So you’re doing a little media buying. Perhaps you’re even playing around with real time bidding. When all of a sudden you notice you’ve gotten 1,000 impressions from a particular URL without a conversion. You may very well have just paid for traffic that wasn’t real.
It happens to the best of us. Sometimes we pay for fraudulent traffic. It sucks, it cuts into your ROI a little (if you’re careful) and it generally causes havok. But how does it happen? How do seemingly legit websites which appear to have tons of traffic send fake traffic to your ads?
The quick answer is Botnets.
Authorities and Internet-security experts say tens of thousands of dubious websites are popping up across the Internet. Their phony Web traffic is often fueled by “botnets,” zombie armies of hijacked PCs that are controlled from unknown locations around the world, according to Internet security experts.
They do it sneakily too. They won’t blow through 1k impressions overnight either. They’ll first do 100, and then 200, and then 500, and so on. It’s all a not-so-elaborate ruse to squeak through the cracks. The more impressions they serve the more they get paid. By doing it slowly like this they look less obvious.
And why not try to be as sneaky as possible, right? It’s big business after all.
“It’s drug-level money, but you don’t have to kill anyone,” says Tamer Hassan, a co-founder and chief technology officer of White Ops, a year-old startup in New York that has developed technology that it says can spot robotic traffic and uncover digital ad fraud.
Despite all that they’re not too tough to pick out. You may lose a couple bucks over the course of a campaign but it won’t break the bank – as long as you’re careful. Monitor your display impressions daily. If you don’t see clicks coming after 500 impressions you most likely want to black list that site. Any RTB platform or display based advertising worth it’s salt will allow you to do this. It’s the campaign manager that doesn’t monitor their work on a daily basis that gets burned by botnets. You can avoid that.
Botnets are a growing threat to display advertising. Have you experienced any level of impression fraud lately? If so let us know in the comments below.