Rise of the Machines, on the Web

Bots account for 10% of U.S. traffic, says Solve Media

When publishers pitch advertisers on their sites’ audiences, they usually don’t include robots as a targeting segment. But according to Solve Media—the company that puts ads in those annoying CAPTCHA things you type in when trying  proving you're not a robot, says robots account for a significant amount of Web traffic.

Based on a 20-month study, Solve Media found that a projected 10 percent of all online traffic isn’t human. Between January 2011 and August 2012, the company observed 100 million unique visitors a month across 5,000 publishers and found that one out of every ten users wasn’t a user at all, but a bot.

Solve Media CEO Ari Jacoby described those bots as pieces of software programmed to do things like clicking on an ad, creating a fake account or posting bogus comments. Solve Media claims it can identify these bots by running every impression it sees through a proprietary algorithm and place a “threat score” on that impression. Jacoby said the company uses hundreds of “attack vectors” to identify bots.

“The first time [Solve Media encounters an impression] we can absolutely make a judgment call as to whether it’s a human or bot, and the second time around we’re getting more and more reputation data and a valuable understanding who they are and what they are,” he said.

Solve Media found an additional 16 percent of online traffic qualified as "bad traffic" but that percentage could include humans as well as bots trying to game publishers (or advertisers).

The largest amount of bot traffic, 16 percent, comes from the U.S., said Solve's report. That stat’s not necessarily surprising since U.S. publishers are high-profile targets. “U.S. publishers are under attack because the attackers are economically motivated. They know where the biggest advertising budgets lie,” Jacoby said.

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