Best Ways to Detect Bot Visits and Ad Fraud in Performance Marketing

Łukasz Pośpiech

It’s obvious that as an advertiser, you do not want to see any bot traffic.

The same applies to every brand, and obviously, every performance marketing platform, like us.

Fortunately, there are ways to navigate through the affiliate world and filter out this unwanted traffic. Read on to discover them!

What is bot traffic in affiliate marketing?

In marketing endeavors, it’s become very easy to fall into the trap of buying artificial audiences, that really have no value for any marketing ventures. In order to protect brand credibility, advertising budgets, and time, you’ll need to learn how to filter bots out and how to cooperate with ad exchange platforms to provide maximum safety for the campaigns.

The scale of bot traffic

Unsurprisingly, bot traffic is taking up a consistently bigger portion of the overall Internet traffic. In 2021, according to Statista reports, traffic bots were responsible for more than 40% of it. And if we have a quick look at the historical stats, it appears that organic, human traffic share has been decreasing, and bad bots have become more and more active.

With this rather unfavorable state, this needs to be a high-rank issue addressed from the very first steps of setting up the campaigns. Traffic-hurt analytics data will not be helpful, and the campaigns will simply underperform, wearying your budgets. Therefore, special care is required to stop abusive bot traffic – choosing the right sources within your ad exchange is the first of many steps.

Why bot traffic is bad for your campaigns

As an advertiser general, you will want to reach an engaged audience that converts easily, so that your ROI is as high as possible. Reaching the targets and providing a successful campaign will be not only difficult but even impossible if the budgets are invested into false audiences.

Had it not been detected, unauthorized bot traffic would in fact, only inflate your campaign’s stats without any positive influence on it. If bought, you’ll still have to pay for every user, but there is no chance for a real-life conversion. Quality ad exchange platforms will firstly detect bots before they are sent to your campaign, and secondly, make sure you are remunerated whenever you rightfully report any suspicion of malicious bots.

Types of bad bot traffic

It’s important to remember that although bot traffic usually falls into one cognitive category, traffic bots are not exactly homogenous. Among many types of bots that can be encountered, the most popular ones are:

  • spam bots,
  • fake clicks,
  • ad frauds,
  • credit card fraud bots,
  • and some hybrids (as bad as it sounds).

How bots affect your campaigns

Although nonhuman traffic is fake, a big part of it was made to follow real-life human behavior patterns. These are used for many reasons, but their major role in an advertiser’s life will be inflating statistics, data mining, and wasting resources.

Marketers will find click bots most damaging to their everyday endeavors. What we called ‘stat inflation’ before is, in reality, a case where an ad is being interacted with by a bot, thus making the advertiser pay for this traffic, but without any possible further actionable operation. If unfiltered, you are not only charged for the users but most usually the average bid price for it is elevated as well. In summary, you’ll pay more, and get worse results.

Ad fraud could take different forms and the best practice is to stay up to date with the news. See Voluum tracker’s overview of it to better understand how both publishers and advertisers are currently affected by fraudulent activity.

Are there good bots?

But fear not, as not every bot thou encounter, shall pose danger to your campaign.

The noun ‘bot’ does not necessarily refer to malicious frauds, but rather to the whole spectrum of automated solutions. Good bots are widely used by search engines, and their main purpose is to ensure better control and verification of websites within the offered feed.

Search engine crawler bots like Googlebot and Bingbot are employed by the biggest brands to keep eye on content offered to the users, get rid of violations, and generally monitor the situation. Web crawlers enable safe browsing for users and a safer advertising environment for brands and marketers.

This means that good search engine bots help advertisers with not only finding contextually-relevant sources, which are super helpful for every marketer within the search marketplace advertising. By guarding copyrighted materials and content, good bots are yet another tool that helps maintain user and brand safety.

Remember that if you are using trackers in your campaigns, good bot traffic should not hurt analytics data. Best trackers allow them in the campaigns but do not count their visits as human ones.

Zeropark traffic cleanups and what they brought

Although it’s the everyday responsibility of every prominent ad network to combat bot traffic, it may happen that over time some sources become untrustworthy. That is why Zeropark has already conducted two major traffic source cleanups with the sole purpose of ensuring that no malicious audiences are allowed in. Ripping the band-aid outright bore the promised fruit.

The grand 2017 cleanup

The first cleanup was conducted in 2017, and over an intense 5-months period, more than 75% of the total volume offered at that time, was being cut off (or cleaned up, if we prefer). Paradoxically, but not really surprisingly, this revolution not only made Zeropark a healthier platform but also boosted the average CPM rate from $0,60 to even $1. Read on to discover, why this is an indicator of a change for the better.

