It’s almost axiomatic today that if you’re a digital publisher producing high-value content, you have bots crawling your site. Some of them are legitimate bots such as search engine crawlers, but the majority are malicious bots designed to perpetrate fraud and commit a range of illegal activities. Invalid traffic (IVT) is not your fault—it’s simply an industry reality.
The higher the bot traffic to your website, the greater the harm to your brand reputation and bottom line. Bot activity on your site or app also makes it more likely that your website or mobile app will be flagged by an ad verification vendor—which could lead to lower placement rates, or even buybacks. Let’s take a look at some of the main reasons for invalid traffic.
Why is invalid traffic visiting your site?
1. Cookie theft
Malicious bots that hit your site are often engaged in cookie theft. That’s because a visitor with a traffic history that comprises cookies from certain sites is considered to be a better target for ads, compared to a visitor arriving without cookies (or cookies from irrelevant sites). Fraudsters know that a cookie trail can often convey a visitor’s intent. That’s why their bots are programed to visit a range of high-value sites to accumulate their cookies and thus artificially inflate their value as an ad target. Cookies from certain sites (such as those in the financial arena and premium brands, for example) tend to be visited by affluent visitors, so they are often considered markers of wealth or spending capability. Is your site a high value target for cookie theft?
2. Audience extension services
Bot networks are increasingly gaming audience extension and content recommendation services such as RevContent, Outbrain, and Zemanta. If you use such a service, you increase your exposure to potential bot activity and invalid traffic on your site or app. In fact, bot traffic from these sources can outnumber legitimate visitors to your site.
3. Content scraping
If you’re a digital publisher and produce high-value (or paywalled) content, chances are that you’re a potential target for bots, or are already being hit by content scraping bots. Consequently, you lose out on revenue and ad impressions when people visit the site hosting your stolen content. Apart from bot activity distorting your site analytics, content scraping also hurts your SEO efforts due to duplication of your valuable content. Moreover, spam and malware links posted by bots can hurt engagement on your site, and high bot activity can cause site slowdowns and outages for genuine visitors.
4. Form spam
Form spam leads to fake registrations on your site that are nothing but dead leads for your marketing team. Bot traffic can overload your servers and increase bandwidth costs as well. Going further, bots can spam your comment feed, hijack conversations, and damage your brand.
5. Carding attacks
Fraudulent bots are increasingly stepping up carding attacks on payment systems and costing publishers dearly. Credit card fraud results in chargebacks and penalties, and could even lead to termination of your merchant account. Your site’s coupons, gift cards, and vouchers are also susceptible to brute force attack by bots, which can hurt your brand name and reduce customer loyalty to boot.
If you aren’t analyzing your site for invalid traffic, you’re exposed to a plethora of fraudulent bot activities that can seriously impact your business in several ways. Invalid activity on your web assets can reduce overall CTR which hinders your ability to demand premium pricing. You could also be blocked by ad networks and advertisers. The more you know about the quality of your traffic and where it comes from, the greater your ability to negotiate better prices with advertisers and defeat existing and future threats posed by bots.
For more information on how ShieldSquare can protect your publishing business from digital ad fraud, please contact us for a free demo or sign up for a free trial.