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

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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.” 

image from shutterstock.com

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Who’s Viewed Your LinkedIn Post

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Without a doubt, checking who’s viewed your LinkedIn profile is among the most popular activities on LinkedIn. It should be. Knowing who is looking at your profile provides you with insight, an opportunity to get in touch, and to re-engage a conversation. (If you don’t regularly check your profile views, why not start today)?

Go to Profile on the top nav bar >> Who’s Viewed Your Profile

navigation bar

Who

You see that you can choose to see the following information.

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Set goals, be accountable by paying attention weekly to the numbers in the screen shot below. Notice your profile view count and the actions you took on LinkedIn. Are you building relevancy?

posts and profile views

1. Who’s viewed your profile

profile views

2. Who’s viewed your LinkedIn post

If you are publishing long-form content on LinkedIn you can or will soon be able to see (remember, LinkedIn rolls out randomly over time) who is reading your posts. This is eye opening and vital if you want to better understand the type of people who are interested in your content. If you can’t see all of this yet, keep publishing (or start publishing) and you will have access to this information soon. And it should be retroactive to all your published posts!

If you are publishing content and not convinced it’s worth publishing your posts on LinkedIn, I think you might want to reconsider. You can choose which LinkedIn posts you want to view stats for and, once you click on the post, you can see how many people viewed it, liked it, commented on it and forwarded it. Good so far, right?

who

I can drill down even further and see the top industries, titles, locations and sources of my readers. Here are two examples for different posts. You can see how the information changes. What can you begin to learn? How is your various content gaining traction on LinkedIn? Even better, right?

post views 1

posts views 2

And finally, LinkedIn is going to let me click on each of the numbers below and see WHO those specific people are?

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 7.35.37 PM

I just noticed someone who shared one of my latest LinkedIn posts. I clicked through and saw she works at LinkedIn. I sent her a personalized invitation thanking her, mentioning I wanted to feature her (hoping she doesn’t mind) and saying that I’d like to learn more about what she does.

Kristy

Kirsty from LinkedIn

If you don’t have this feature yet, you will. If you do, check it out! What can you learn and how can you leverage this feature to connect better and develop new opportunities? It’s all good. My next quick tip will be on how you rank for profile views. By the way, in the time it took to take and add the two screen shots from Kristy and finish this paragraph, Kristy accepted my invitation. Terrific — you see it does work.

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