If you wish to learn more about how the first grand cleanup was conducted, and what were the results, we encourage you to see our dedicated article about it.

The 2020 cleanup

The scope of the second Zeropark cleanup was not as broad, as ‘only‘ over a third of the inventory has been erased, but it brought great success as well. Cleaning up actually lowered CPC prices within Zeropark, and doubled the ROI for advertisers.

Below you can see some takeaways from the 2020 Zeropark cleanup, but if you are interested in a more in-detail analysis of it, please feel invited to our article about it.

Content Quality endeavors

As we already signalized, there ought to be nobody out there that you should trust more with your performance marketing than the dedicated Compliance Team and campaign managers provided by the ad exchange platform.

With the help of professionals, advertisers are not only offered assistance when it comes to optimization and setting up campaigns, but also some additional manual check-ups, and access to trusted, hand-picked, and regularly verified traffic.

Some brands, like Zeropark for instance, have developed their own, internal bot filtering procedures. That way, Compliance Experts are fully capable of determining what should, and should not, be perceived as bot traffic. In that case, implementing additional protection measures provides safety for all sides of the process.

Every Zeropark advertiser and publisher, without exceptions, is bound to Compliance & Policy Guidelines. This is to ensure the increased safety and convenience of both supply and demand-side partners of the performance marketing platform.

On top of that, dedicated Zeropark campaign performance teams conduct their manual check-ups and filter out suspicious traffic on a daily basis. Custom tools and solutions offered by the Compliance Team help advertisers make sure that they are targeting highly-converting audiences only.

How do you report suspicious traffic?

If you are already a Zeropark partner and have a suspicion that your ads may be affected by bot traffic, reach out to your Onboarding or Account Manager. Inform them of your worries about the traffic you encounter, and allow the specialists to investigate the case.

Remember at all times that your advertising campaigns might not set off and bring impressive ROIs right away. Fluctuations may occur organically, and in most cases, they mean that optimization efforts are needed in order to put the campaign on the right track.

Brand safety

Brands will and should benefit only from these advertising solutions that offer them access to trusted audiences. Non-human audiences are definitely not something any marketer will want to invest in, and that is why finding the best fitting and the most secure performance marketing platform is key to enhancing the effectiveness of campaigns and boosting ROIs as well.

Read Zeropark’s article about the latest Trends in Programmatic Advertising, covering the topic of brand safety.

Higher CPM means higher ROI

Let’s come back to the increased CPM matter that was aforementioned. Why do we, and you should, too, consider it as a good sign?

Naturally, every marketer would want to pay as little as possible for the traffic they buy. Minimizing costs while maximizing returns is the principle of business, and that is no secret. But with audience purchases, drops in the CPM price (Cost Per Mille), will most probably mean one of these:

  • low competition for audiences;
  • low quality of the audiences;
  • bot infestation.

Legitimate traffic sources will be more expensive, as they hold the promise of increased ROI and attract more competitors. Bear in mind that you may need to regularly reconsider your bids to make sure you are winning the best and most secure sources.

Bot traffic in ad arbitrage

With general marketing endeavors, neglecting traffic bots can cause financial losses. But for arbitrageurs, sending bot traffic to Google, Yahoo, or Bing feed, can pose some further complications.

Providing these giants with uncompliant traffic and contents could potentially lead to losing access to feed, therefore blocking any arbitrage endeavors for the entity. This is exactly the reason why arbitrageurs need to make sure their campaigns are safe and of good quality.

You can see Zeropark’s article about Compliance in Ad Arbitrage where we covered how important it is for all arbitrageurs to get engaged with trusted offers only, and how a dexterous Compliance Team can become an asset on your journey.

Summary: Anti-ad fraud solutions

So, let us summarize what is recommended for every performance marketer who wants to cut the bot traffic down, work on relevance, brand-safety, as well as boost the ROIs:

  • Track your campaigns for more insightful data and metrics;
  • Cooperate with your ad exchange campaign managers;
  • Provide detailed feedback to your Onboarding or Account Manager;
  • Create whitelists and blacklists of sources;
  • Control IPs in your traffic;
  • Use Rule-Based Optimization;
  • Design a safe landing page;
  • Trust your performance advertising platform’s compliance rules.

Drive incremental performance to your brand

with commerce media solutions for advertisers & publishers!

Learn more

Łukasz Pośpiech

Zeropark Logo
Team Internet Logo