Not just ad blocking: the hidden analytics blocking problem

Adblock Analytics logo

One of the most surprising insights that’s coming out of the Adblock Analytics beta program is that visitors of some sites block analytics tracking at significant rates, while visitors of other sites block analytics at negligible rates.

The problem with analytics blocking affects a much larger proportion of sites than ad blockers: pretty much all sites use an analytics package of some sort while not all sites depend on ads for revenue.

Let’s look in more detail.

Ad and analytics blocking

The initial motivation to add measurement of analytics blocking to Adblock Analytics is that, by default, many blocking lists (such as Easy Privacy) block many standard industry analytics packages such as Google Analytics, Clicky, and even self-hosted Piwik installations. How big a problem is this?

The answer turns out to depend heavily on the website’s audience, and also to a lesser degree the country and device of the user. The reality is that the website’s audience is the primary factor whether analytics is blocked at a high rate or not, and the only way to know if this problem affects a site or not is to measure it.

Typical numbers

On some sites, the analytics blocking rate is greater than 10%, on others it’s low single-percentage-points, which is likely to be a combination of network connectivity issues (i.e. the analytics JavaScript never made it to the browser) combined with a small percentage of genuine blocking. The only way to know is to measure it.

Putting aside the website audience as a factor, based on pageviews data from the beta so far, countries outside of North America and Australia (including some in Europe, South America, Middle East and many Asian countries) block analytics at higher-than-average (mean) rates.

Ad blockers are much more likely to block analytics

We can look at the interaction of ad and analytics blocking.

The first finding from the data is exactly what you’d intuitively expect: it’s very unusual for a visitor to block analytics but allow ads. This is unsurprising because any users who care about privacy and page load times (two common reasons for blocking ads) would block analytics yet allow ads.

Still, we can compare the analytics blocking rates of the subset of visitors that allow ads versus those who block ads. Typically for the sites in the Adblock Analytics beta, the percentage of analytics blockers that block ads is at least 10 times higher than the percentage of analytics blockers that allow ads, but there is variance depending on the website - for one website, this ratio is 70x!

This means that not only are these visitors not seeing ads, you don’t even know about them if you solely depend on third-party analytics packages.

What does this mean?

Firstly, because it’s clear there is wide variation in analytics blocking rates you have to research your audience both quantitatively and qualitatively:

Only once you’ve done the quantitative and qualitative research can you devise a strategy. As part of the Adblock Analytics program, we’ve been helping some of our beta websites with these strategy discussions.

Finally, it’s important to note that blocked analytics data can be replaced with server logs. This is another area we’ve been helping our customers with, and, to put it mildly, server logs are too often ignored and underrated.

Measure ad and analytics blocking rates

If you’d like to measure ad and analytics blocking rates using Adblock Analytics, or get our expert advice about what to do, please fill out this form: