For several years, there has been a big conversation about the number of bots online. While making the distinction between benign and malicious bots can be important, each type has an impact on the digital ad space. A new survey from Distil Networks examines how bot-based ad fraud harms the industry.
Illegitimate traffic–i.e., traffic that doesn’t come from human users–comes in many forms. Everything from hijacked devices, data-center traffic, web page pre-loading and adware all contribute to wasted ad dollars as ads are served fruitlessly.
One of the main problems the digital advertising industry faces is a lack of awareness as to how bot traffic works and the impact that it has on business. Distil Networks surveyed both marketing buyers and marketing suppliers, and neither group seemed to agree on the scale of the problem. 37 percent of buyers think bot traffic has more than an 11 percent negative impact on their campaigns, while only 14 percent of suppliers feel the same way.
37 percent of buyers are willing to pay for verified human traffic. However almost 40 percent of buyers and suppliers declined to express an opinion–perhaps they don’t know enough about the bot problem to understand how or why to take action.
Various systematic methods of fraud continue to undercut the industry, from spoofed websites that generate fraudulent impressions and clicks to brute force login attacks that steal bandwidth. Additionally, if ad buyers and sellers aren’t able to generate good analytics by separating human traffic from bot traffic, it could be incredibly difficult to assess and deal with the problem.
According to a press release, 50 percent of all analytics are skewed. Additionally, 75 percent of publishers and 59 percent of advertisers are unable, or unsure, how to differentiate between human and bot traffic.
These aren’t just problems for the ad industry; poor social media analytics could also impact social science data, influencer marketing and social conversations around branded content. Identifying and screening out bot traffic is strictly necessary for an online endeavor that attempts to capitalize on traffic.
DistilNetworks co-founder and CEO Rami Essaid said in a statement:
As digital ad fraud continues to track closely behind digital advertising spend, it’s staggering to see the lack of meaningful measurement by both advertisers and publishers for real human traffic. Bots are a relatively cheap and easy way to divert funds from digital advertising spend, and so far, they have had an easy run at it. This needs to change.
The report suggests the following best practices:
- Focusing less on raw numbers and more on observable user actions.
- Moving beyond “viewability” as a metric.
- Allocating budgets to quality of ads, not quantity.
- Demanding transparency from ad suppliers.
Readers: Were you aware how serious the bot problem really is?
Image of pirate bot courtesy of Shutterstock.