Ad fraud continues to make headlines and move to the forefront of the industry's mind—or at least it should—as spending increases within the programmatic landscape. While it’s important to acknowledge the ad fraud problem and look for ways to combat it, there are a few reoccurring misconceptions about it. Here are five of them:
1. Fake traffic is spread out evenly across the internet.
Just because a headline cries 50 percent of web traffic is fake—or whatever percentage it may be—it doesn’t mean that half of all website traffic is fake and that advertisers are automatically losing half of their ad campaigns to fraud. Fraud is not spread evenly over the internet and in most cases it’s concentrated into a smaller percentage of websites (i.e., 10 percent of sites may have 90 percent fake traffic, but the other 90 percent of sites only have 10 percent fake traffic).
2. Real traffic on sites with high percentages of fake traffic is still valuable.
It’s not. All real traffic isn’t created equal. If a website is allowing up to 70 percent of its traffic to be fake, there’s a good chance that whatever’s on there is not of any interest to a real human and the small amount of people who somehow end up there will not result in a conversion. We did a study that found 98 percent of campaign conversions occurred on sites with less than 9 percent fraudulent traffic even though these sites received only 64 percent of the budget and comprised 72 percent of the sites used in the campaigns. Conversely, the remaining 28 percent only generated 2 percent of the conversions. This particular research showed that even a site with 30 or 40 percent fraudulent traffic failed to deliver the same rate of conversions when 60 to 70 percent of their traffic was coming from real people.
3. Eliminating bots will stop fraud.
It’s true that bot networks can account for large chunks of fake traffic and eliminating them will help tremendously, but ad fraud goes beyond bots. Fraudsters use a variety of ways to siphon off ad dollars, including pixel stuffing, ad stacking, and domain masking. Only concentrating on bots leaves many other avenues for fraudsters to take advantage.
4. Only new publishers need to be monitored.
Initially vetting new publishers for traffic quality is important, but once a green light is given they should still be monitored on a regular basis. Traffic is constantly changing and coming from different areas. Publishers may start sourcing traffic from different providers and their quality can quickly change.
5. The supply side of programmatic has no reason to stop fraud.
It is in the best interest for everyone within the online ad ecosystem to stop ad fraud, including the supply side, which includes ad networks, exchanges and platforms. All parts of the ecosystem are stepping up efforts to clean up the traffic and it’s only a matter of time before those players who still allow fraud to run rampant get squeezed out. Any lost revenue from cutting out fake traffic does not compare to lost credibility, trust, and buyers in the long run. Fighting fraud from the supply side results in greater conversion rates and increased ROI for advertisers, an advantage that’s hard to ignore.