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Fake traffic – a cancer for online advertising

At the beginning of the digital area, in 2000, the companies that wanted to get more advertising and advertisers were euphoric. The Internet was looking like a new Nirvana for them: the digital advertisements could now reach the same number of people as TV ads, but only for half of the price. Moreover, the audience could be chosen according to its relevance.

Later, around 2010, the programmatic advertising appeared: when a user clicks on a web site, their Internet address and browsing history are saved by another website that analyzes the profile of that user (or its anonymous profile). This is how it is determined if an ad should be displayed for a certain user. For example, Toyota Motor could pay to place its ads on websites dedicated to car lovers or, through cookies to identify the websites where they spend their time. Men between 25-40 could be targeted for the truck ads or, better, all the people that read something related to truck in the last six months.

However, advertisers have come to understand that online advertising is not really that they have imagined. Working in brand marketing industry for more than 20 years, Ron Amram was in 2000 media director for the mobile company Sprint. He had the chance to see how the TV supremacy was replaced with digital ads. He remembers how everyone was putting a lot of faith in the digital industry especially because TV ads were not very efficient. Now, Amram works for Heineken in USA, company with an advertising budget of $150 mil per year. In 2013, the company replaced the old design of the beer bottle with a new one, with longer neck, that was supposed to keep the beer cold longer. The change was advertised on TV, local media and online environment.

What is, actually, fake traffic?

Fake traffic is the traffic generated on a website by bots or software programs instead of real people. It is a method of artificially increasing the value of a website.

Most of advertising channels, such as Google AdSense, consider fake traffic a form of click fraud.

The number of ads seen by users that are not humans has dramatically increase. A study conducted in 2014 in America by Bloomerang, together with the Association of National Advertisers has showed that 11% of the ads and almost a third of videos are seen by bots. In 2015, fake traffic was expected to cost advertisers more than $6,3 bilion.

Actually, fake traffic has become a digital service. There are brokers that sell fake-traffic-generator-malware programs. Some companies pay for it, others have it without even known and some prefer not to check the source of their traffic.

Fake traffic market is unregulated and you can easily find there cheap services. For example, there is a forum on LinkedIn called Buy and Sell TRAFFIC, where 1000 “visitors” can be bought for only 1 dollar.


Why should we worry about fake traffic?

Unfortunately, advertisers don’t pay attention to newly launched website because they don’t have an audience. Therefore, the solution – good or bad – is to buy one.

A client that does not understand what fake traffic is can be misled by these malwares. The idea of getting a big audience in such a short time and low costs sounds tempting. People should keep in mind that that fake traffic is cheaper than the real one and also most of the companies that generate it don’t mention it.

When clients complain that they have a lot of traffic on their website yet poor performance statistics, fake-traffic-generating companies can claim that it is due to the fact that the banners used as not appealing.

The problem with fake traffic is that there are no conversions. If your goal is to increase revenue through conversions, then fake traffic stay in the way of reaching it.


Examples of fake traffic

In case you didn’t know, pop-ups and tab-unders are a form of fake traffic. When a pop-up appears, the ad is registered as being seen by the user. Imagine you are watching a movie online. A tab-under appears under the video player and, even though you don’t even see it, you are registered of visualizing that ad.

An even cheaper option is a bot or malware that creates a virtual browser hidden from the user, but that is browsing the Internet and clicks on different links. This is how a big audience is created.

How to identify fake traffic

When checking your website, the best thing you can do is to work with a specialist. However, if you want to check if by yourself, we recommend you to see the Google Analytics statistics from Audience Overview.

Check if the number of page views is at least twice the number of visitors. Also, see if the country of origin of your users is the same as your targeted audience. For example, if your website is in Romanian and you have a lot of visitors coming from Romanian non-speaking countries that can be a sign of fake traffic.

Keep in mind that you need to analyze more metrics during your analysis. In order to truly understand traffic indicators ad to correlate them, we recommend you work with an online marketing agency.


How to protect your website from fake traffic

In order to help advertisers, Google created The Ad Traffic Quality Team that is striving to flirt all invalid clicks before they are included in the final statistics. However, not all invalid clicks are identified.


In conclusion, you must be aware of the fact that fake traffic does not bring any benefit to your website. Therefore, don’t try to create a fake audience. In the long term, it will dramatically affect your business.


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