A threat to publishers who want ad revenue via website space, invalid traffic sources are harmful for a website’s reputation, often leading to suspension from Google, Amazon, and other major partners. Due to various factors, invalid traffic can be prevented so publishers can get maximum ROI on their advertising investments, and protect themselves from fraud.
What Is Invalid Traffic
Defined as any activity that does not come from a real user showing genuine interest, invalid traffic includes accidental and fraudulent clicks, as well as ad bots, etc. Invalid traffic can happen either by mistake or on purpose, with the intention of spiking metrics. These clicks and impressions actually have no value. From an advertising viewpoint, this traffic is not worth anything, as it does not result in leads. Invalid traffic includes the artificial inflation of website clicks and impressions, that are not from a user with real interest. These clicks are worthless and cause a lot of losses to publishers. Advertisers lost around 5 billion dollars to ad fraud in 2019. (Source).
Invalid Traffic Includes
- Impressions and clicks that publishers themselves generate on their own websites or ads.
- Adopting automated tools to create impressions.
- Bot traffic that spams websites to steal user data.
According to the Media Rating Council and IAB, there are 2 kinds of invalid traffic, namely General Invalid Traffic and Sophisticated Invalid Traffic.
GIVT OR General Invalid Traffic
Running in the background and scanning websites for information, GIVT is the least risky form of invalid traffic, because it does not imitate human behavior, nor is it fraudulent in intent. The traffic of this sort includes spiders, bots, and other web crawlers originating from known data sources as well as search engines, data and brand safety bots and analytic crawlers, and traffic from unfamiliar web browsers, and invalid ad placements. Classified as non-human traffic, it has some use in the digital ecosystem and does not inflate ad clicks or impressions.
Sophisticated Invalid Traffic, or SIVT
Referring to traffic created with malicious intent, this is quite hard to identify as it is technically very complex. It is tough to detect, because malicious actors, via botnets, successfully mimic human behavior. It’s an only advanced analytics, combined with concerted human efforts, that detects fraudulent ad traffic, preventing it from inflating ad clicks artificially. SVIT also includes traffic that falls short of ad quality, serving, and completeness criteria. It also includes bot traffic that interacts with web pages and digital ads, while disguising themselves as humans. It includes illegal substitute traffic, malware, cookie stuffing, hacked user devices and false location data, and data-manipulating bots.
Why Does Invalid Traffic Exist?
Apart from bringing down publisher revenue, Invalid Traffic also affects genuine impressions. There are 5 major reasons why Invalid Traffic affects your site.
Fake user registrations and comments that add no value to the content increase bandwidth, thereby overloading web servers. Leading to data theft from comments, live chats, and feeds, which consequently spoils brand identity.
Services like Taboola, Outbrain, and more can expose your website to bot activity, encouraging invalid traffic.
Publishers with good content are likely to be targeted by content scrapers and bots that hamper site analytics, posting malicious links spoiling user engagement. Thus, the site performance suffers, and users stop visiting.
Visitors arriving at sites have cookies that help advertisers find them. Fraudsters collect cookies from important sites through programmed bots, artificially boosting ad impression values.
Bots attack payments systems, resulting in credit card penalties as well as other publisher charges, leading to account termination.
How Do You Tackle This Menace
Invalid Traffic is bad news, as fake impressions and clicks push up advertising costs. Too much of this traffic hits a publisher’s inventory badly, reducing its market value. Not to mention, this traffic also skews analytical data, making campaign planning tough, because publishers cannot forecast accurately. Take action anytime you notice a suspicious spike in traffic via user comments, etc. Here’s what else you can do –
Know Your Traffic
Always segment your audience based on channels, device use, locations, etc. Google Analytics is a great way to check for sudden fluctuations in user behavior. Keep an eye on data like average user session duration, scroll depth, and more. Notice the visits that are less than a second, not scrolling past 10% of the page. This is a sign of a bot or invalid traffic.
Stay Away From Purchased Traffic
If your webpage is involved with traffic purchase, it never turns out well, because if your subscription with the provider gets over, you’re back to square one. Click farms, consisting of computer software or people, provide fake impressions and clicks that can harm your brand. It is more prudent to invest in good content to enhance user experience and better SEO so your traffic increases organically. Advertisers on your site should be able to fulfill their leads of conversions which can benefit you because they’ll pay more because your site warrants it.
Refrain From Clicking On Your Own Ads
This is a bad idea. AdSense has a no-nonsense policy regarding invalid clicks. They are easily identified by Google, leading to the disabling or suspension of a publisher’s AdSense account. The real point of ads is conversion. For genuine clicks, Google will pay, so if you do click on one of your own ads by mistake, let Google know that it is an accidental click.
Ensure Strategic Ad Placement –
Place your ads in the correct way, ensuring the ad tags do not overlap content or aren’t hidden by page elements. Ads shouldn’t disturb user experience either. Inducing users to click on ads by mistake is a fraud.
Get a Third Party to Vet Your Traffic
Fraud detection companies can help publishers beat ad fraud. WhiteOps, Pixalate, and the likes can help you eliminate bot traffic before the site or ad loads. They can also help you beat domain spoofing, with poor ad visibility, or ad injection issues.
In conclusion, fighting invalid traffic requires a holistic approach. Search reports to narrow down to the origin of this traffic before acting accordingly. Those using 3rd party tools like ad verification vendors can get details like which IP addresses or domains are causing the invalid traffic. If you rely on paid sources, your chances of receiving invalid traffic are higher. Experiment with multiple paid media channels, but measure carefully to see what works best and weed out the sources of invalid traffic.
Finally, the one thing to remember about invalid traffic is to never underestimate it.
If your steps check out, then the problem might lie elsewhere, and your site might be the unfortunate target of fraudsters, with you helpless. Bots often visit premium sites to poach cookies which are misused to monetize fraudulent websites. Learn about other kinds of harmful bot-based traffic from our blog. Operators of premium sites might recognize some of this low-level invalid traffic. This traffic cannot slip past your ad partners, so team up with them to put up a united front against internet fraud. In your quest to increase web traffic, don’t fall prey to invalid traffic. Read our blog on ways to increase web traffic to try to get your numbers up the right way.