A new report from online advertising platform Solve Media reveals that 10 percent of all web traffic originates from automated computer bots. These bots, capable of clicking ads that trick publishers into thinking a human saw it, have the potential to generate up to $1.5 billion in fraudulent ad clicks in 2012.
Online advertising has and will continue to be a huge business for publishers, marketers and website owners. eMarketer forecasts that online ad spending will reach $15.3 billion this year – money that many sites rely on to stay afloat, pay staff and help generate new and original content.
“The existence of non-human traffic is an issue that affects the entire digital ad ecosystem,” said Kirby Winfield, SVP of Corporate Development, comScore. “comScore research has shown that a significant percentage of ad campaigns are delivered against non-human traffic, which represents waste for advertisers that can diminish their confidence in the medium. Any efforts to quantify the magnitude of this problem and validate ad delivery represent a step in the right direction for digital.”
Aside from eating advertising dollars, bots are responsible for a whole mess of problems on the web today including stealing content from publishers and creating fake accounts to post spam and inappropriate content in forums and feedback boxes. The latter increases the workload for site owners and moderators, not to mention the fact that it's very annoying for site visitors to deal with. There’s certainly reason for concern as Solve Media has observed a 400 percent increase in aberrant traffic across commenting, contact, registration and voting services online since 2011.
There are some steps that advertisers can take to minimize the risk of bot attacks when working with publishers. Solve Media recommends working with publishers that have implemented anti-bot solutions and to require site transparency on all network buys. Furthermore, advertisers can seek cost-per-engagement opportunities that require human cognition in exchange for payout.