Lowdown Series: Ad Fraud — Bots

Lowdown Series: Ad Fraud — Bots

Your ads are getting lots of impressions, but no conversions. Could it be a bot is clicking on your ad rather than an actual human?

Beware, bots are everywhere! And they may be ripping your ad dollars off right now.

With the fast-paced rise of programmatic advertising and all the benefits it brings to advertisers, also comes a tidal wave of bot fraud. That’s right, non-human traffic consuming your display and video ads.

Fraudulent publishers and some networks use bots and other tactics to get paid on clicks that never happened or ads served that were not viewable at all. There’s millions of publishers and hundreds of networks out there, but it takes a few rotten apples to spoil the bunch, so we have to be on the alert!

Programmatic spend is set to double this year from 10 billion to 20 billion in 2016. And by the end of this year, it’s estimated that advertisers will have lost 6.3 billion dollars on fake traffic according to a study done by White Ops and Association of National Marketers (ANA).

Internet Advertising Bureau says around one-third, or 36%, of all web traffic is fake and another study by the ANA last year found that 11% of display ads and about a quarter of video ads were never viewed by humans.

Here’s the basics on how it usually works:

Bots can find their way onto unsuspecting user’s computers and mimic human behavior by interacting with display or video ads creating fake impressions and/or clicks. More sophisticated bots can move a mouse around, placing the cursor over ads, put stuff in shopping carts, and pick up cookies, enabling them to be retargeted elsewhere.

These shady bot tactics can make advertisers think that their ads are getting the desired response. Thereon, unsuspecting advertisers may increase their ad spend and optimize campaigns when in reality they are optimizing for the bots. The horror!

So, what’s an advertiser to do to combat these pesky bots? Here’s a few basic precautionary tactics:

  • Vet traffic sources — work with platform partners who source traffic from reputable ad exchanges and publishers.
  • Limit the amount of retargeting — if a user clicked your ad 2–3 times already, do you want to keep retargeting him again and again?
  • Use a publisher safety rating service — Some companies provide a service to reduce fraud incidence and rate the brand safety and quality of publishers. Bucksense’s optimization algorithm has embedded basic budget protection against bot traffic and in addition we have partnered with the best in class third party providers to keep your brand safe and give you peace of mind.
  • Create blacklists/whitelists — As your campaign progresses, you can build a list of publishers that you want or don’t want to target based on your results and the quality of traffic they bring.

Originally published at www.bucksense.com on March 3, 2016.

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