The challenge of non-human traffic

As the digital advertising industry matures, it has reintroduced fundamental

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As the digital advertising industry matures, it has reintroduced fundamental questions of transparency and integrity. Here we take a look at ad fraud and non-human traffic: what it is and which measures should be considered to counter it.

What is non-human traffic?

In digital advertising, non-human traffic, invalid traffic, or bot traffic is referred to as website activity performed by a software application rather than a real person browsing online. As mentioned, bots (or “spiders”) are applications that are used to run various repetitive tasks online.

Bots aren’t bad per sé – they are widely used in various ways that make our lives easier. For example, search engines use bots and spiders to map website content.

Bots are able to perform repetitive tasks at scale that are impossible for humans. This has created a challenge for the ad industry: some companies and individuals discovered that they can drive fraudulent ad revenue by mimicking human traffic for their own benefit. In 2016, ANA estimated that the staggering cost of ad fraud in 2016 was $7.2 billion.

How to fight non-human traffic?

Sometimes, non-human traffic is the unwelcome side-effect of purchasing traffic. According to a recent study, 77% of publishers are victims of non-human traffic, while only 38% reported that they purchased traffic.

Many publishers also fall victim to unintended fraud when bots travel through their sites just to make their cookies look better, ie. as if they were human.

As the numbers show, it isn’t realistic to expect 100% human delivery on digital advertising today. Publishers can tap into various means to minimize the impact of non-human traffic:

  • Implement measurement tools across your site to evaluate the impact of non-human traffic.
  • Minimize traffic buying: if you have to support your business by buying traffic, pay a higher price for higher quality traffic. Look for partners that leverage 3rd party systems to verify their traffic.
  • Block fraud when it happens: monitor your traffic and block all sources that reveal signs of fraud.
  • Compensation is for human eyes only: media buyers are beginning to negotiate this in advance: 74% of publishers report that traffic quality issues are discussed in in pre-sales discussions.
  • Adhere to industry best practices: the IAB has drafted guidelines for dealing with non-human traffic, you can access them here.

The Kiosked innovation team has various tools to help our publishers weed out malicious advertising – contact us to learn more.