The Ad Bot Problem That Isn’t Going Away

It’s worse than we thought. 

When the prevalence of ad fraud was brought to light in 2015 and into 2016, billions of ad dollars were estimated to be at risk. At the time, cries for the ad industry to “grow up” were echoed loud and clear.

In the meantime, the industry dove into policing itself, and technology made detecting and blocking ad fraud better, faster and more effective. So, things are better, right? Um…

“The good news: the number of robot traffic detected on advertising campaigns in 2018 is 32%, down from 60% in 2017, according to a new report from Dianomi, a native content marketing platform,” writes Sara Guaglione in Publishing Insider. 

“The bad news: that figure varies greatly by month, and in April 2017 was as high as 85%,” she continues.

Not all “bot” clicks are necessarily nefarious, as Guiglione explains. She tells us that robot clicks can come from both fraudulent sources and “good” bots.

“’Good’ bots are from companies like Google,” she explains, “which click on links to collect information from sites for its search-engine algorithm.

“A graphic in Dianomi’s study shows that on average, about 28.9% of clicks on sites are from bad bots, and 22.9% are from the good ones .(The rest are from humans.)”

Do the math: Good bot or bad, on average, only half of the ad clicks on your campaigns actually come from humans. That means any potential ROI for that campaign is automatically cut in half before the campaign even begins. 

How can this be good for publishers, who are offering their online real estate as an ad platform? It can’t. Guiglione goes on to give some good advice to publishers looking to protect themselves – insist on full transparency from your ad servers or third-party platforms, analyze traffic for authentication, etc. 

Better still? Realize that your content deserves to be read by humans, not bots. To that end, Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni offers some words to live by in a recent blog post.

“The most essential objective on the mind of any marketing director or head of a company is protecting the brand,” Husni writes. “If you fail to understand and help promote your customer’s brand in the proper way, the only thing the future holds for you, your marketing director or your media company is disaster.”

For publishers, this translates into providing content with quality and integrity, and a trusted platform in which to advertise, free from fraud and waste. For many, it simply means print, where the ads are all legit and the readers welcome the experience.