$7.5 billion. That’s the size of the black hole into which hundreds of companies have inadvertently thrown their digital advertising budgets in the past few years, according to a Moz.com article. Most of these companies never realized their marketing dollars weren’t being spent wisely.
How did companies manage to lose $7.5 billion on Internet marketing traffic that never existed? Investigators point to three key facts:
- At least half of the paid online display advertisements companies have purchased over the past few years have never been seen by a real human.
- Nevertheless, ad networks and agencies were often driven to sell these ads by the presence of “volume discount” kickbacks, which made them profitable for the sellers in the short term – even if the ads did not operate as promised.
- Instead of real people viewing the ads, bot traffic was used to artificially inflate the number of “people” who were supposedly viewing the ads. These bot-traffic numbers both impressed the companies who purchased the ads and, in a cost-per-click agreement, cost them money.
The Rise of Non-Human Traffic
Bot traffic is also known as “non-human traffic,” because it results in increased impressions without the intervention of real people. Instead, traffic comes from bot programs that mimic human behavior online. Often, these bot programs are installed on hacked devices that are operated by real people. As potential customers browse the Web, an army of bots works quietly behind the scenes to artificially inflate ad traffic, without the human at the keyboard ever knowing – or seeing any of the ads the bots are pretending to view.
Not all bots are bad. Google and other search engines use bot programs to find web pages to include in search engine results. But bot traffic that’s used to drive up search engine results offers zero return on investment for companies.
From Bots to Buyers: How to Place Your Content in Front of Real People
No company wants to spend money with no hope of ROI. Fortunately, companies can take steps to place their digital marketing materials in front of real human audiences that are genuinely interested in what they have to offer. Here’s how:
- Ask questions. Before signing off on digital marketing, ask how the company defines “human traffic” and whether traffic results will be verified by a third party. Doing this demonstrates that you’re aware of potential fraud and that you won’t settle for bots.
- Go mobile. According to a recent Mobile Marketing Magazine article, the rate of bot traffic fraud is much lower on mobile platforms than on desktop platforms. In-app ads may also provide an added layer of protection.
- Leverage the power of SMS. SMS and MMS advertising send your content directly to customer and client cell phones and tablets, ensuring there’s a real person on the other end of the line to get your message.