO NOT belong to me!

3) A hosted solution, being open to hundreds or even thousands of users, will usually be more popular than your private ad network! As such, they are more likely to get blacklisted by Adblockplus or a similar addon. Remember I mentioned above that while AdBlockplus blocked the JavaScript ads of both EPN and Adsense, it allowed my "in-house" JavaScript ads a safe passage! :D

Of course, if you open the gates of your ad server to the public then its fate won’t be any different than that of the hosted ad serving solution. :D

Solution#7: Oh, by the way, you have another option: you can beat the Adblockplus devs black and blue for coming up with such an addon and making you poorer! :D (kidding)

What Others Are Saying about Adblockplus and Adsense:

Adblock Plus plugin blocks format selection when setting up adsense ad

Firefox (Adblock plus) blocks even Google adsense

HOT tip: If you hate Ezinearticles or for that matter, Google, using Adblockplus is the perfect "protest" tool! ;)

I can understand that after reading all these you are feeling terribly unhappy (and bored)! Still, I request that you leave a nice comment on my blog if you can! :D


  1. Renee Benzaim

    Thank you for letting us know about this. A lot of people, myself included, might not at first get the connection between installing the plug-in and not seeing their ads. They could spend a lot of time trying to sort out the problem. It helps a lot when you bring something like this to our attention.

  2. Bill

    It’s a tough call. As a publisher, it’s *my* page, and anything you do as a reader to modify that is kind of offensive. On the other hand, ads can be offensive too.

    I think a lot of us web folk have become blind to the ads anyway, so using an ad blocker might just be for the noobs.

    It’s a free country and so far a free internet — anybody can do anything, as long as it doesn’t harm another. And NOT getting AsSense revenue is not harming you. After all, visitors need not access your site in the first place.

    By the way, we’re see something similar in television — namely TiVo. I love that I can skip 30 seconds at a time. The TV execs and ad agencies disagree, I’m sure.

    1. Arindam

      Haha, Bill I hate TV now. I have stopped watching it since 2004, and after that my Mom canceled the cable network subscription lol! When I was a kid TV was my only addiction. Things have changed now. I am glad I can at least “fast forward” all the ads on a PC screen that I cannot do on the TV ;-)

      Back to online advertising, it is a case of minority ruining it for the majority. Adsense is abused by MFA site builders. Popups are abused by webmasters who add too many of them on a page, which annoys visitors. Email marketing is abused by spammers-both the “in your face spammers” and ones in the garb of “gurus”.

      Banners lost their charm when they become too commonplace and flashy, so much so that instead of looking attractive, they looked vulgar and cr*ppy. This is not to say that banners are dead. If you do it right, they would still earn you revenue. Definitely avoid the “animated banners” and keep it “plain Jane”! ;)

  3. Rod Macbeth

    If people are blocking ads I would think it’s very unlikely they’d ever click on an Adsense ad.

    Or any other ad.

    That being the case is it really any big concern?

    I think any los of revenue will be minimal.

  4. Alec

    Just hope that Firefox stays in the minority. Although like most enlightened marketeers I use Firefox, I do find that the majority of friends & colleagues still use IE and wouldn’t have a clue on how to change – thank goodness!
    Or we need some expert to come up with a wordpress plugin that prevents showing a page to anyone using the firefox plugin

  5. Mark E Thurston

    People have been using the HOSTS file which if configured right can block Google ads as well as any ad (even private network ads, for years. One needs to be slightly computer literate to do it. & Of course they would have to first be shown the ad and obtain the address to add the redirect to the HOSTS file.)

    With a popular and MUCH easier way to block ads, seems at some point, as more people use it, even having network ads won’t be worth the trouble.

    I wonder, if the plug in can block hop-links to affiliate products from some of the large affiliate directories? Certainly doesn’t seem it would be that hard to do.

    Somehow, even though I ignore most ads myself, that an organized, easily implemented roadblock to commerce is decidedly un-American (un-humanitarian if you want to take it that far)… especially in the current economic climate.

    Even if it only is available to FF users and only 10% of them install it, what percentage of the GNP would become extinct? Many of those ad sales are impulse sales. If they don’t see them, no impulse. No Impulse no sales. No sales, no economic recovery. Hmmm…

    1. Arindam

      @Alec, yes, my server logs have always shown that majority are IE users. But I have heard even IE has similar ad blocking addons. Besides, there is the “information bar” that blocks a lot of Active X stuff anyway, and it is a pain to turn that off :)

      I cannot however say whether Firefox would remain in the minority after say, 5 years from now. The web is changing constantly! When I started, IE, Netscape and Opera were probably the only dominant browsers. Now see! ;)

      @Mark, the economy would be affected a bit, but probably not much. On another note, as I said, if someone takes the trouble to install such an addon, such a visitor is a typical “freeloader” or “tyre kicker” and unlikely to buy anything or click on these ads. It is no different that people who install popup blockers for getting rid of annoying popups or buying spam filter softwares to combat email spam. Has such stuff ever made any big impact on the economy in general? We IMers don’t even think about such stuff anymore because “spam filters” and “popup blockers” have become a norm. Maybe adblocker addons would also become the norm in due course of time!

      Sure, if a marketer relies too heavily on any one system he is sure to perish. Thus, if your ads are primarily Adsense, or popups, or if you make money primary from email marketing, you may see a dent in your income. But if you use multiple sources/systems then such roadblocks are unlikely to worry you! ;-)

      Yes affiliate ads, if you do it like I said, it should not be blocked. Keep it plain html, or text. If it blocks such ads then it has to block ALL images, text and links, and then, what would remain for the web surfer to see? It DOES offer an option to block selected image(s) on a site but it is turned off by default; I think you need to right-click on the image you want to block to get that option! JavaScript is certainly best avoided (IMO Curl is a lot better than JS though it is still at its infancy). :)

      Good to see you Mark. Without you, the discussions don’t really get any “push”, lol! :)

  6. Steve1943

    Google isn’t really so dependent on javascript since they implemented server side ad management.

    The adsense parameters that used to be held in the webpage are increasingly on file centrally at Google – in which case all they should need is a call to the appropriate ad reference number.

    Such a call could probably be implemented as a simple html anchor link with an external image reference.

    Ironically, the ad blocker would then probably harm Google’s competition more than Google – thus reinforcing big G’s PPC monopoly!

    History is full of unintended consequences…….

  7. Anna

    I’m not too worried about it. Since this can only be used for firefox and for most of my sites I only get about 10%of visitors using firefox it shouldn’t make much of a dent. Plus if you think about it the great majority of people adding this on probably don’t often click on the ads, so it’s not really taking away from you. Or at least that’s how i see it.

  8. Azam

    There have been a variety of Firefox plugins to block ads of all kinds and even change affiliate links for many years. See the post linked from my name above.

    Ultimately, without internet advertising, there would be no free websites except for public service or sales sites. None whatsoever.

    And as I see it, my website is my property. A visitor downloads it to their computer because they want something from it. I don’t send/push the site to them, they REQUEST it from me.

    In other areas of life, when someone asks you to help them by giving something of yours for free, it would be considered outrageous for them to then attempt to dictate terms to you.

    Bottom line… If you can’t accept the ads, don’t visit the site.