There’s little doubt that home is a big category on the Web, whether you’re talking decor, design, remodeling, or buying and selling. So naturally, numerous publishers have looked to capture this rabid audience, which has led to lots of traffic available in home-related categories on various ad exchanges.
But how much?
Take the Home and Garden category in AppNexus’ exchange, which in July listed 4 billion impressions. The top site in the category, Ideasforhome.net, had 467 million “platform-audited” impressions via AppNexus—269 million “seller-audited” impressions.
Another top site, Yourhousedesign.com, listed about 111 million monthly platform-audited impressions via AppNexus.
Sounds pretty big. Yet according to comScore, these sites on average reach roughly 0.1 percent of the Web population—meaning that in some cases, visitors to these sites would have been averaging around 500 page views per person last summer, which would suggest that the home category is achieving some serious engagement.
In the case of Yourhousedesign, the site is operated by the firm Relevad, which also helps manage and monetize sites such as Bikesdirect.com, Breakfastdailynews.com and News788.com. Adweek was unable to determine who owns these sites; none of them list any addresses or contact information, and Relevad would not reveal any ownership information, citing client confidentiality.
Relevad says there’s a perfectly logical explanation for the heavy volume available via AppNexus. Per Yury Kamen, Relevad's chief technology officer, Yourhousedesign typically sells only 15 million ad impressions per month.
The reason AppNexus reports such high volume is that Relevad sometimes works with up to 15 different ad sellers. AppNexus is actually showing the total number of ad impressions that could be sold by each partner. In other words, it’s doing lots of double counting, Kamen said.
“Relevad monetization technology uses multiple partners and combines them in an optimized daisy chain,” he said. “The number of partners may exceed 15 per single ad placement, and some of our partners are connected to AppNexus as well as to other partners that are connected to AppNexus. This would lead to 15 to 20 times more impression attempts than actual purchased impressions.”
It's AppNexus policy to not comment on specific partners. But the company insisted it’s on top of the issue of bogus Web traffic. In fact, CEO Brian O'Kelley has been quite outspoken on the issue.
"We see more than a trillion impressions across our platform in a month, the overwhelming majority of which are high-quality inventory that buyers want to buy," said AppNexus svp, product Pat McCarthy. "Since the platform is designed to optimize buyers’ spend, the dollars go to sites that perform best. We consistently see that low-quality sites don't perform well and therefore don't sell well. For the relatively small percentage of inventory that is nonhuman traffic, click fraud, piracy and other bad behaviors that affect the entire digital ad ecosystem, we have zero tolerance, and we’ve made some of the industry’s biggest investments and have some of the best technology to stop it."
Experts say that Relevad's explanation for the high volume of inventory listed via AppNexus could be accurate. Regardless, it speaks to the arcane world of online ad exchanges where it seems only a select few number of individuals even know what is going on, and the open nature makes things increasingly difficult to police.
A closer look at Yourhousedesign does reveal some curiosities. A recent visit showed autoplay video ads for Mitsubishi, as well as banners for Stop & Shop, Milky Way, Hilton and others. The page featured 48 different ad pixels, according to the Web-tracking software Ghostery. At times there were two video players automatically playing videos at the same time.
Content-wise, the Mitsubishi spot led into an autoplay video from Russia Today—in Russian. That seemed an odd fit for a home improvement site. Besides video, there were a series of superficial articles carrying the byline “admin.” Here’s an example of a recent article in its entirety:
Guide When Choosing Quality Stainless Steel Kitchenware
September 1, 2013 by admin
There are things that require about selecting kitchenware. Have faith in what sort of piece of kitchenware's that need before commencing out to the shops.
Imposing Contemporary Residence With a T-Shaped Floor Plan in Zagreb. April 7, 2013 by admin. (This story was posted in January on Freshome.com).
Great Tips For Having A Beautiful Landscape At Your Home
September 5, 2013 by admin
The guide for a particular project that you are hoping to work on may not be easily found, but you should do your best to find it before you start. This article is a great place to start.
Per Anna Mirsky, Relevad's senior business development manager, "Content on our sites is constantly changing...it's quite likely that the site may have featured a relevant video from Russia Today, which is one of the largest global news organizations."
Regarding the HuffPo story, Mirsky contends that Breakfastdailynews.com simply pulls content legally from the company's RSS feed, while linking back to HuffPo. "There are some websites which specifically prohibit the use of their RSS feeds for commercial use," she said. "We see no such disclaimer on Huffington Post."
Beyond its dubious content, another curious aspect of Yourhousedesign was a logo at the bottom of its page, claiming that it was a “Site Screened by Adometry”—a firm previously known as Click Forensics that raised $8 million in venture funding earlier this year.
The problem is, Adometry doesn’t actually screen sites. It provides them with data on suspect Web domains. In fact, Relevad had altered Adometry’s logo without permission.
“Clearly, they modified our logo and did not label us as a third-party vendor, which is misleading at best,” said Adometry gm John Brown. Yourhousedesign has since reworked the Adometry logo.
As for other Relevad sites, BreakfastDailyNews recently featured little on the latest happenings in Syria, but it did carry three ads for Wisk, as well as a Budget Car Rental banner that followed users as they scrolled up and down the site, as well as other banners that hovered on top of ads. A lead article in the site’s Politics section read, "Spurred By ‘Puppy Mill’ Report, Feds Crack Down On Dog Breeders Who Sell Animals Online." It appears directly lifted from The HuffingtonPost.com.
Similarly, BikesDirect.com carried the same Adometry claim, and carried ads from Mitsubishi and banners on top of an autoplay video player. Per sources, BikesDirect.com sells roughly 1.4 million impressions per day via AppNexus’ exchange, while BreakfastDailyNews generates 1.3 million daily impressions.
Meanwhile, getting back to the home category, Ideasforhome.com (not affiliated with Relevad) seemed to have recently pulled down many of its ads. There was an ad in the form of a fake IM pop-up for the company Sendly. It’s not clear who owns the site, as no contact information is provided.
The most recent article, Family Home Created from a Worker’s Cottage, was posted in May, also authored by “admin.”
Said Relevad Kamen: “We have no relationship with Ideasforhome.net.”