Bot Problem Keeps Getting Worse

More than half of U.S. traffic, per Solve Media

You might think that all the attention placed on questionable traffic and bots and online ad fraud this past year would be having a big impact on the digital ad industry.

You’d be wrong. At least, according to the latest data from Solve Media, the company that places ads inside captchas across the Web (those things you type in to prove you’re not a robot).

According to Solve’s Quarterly Bot Traffic Market Advisory, 51 percent of all Web traffic in the U.S. was fraudulent in Q3—up 8 percentage points versus Q2. That’s the first time Solve has seen those numbers exceed 50 percent.

“It’s actually striking that it got meaningfully worse,” said Solve Media CEO Ari Jacoby. Considering all the chatter about the bot issue and the slew of anti-bot companies that have emerged, one might think Solve would see a reduction in bad traffic.

“Well for one, think about where the incentives lie,” said Jacoby. “Plus, unlike say a store, you can’t see yourself getting robbed. And people have been getting robbed for so long they’re used to it. People are doing things about it. But it is just reaching the C-suite.”

Lately, the fraud traffic trend has shifted to video in a big way, given how much more lucrative it is than display. However, Solve also found an uptick in “suspicious mobile activity” in the U.S.—per its new report, that measure in the U.S. climbed from 22 percent of mobile traffic in Q2 to 27 percent in Q3.

Where is bot traffic the worst? Solve says that Estonia (83 percent), Singapore (79 percent) and China (77 percent) are the global leaders in suspect traffic.

However, Solve’s reports are greeted with skepticism by some factions in the online ad world. Who are these guys? And does a captcha company that makes sure real people are shopping on Ticketmaster see enough of the Web to be able to track this stuff?

“It’s true that we’re not on every single page,” said Jacoby. “But we see about a third of the Web.” The company claims that translates to 270 million human verifications across more than 7,500 global publishers. “Only about 3 percent of our global portfolio is e-commerce. The majority is content. We work with folks like Martha, Oprah and AOL.”