Not Just Ads, iOS 9 Content Blockers Can Also Block Analytics
A look at the broader implications for marketing data if content blockers are widely adopted in iOS 9.
Though they’ve been dubbed “ad blockers,” it’s not just ads that marketers and publishers have to worry about with iOS 9’s new content blockers; many of these new apps are also designed to shut out analytics and other trackers in Safari.
Many of these content blocking apps have a Block Trackers setting that will keep analytics tags and other tracking pixels from firing when a page loads in the Safari app on iOS devices.
— dan barker (@danbarker) September 17, 2015
Implications Of Blocked Analytics Tracking In Safari
Marketers and publishers alike rely on analytics tags and pixels to capture data on how users get to and interact with their campaigns and content. If the pixels are blocked from firing, it’s as if those visitors never existed, and actions they took never happened. That goes for analytics platforms like Google Analytics, and also popular tools like Chartbeat.
Then there are the implications for optimization efforts when pixels from page testing tools like Unbounce and Optimizely and heat mapping tools like ClickTale can’t fire.
Globally, Safari’s market share among mobile browsers has been slipping to Chrome, which has 33.5 percent share compared to Safari’s 18.4 percent, according to StatCounter. However, in the US, Safari is holding onto the top position with 48.8% market share compared to Chrome at 39.6 percent share within the past three months.
Real World Examples Of Tools That Can Blocked
Looking at the trackers used on a handful of sites gives you an idea of the impact on sites and marketing tools beyond ad blocking. It also highlights why blockers that enable sites bloated with trackers to load faster are so popular with consumers. Screenshots are taken from desktop for ease of reading.
The browser add-on Ghostery pulled up 39 trackers on The New York Times home page. The list of vendors is shown in the purple overlay in the screenshot below. Again, the majority of these are ad-related, but also on this list are marketing and analytics tools such as Chartbeat, A/B testing tool Optimizely and tag manager Ensighten.
On the home page of Buzzfeed, Ghostery found 21 tracking tags. Many of these are ad-related, such as DoubleClick and AppNexus tags, but there is also social tracking and analytics tool AddThis, audence measurement tool CompeteXL and Google Analytics.
On Refinery29’s home page, Ghostery finds 26 trackers, including CompeteXL, Chartbeat and Google Analytics.
A whopping 54 trackers came up in Ghostery on Target’s home page. AddThis, data management platform BlueKai and Omniture make the list (not to mention numerous beacon trackers).
If yesterday was any indication of pent-up consumer demand for these blockers on mobile, Ghostery-powered content blocker Peace shot to the top of the charts in the App Store within hours of iOS 9’s launch. Four content-blocking apps were in the top 12 spots on the top paid apps list in the App Store by Wednesday afternoon.
Whether or not these blockers have staying power or how many users enable tracking blockers remains to be seen, but ad blocking has become increasingly popular on desktop browsers. The frequently cited PageFair report published in August found that 200 million people are using ad blockers, costing publishers $21.8 billion in lost revenue. Ad blocking in the US rose 48 percent year over year to 45 million users, according to the report.
Beyond advertising, increasing adoption of content blockers could have broad implications on the data that marketing tools are able to provide.