Online publishing is growing fast, and fraudulent advertising schemes are growing right along with it.
According to a new study from Distil Networks, roughly one-third of all online ad spending gets hijacked by fraudulent ad schemes using bots -- automated programs that interact with online ads to (for example) generate fake click-throughs.
The figure is based on a survey of 138 publishers and advertisers asked to estimate what proportion of their Web traffic and campaign spending was captured by fraudsters. The study cites data showing that 22.7% of all Web traffic was due to “bad bots,” rising to 32% of traffic for online publishers.
Publishers and advertisers were most concerned about click and impression fraud, but also expressed concerns about skewed analytics and fake registrations.
The study also found that most publishers and advertisers —75% and 59%, respectively — lack the means to or are unsure how to distinguish human from non-human traffic. Far from being another potential cost, this is actually a missed revenue opportunity, as 37% of advertisers are willing to pay a premium of 11% or more to ensure that traffic to their campaigns comes from real human beings.
The ad fraud concerns come on top of several other major challenges to online publishers, including viewability and ad blocking.
Several months ago, a study from PageFair predicted ad blockers could cost publishers around $22 billion in lost advertising revenues globally this year, adding that the figure is set to go up as adoption of ad blockers becomes more widespread. There are 45 million people using ad blockers in the U.S. alone, up 48% from last year. PageFair estimates that ad blocking cost U.S. publishers $5.8 billion in lost revenues in 2014, and that figure is set to rise to $10.7 billion this year.
Google has estimated that around 56% of display ads never have a chance to be viewed -- a problem that is only exacerbated by ad blocking and fraud.