A new study by fraud detection company Fraudlogix finds that a majority of ad fraud is concentrated in a small percentage of sources within the real-time bidding (RTB) programmatic market.
Fraudlogix, which monitors ad traffic for sell-side companies, found that 68.2% of fake impressions came from 3.2% of publishers.
The findings reveal that high fraud percentages don’t represent the industry as a whole and that ad fraud isn’t evenly distributed. And sources that generated the highest percentage of fraudulent impressions contributed a disproportionately high number of impressions to the RTB market.
The study analyzed 1.3 billion impressions from more than 59,000 sources over a 30-day period. Sites with more than 90% fraudulent impressions accounted for just 0.9% of publishers but contributed 10.9% of the market’s impressions.
Fraudlogix said the finding represents how detrimental fraudulent publishers can be to market quality as sites generating fake impressions can quickly outpace sites sending real traffic.
Overall, the study found 18.8% of impressions to be fraudulent. An impression was considered fraudulent (or fake) if a combination of digital and behavior characteristics synonymous with ad traffic generated through fraudulent means such as bots, scripts, hijacked devices, and click farms was detected.
Fraudlogix CEO Hagai Shechter said: “Getting to the root of ad fraud problem means looking at where fake impressions are originating – and they’re coming from a very small percentage of publishers who are flooding the market with fake impressions.”
Shechter said some publishers set up ghost sites with the sole purpose of monetizing with fake traffic, while others are legitimate publishers to some degree, but try to supplement their sites’ traffic by buying cheap clicks. Any click traffic offered for a fraction of a cent is likely fake, he said. "The vast majority of publishers are good legitimate players in an industry that is unfortunately pointing the finger at them when it comes to fraud. In reality, they themselves are victims of bad players that have infiltrated the industry. More should be done to root out these bad players without collateral damage to the honest publishers," Shechter told Real-Time Daily via email. "The good news is that we don't have a 20, 30, 50% fraud problem (depending on who you follow). Our industry has a 3% fraud problem and if we can clamp down on that, everyone but the criminals will be much better for it," he said.
In a blog post on the study, Fraudlogix noted the characteristics of ghost sites: They are often categorized as news and news feeds, “are often used because they automatically update and can make a site seem fresh without a publisher having to touch it.”
Ghost sites often generate millions of impressions a day but their global Alexa rank is in the millions. They also have private domain registration, and cookie-cutter templates.
It might be interesting to have legitimate traffic providers subit to periodic random tests to determine the quality and authenticity of their traffic. The test could then assign ratings to providers or even a simple real/fake ranking. traffic providers that have not been audited could become an automatic (no pun inteded) red flag. Bottom line, if legitimate traffic providers are paying publishers an average of .08 cents per click, then why would any publisher accept 1 cent per click and if anyone is buying traffic at that rate, they know darn well they are buying mechanized traffic.
Disingenious for anyone to say it is simply a 3% problem. It is excellent that this has been called to task, is being examined and acted upon, but the numbers are the numbers. There is a ton of ad fraud, and 3% of sources are just causing a ton of it.
That 3% figure sounds very tiny and potentially insignificant, but how many sources make up that 3%? If the answer is 100,000 and these happen to account for 15% of all Internet traffic, then it's a more scary situation than the 3% bad guy finding might suggest.