The State of Online Advertising Fraud & Bot Traffic - 2015 Study

October 21, 2015 Elias Terman

As part of a joint webinar with the IAB, Distil Networks conducted a survey in order to gain a better understanding of buyer and supplier concerns about non-human traffic (bots) and digital ad fraud.

The survey was conducted over email and online in July and August, 2015 and included 138 respondents, each of which answered two or more questions.

40 to 48% of respondents weren’t sure how bot traffic affects their online advertising campaigns and web properties, yet almost no one denies the issue.  There also appears to be a clear disconnect between online advertising buyers’ and suppliers’ perceptions: 37% of buyers think bot traffic has more than an 11% bad affect on their campaigns compared to only 14% of suppliers thinking that bots have more than an 11% bad effect. Perhaps there’s a need for digital advertising suppliers to provide more data-based reassurance to their clients.

Respondents were also asked what monetary value they would place on certified human traffic.

Two trends are apparent here:

  • There is a clear willingness for online advertising buyers to pay some level of premium for guaranteed human traffic, with 37% of buyers willing to pay at least an 11% premium.

  • Close to 40% of both digital advertising buyers and suppliers were unwilling or unable to express an opinion, which supports the need to be able to measure non-human traffic (bot).

In an effort to drill further into current threat perceptions, the survey then asked respondents to identify which types of bot traffic problems were important to their business from the five most common types:

  • Content theft – where web scrapers are simply taking down content from sites.

  • Lead fraud and fake registrations – form spam and bot-driven form filling.

  • Login attacks – large numbers of failed username and password entries.

  • Click & impression fraud – bots loading and clicking on links.

Skewed analytics – difficulty of separating human traffic from bot traffic in order to optimize for human traffic.

Here, responses from online advertising buyers and sellers show similar levels of threat-specific concerns with click and impression fraud as the clear “winner” across the board. About half of all respondents felt that skewed analytics was an important problem. Nearly a third of all respondents felt that bot-driven lead fraud and fake registrations was an important problem.

Finally, we asked respondents which categories of non-human traffic they are able to measure today.

The extent of the problem is clear in those 50% numbers on both sides of the chart – if you can’t measure a threat, it’s impossible to mitigate it. It’s also more than a little disturbing to note that 25% of the suppliers in the audience were unsure as to what non-human traffic they could measure. Time for buyers to start asking some hard questions, perhaps?

For more information on this study, please download A Digital Publisher’s Guide to Measuring and Mitigating Non-Human Traffic.


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