How Much of Your Audience Is Fake? Or Are Your Ads Mostly Being Viewed by Bots?


An article in Bloomberg by By Ben Elgin, Michael Riley, David Kocieniewski, and Joshua Brustein suggests that more and more digital ads are not seen by human eyes. “A study done last year in conjunction with the Association of National Advertisers embedded billions of digital ads with code designed to determine who or what was seeing them,” according to the article. “Eleven percent of display ads and almost a quarter of video ads were ‘viewed’ by software, not people.”

Another study suggests that $ 6.3 billion of ad spend a year is wasted on fake traffic, or clicks that appear to be views but are actually the work of software.

The numbers are staggering.

The article also tells a narrative about ad man Ron Amram, who recently looked at the ROI for his ad spend for Heineken USA. His digital ad spend was only around 2 to 1, “a $ 2 increase in revenue for every $ 1 of ad spending, compared with at least 6 to 1 for TV,” according to the Bloomberg article. Even worse, “only 20 percent of the campaign’s ‘ad impressions’—ads that appear on a computer or smartphone screen—were even seen by actual people.”

Where does all this fake traffic come from? “Fake traffic has become a commodity. There’s malware for generating it and brokers who sell it,” reads the Bloomberg article. “Some companies pay for it intentionally, some accidentally, and some prefer not to ask where their traffic comes from. It’s given rise to an industry of countermeasures, which inspire counter-countermeasures.”

If fake traffic is bad for advertisers, who is good for? In some cases, publishers. A website that has a large viewership can charge more for their ads. And if it is difficult to distinguish between real and fake views, publishers can make money off of their fake audience. Sometimes this is done intentionally and sometimes it is accidental.

A lot of sites buy traffic, especially when they are new or when they are pushing out a new kind of content. There are ways for sites to buy real human traffic through companies like OutBrain that send viewers from one site to another with attractive links.

“The traffic market is unregulated, and sellers range from unimpeachable to adequate to downright sleazy; price is part of the market’s code,” according to the Bloomberg article. You’ve seen the ads for the lower end of the market that promised 1,000 views for $ 1. Other places, like Taboola might change as much as 20 to 90 cents per viewer.

The Bloomberg article investigates several low end traffic sellers and tries to determine what percentage of their traffic is human. Not much, it turns out. Often between 70% and 90% of the “viewers” on low end sites were bots. The article concluded that, “Ad fraud may eventually turn into a manageable nuisance like shoplifting, something that companies learn to control without ever eradicating.” 

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7 More (Mostly Free) Visual Content Tools Any Social Media Team Can Use

It’s been a while since we published our list of 9 Mostly Free Tools and Any Social Media Team Can Use, and our recommendations in that post still hold. In addition, we have some new ones to put in the mix. This new lists focuses mostly on visual content tools that we use daily or weekly to create images to share, add visual impact to our content or message, and make all aspects of visual content marketing easier. As noted in the headline, most of these tools are free, while those that aren’t are very inexpensive, especially considering the value they add to your content marketing. Let’s get started.


Giphy is a great free tool that helps you find, surprisingly enough, GIFs that can add a little pop to your content. GIFs are great in the right context. They can add humor, demonstrate emotions, or simply express a thought better than words.
7 More (Mostly Free) Visual Content Tools Any Social Media Team Can Use | Social Media Today

On the site you can upload your own GIFs, search for GIFs or browse categories, stickers, artists, or favorites. What’s even better is that Giphy has a Chrome browser extension which allows you to search for the perfect GIF to compliment content you’re curating and copy it to the clipboard to be added to your share. With more platforms like Facebook and Twitter supporting GIFs in content streams, and more tools (like Buffer did just today) supporting the posting of GIFs, they should be a regular part of your content sharing. 


7 More (Mostly Free) Visual Content Tools Any Social Media Team Can Use | Social Media Today
Pablo is the free image capture, edit, and sizing tool created by Buffer. It’s designed for social sharing and makes it very easy to capture images to share directly to social networks, or to add to your social content.

With Pablo you can upload images or, through the Buffer extension, send images from the Web to Pablo directly. In Pablo you can edit the image (or select from images supplied by Pablo), select the size of the image based on the network you intend to share to, then add text to place over the image. You can add primary and secondary text, and select the fonts and sizes. You can add, position and size your logo as well.

You can select from three preset options for altering images – ‘Normal’ which presents the image as is, ‘Blurred’ which is shown in the image to the right, and ‘Black & White’. While limited, these options work very well for sharing images with curated content, and creating text over image graphics. In addition, you can increase the contrast of images you find.

Once you’re done manipulating the image, you can share it directly to Twitter or Facebook, add it to Buffer, or download it to add to other content you wish to share.  As always, please follow copyright laws and properly attribute images you share.

