For many on the supply side, the onboarding of new publisher partners includes an initial vetting of their traffic, looking for impression fraud and invalid traffic. This quality check is important in the prevention of ad fraud making its way into a platform or exchange. But once publishers are given the green light to sell inventory, are they ever inspected again? They should be.
Publisher traffic quality can fluctuate over time and in some instances go from good to poor overnight. The problem lies with the use of sourced traffic, which publishers sometimes turn to to increase page views.
'Set it and forget it' cannot be the supply-side’s policy for monitoring publishers.
In a 2016 ANA paper, “Sourced Traffic: Buyer Beware!”, the ANA describes how a publisher may turn to sourced traffic when it needs to meet the audience delivery requirements of a campaign and has to increase visitors to its site. Meaning, a publisher may not have enough organic traffic to cover a buyer’s demand and so it goes out and buys additional traffic.
While this may seem innocuous, the real problem with sourced traffic is the prevalence of bots, or non-human traffic - more than three times the bot percentage of unsourced traffic, according to the ANA. While some publishers may be unaware that the traffic being driven to their sites is low quality or not real at all, others may be purposefully arbitraging traffic - buying cheap impressions and then selling them for a profit. In the latter instance, the amount of real traffic being driven to a page is almost non existent.
As traffic demands to publishers can ebb and flow, so too can their quality. “Set it and forget it” cannot be the supply-side’s policy for monitoring publishers. It’s in the best interest of platforms and exchanges (if they’re interested in maintaining a health buy-side relationship, anyway) to consistently vet their publisher partners and take the necessary steps to maintain a healthy ecosystem. This doesn’t have to turn into a turbulent relationship, though. Notifying a publisher that fraudulent traffic was found on its domains may be the message it needs to reevaluate its sourcing partners, thus improving traffic quality for the future.
Monitoring publishers for invalid traffic and maintaining policies regarding sourced traffic on the supply side of the ecosystem puts platforms and exchanges in a stronger position as the programmatic marketplace continually shifts focus from quantity to quality.