Google Steps Up the Fight Against Online Ad Fraud

As part of its ongoing effort to verify audiences across all of its services, Google acquired digital fraud detection startup Spider.io.

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No advertiser wants to hear that their ads aren’t being seen. What’s even worse is to hear that your ads are being clicked and viewed by bots. Not only are you not reaching a profitable audience, your money is going straight down the drain. To combat fake views and clicks, Google acquired Spider.io, a London-based startup that tracks online ad fraud.

In March 2013, Spider.io found a botnet called Chameleon that was 120,000 machines strong. That botnet drove a minimum of nine billion monthly ad impressions. What’s more, the botnet generated better click-through rates than regular consumers, 11 percent vs. 0.02 percent, respectively. This kind of fraud drives down prices, and hurts the ad market because it’s harder to verify clicks.

So it makes sense that Google would acquire Spider.io, given that the company has been trying to bring truth in ad impressions across all its services. As one of the leaders in online advertising, Google has huge sway over the industry. If it’s able to bring the price up, it benefits online advertising as a whole as well as Google’s bottom line.

Still, there’s a long way to go before the Internet is going to claw any significant ad share from more mainstream media sources. According Nielsen data, Internet advertising grew from 4.3 percent in Q2 2013 to 4.5 percent in Q3 2013. But during that same time, television accounted for 57.6 percent of advertising spending. Even magazines attracted twice as much money as the Internet.

Digital advertising — and social media marketing in particular — may be driving accelerated growth for small businesses, but brand advertising still accounts for 70 percent of all traditional advertising. And while most Internet ads want you to make a purchase right away, brand advertising is more interested in drawing the viewer into a lifestyle. Other than re-watching — or pre-watching — Super Bowl ads, the Internet doesn’t currently offer much of that experience to advertisers.

But given the attention span of users and bandwidth of the Internet, it’s not hard to imagine an increase in brand-lifestyle advertising if the clicks and views are verified. It’s all about making brands feel more comfortable with diverting their budgets to the Internet. And that can be a hard sell at the best of times.

Image credit: Carlos Luna