It Costs One Dollar To Get 500 Bots To Click On Your Website

Bot waveAP Photo/Darko VojinovicPublishers can get bot traffic for a fraction of a cent per click.

Online ad fraud is rampant.
We’ve known that for a long time.But it is surprising to find how cheap fraudulent traffic can be, and how some bots interact with video.

Digiday spoke with a former publishing executive who admitted to selling fraudulent traffic to advertisers in a “wink-wink-nudge-nudge” sort of way. In his confession, he revealed that his company would buy $US10,000 to $US35,000 in non-human traffic per day, at $US0.002 per click. They’d make between $US0.0025 and $US0.004 from ad exchanges for every click they purchased.

A publisher goes to a traffic vendor who can, for example, promote links to the publisher’s site in search engine queries or, of course, more dubious methods (Adweek released a report earlier this year labelling six vendors as the sketchiest of the bunch). According to Digiday’s whistle-blower, there is no need to ask about where the cheaper traffic comes from, but it is assumed it’s bot-driven.

“Publishers know,” he told Digiday. “They might say ‘we had no idea’ and blame it on their traffic acquisition vendor, but that’s bull—-, and they know it. If you’re buying visits for less than a penny, there’s no way you don’t know what’s going on.”

There was never a way to prove concretely that the traffic was coming from bots, but spikes in traffic from users with old versions of Internet Explorer running significantly dated Flash was enough to convince the former exec.

It was actually this anachronistic software that kept the bots from loading videos and collecting video ad impressions, keeping the bot traffic limited to display ads.

Whether a publisher is deliberately buying fraudulent traffic, is duped, or is just looking the other way, major supply-side ad exchanges are not doing much to stop the cycle.

The confessor even claimed he sometimes wished these exchanges would refuse to give them their ads. “But they didn’t; they were willing to take my money.”

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