Image Resizer

What about images you aren’t recreating through Pablo, or images that you want to share on multiple networks that have different size requirements? For example, if you want to take the image with text overlay you just created and share it as a LinkedIn published post, or use it for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter profile pics, each one has slightly different image size requirements. In that case we’ve found that the easiest tool is Image Resizer for Windows.
7 More (Mostly Free) Visual Content Tools Any Social Media Team Can Use | Social Media Today

This is a free Codeplex download that installs itself into your right-click menu. Select one, or multiple files, right-click one of them and select Resize Pictures. The Image Resizer dialog box appears enabling you to resize the selected image or images to one of three preset sizes, or to a size you define. You can choose only to shrink pictures (enlarging can generate pixelated images), replace the original files, or ignore picture rotation. Image Resizer does a good job preserving detail, and retaining sharpness in screencaps and other images it resizes.

Clipping Magic

Stock photos can be great additions to content. They can also enhance presentations and help communicate ideas visually when creating things like infographics. If you use a lot of stock photos, you can spend a heap of time turning white or colored backgrounds transparent. Images with transparent backgrounds are must easier to combine. Here’s a look at the difference transparent images can make:

7 More (Mostly Free) Visual Content Tools Any Social Media Team Can Use | Social Media TodaySome organizations have their graphic artists edit images to remove white backgrounds, others only use stock photos with transparent backgrounds, choosing to pass up images that might be better to avoid the hassle of dealing with converting image backgrounds to transparent. Clipping Magic makes converting images to transparent backgrounds easy.
7 More (Mostly Free) Visual Content Tools Any Social Media Team Can Use | Social Media Today

Simply upload your image, or drag and drop it on the page, then use the green mouse stroke to identify what part of the image to save and the red mouse stokes to identify what part of the image should be transparent. Clipping magic snaps a border to the image to show you what parts are being saved versus being cut. It’s also smart, detecting subtle changes and lines in the images, allowing you to preserve shadows or other effects if you chose. Once you’re done, you can download your new image. We’ve used this tool a lot, and in only one instance did we find the odd shaped edge of an image was pixelated in the downloaded result. For the most part, edges are crisp and converted images look good.

Clipping Magic is fee based, charging $ 4 per month for 15 downloads, and $ 8 per month for 100 downloads. Well worth it if you’ve spent any time at all converting colored image backgrounds to transparent.

Meme Generator

Memes are a fun and creative way to capitalize on visual trends, be creative with text, and are just a creative way to get your point across. There are lots of meme generation sites out there, we like Meme Generator.
7 More (Mostly Free) Visual Content Tools Any Social Media Team Can Use | Social Media Today

Its simple interface lets you search for popular meme images, and add top and bottom text in three languages. You can download your memes or upload them to Imgur.

Word Swag

Word Swag is a $ 4 iOS app that rocks. It’s been around for a while, but many people still don’t know about it. Word Swag lets you create those great, thought provoking text on graphic images like you see below (and like the thumbnail image for this article).
7 More (Mostly Free) Visual Content Tools Any Social Media Team Can Use | Social Media Today

The app is simple and easy to use. Upload an image, or select from one provided in the app. Edit your text or select from any number of quotes Word Swag provides.

7 More (Mostly Free) Visual Content Tools Any Social Media Team Can Use | Social Media Today

On your phone, upload images, or select from images provided by Word Swag, then edit the text by selecting from a number of categories of cool quotes, or by typing your own quote.

7 More (Mostly Free) Visual Content Tools Any Social Media Team Can Use | Social Media Today

Once you’ve got your quote, style it to enhance awesomeness, color it and add effects, if you like, then share. I do have to warn you about the time it takes to do this. While you can create a great image in under a minute, Word Swag is like potato chips, you can’t make just one.

Image Chef

Image Chef is similar to Word Swag, but for us, serves a different purpose. You can do memes, photo frames, and text over graphic (like Word Swag), but we mostly use Image Chef for photo frames and text templates.

7 More (Mostly Free) Visual Content Tools Any Social Media Team Can Use | Social Media Today

Image Chef picture frames allow you to do some unique things like put people on the cover of Time magazine, show and image as a tattoo, as a picture in a jar, or drawn in cappuccino foam.

7 More (Mostly Free) Visual Content Tools Any Social Media Team Can Use | Social Media Today

Their text images are slight different than those you find in Word Swag. For us, Word Swag images are all about the quote, with the image enhancing the feeling being conveyed. With Image Chef text images, it’s more the combination of the text inside the image. For example, text can be the headline of a newspaper, part of a creative image, or a custom warning sign. It’s a little different that Word Swag, letting you connect your text to well know or completely abstract types of images.

Image Chef has a free option that provides most template with watermarks. You can get watermark free images in higher definition with their pro plan that has tiered pricing. Their largest plan is $ 100 for year.


These are great tools and we couldn’t do our job without them. Your team should give them a try.

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