Robots are wreaking havoc on the internet. According to an August 9 Advertising Age report, online advertisers may be wasting tens of millions of dollars a year to reach robots.
At 4:30 PM Wednesday, August 14, University of Wisconsin professor Paul Barford will tell a seminar audience at the USENIX Security ’13 Summit in Washington, DC, that the problem’s even worse.
Each month, he’ll say, ten traffic networks deliver more than 500 million invalid advertising impressions. “We estimate the cost to advertisers for this fraudulent traffic to be on the order of $180 million annually,” an advance statement claims.
How big is it?
Barford bases this claim on a study in which he scammed the scammers. “[P]osing as a web publisher…[he signed] up for several different traffic generation services, also called PPV [pay per view] networks,” then filtered the traffic through proprietary anomaly detection software to identify and count fake traffic.
Timur Yarnall, his partner in a new company called MdotLabs, says as much as half of all web traffic is fake.
But while not everyone buys into those estimates, publishers, advertisers and traffic-checking services agree that fake traffic (and the money advertisers waste on it) is a huge and growing problem.
Digital analytics company ComScore, for example, says that more than a third of all PPV traffic – 36 percent – is non-human. And that’s not even counting Google bots, which don’t inflate ad impression numbers. This is a sixfold increase from just two years ago, when it was 6 percent.
“We see bots playing games that we didn’t see a few years ago,” SVP of audience analytics Brian Pugh told Ad Age.
One of these games is the Chameleon botnet, which London-based Spider.io caught infecting more than 120,000 computers and using them to flood websites with fake traffic.
Deliver real results.
Many publishers enjoy additional impressions online. But real value comes with the delivery of the printed product. You can’t fake a magazine or catalog. And we are many years away from robots picking them up. Put your money in front of real consumers and readers with high quality targeted products.