Non-Human Traffic & Illegitimate Bots

IAB Canada is raising attention to the issue of non-human traffic: meaning illegitimate ‘Bots’, being counted as actual traffic. Legitimate Bots exist to perform helpful functions, are well known and are filtered out of marketing metrics, it’s the illegitimate Bots designed to inflate traffic for fraudulent purposes that concern us. At a recent meeting of senior representatives from Publishers, Agencies, Marketers and Technologies, Bots were identified as a major problem currently facing our industry that is inhibiting us from moving forward on more sophisticated metrics.

Bot traffic has the potential to affect anyone in the market and therefore it requires a coordinated effort from buyers, sellers and technology supporters to eradicate. A small group of experts is working together to identify tactical initiatives that will incrementally provide us with steps that help understand, quantify and combat the Bot Challenge here in Canada.
The Bot problem continues to exist because of the lack of disincentives to stop it. When Bot sellers are exposed, the worst they can expect is to get de-listed from one supply chain and then are free to re-introduce themselves under other names, URLs or on other exchanges.

Low barriers of entry to the marketplace enable Bot traffic. Malicious actors will choose exchanges and networks where they can most easily list and monetize Bot generated media while remaining as anonymous as possible. Not all exchanges and networks operate on the same basis. Some have more “friction” for listing and financial payout than others or offer “private exchange” arrangements eliminating seller anonymity.

Both advertisers and publishers are at risk of Bot traffic. Publishers that buy traffic, whether through exchanges or other avenues, potentially open themselves and their customers to Bots.

Bot traffic is programmed to produce results that attract further media investments. Advertisers may find that Bots are performing specific actions or visits on their sites to increase the value of Bot generated media being offered through sales channels. This not only infects the media buy but also disrupts the advertiser’s KPIs especially if they are using antiquated measurement models (i.e. click through rate (CTR), last touch attribution). Attempts to remove the Bot generated results are sometimes throttled due to aggressive short-term focus on retaining and improving historical KPIs.

The members of IAB Canada aim to safeguard a vibrant and growing marketplace. By working together to share knowledge, discuss problems and drive initiatives we believe we can help media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy.