You might have heard, but invalid traffic (IVT) has been making the news in the form of Google TrueView. Recently, IVT has been making headlines thanks to a report that “Google may have misled advertisers for years about its TrueView service”.
With TrueView, which transitioned into video action campaigns in 2022, advertisers were supposed to only pay for actual ad views with audio or interactions (clicks). This report found that advertisers were charged for ads played without audio, and that ads were placed on websites that didn’t meet Google’s own quality standards.
These actions led to invalid traffic, meaning businesses of all sizes paid for false clicks or impressions. As a result, advertisers lost billions of digital ad dollars. Google has denied these claims and reassured advertisers about their policies on ad placements, but their reputation has taken a hit.
Even if you don’t run video ads or weren’t affected by Google’s alleged misrepresentation in this case, every marketer should be concerned about invalid traffic and the effect it can have on your online marketing campaigns.
What Is Invalid Traffic?
IVT refers to any kind of non-human traffic that interacts with online ads. Just because traffic is “invalid” doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate or always leads to intentional ad fraud. General Invalid Traffic (GIVT), the most common type of invalid traffic and the easiest to detect, typically includes bot traffic such as search engine crawlers that make your website easier for users to find.
Sophisticated Invalid Traffic IVT (SIVT) is another story. As the name implies, it is more sophisticated with bots, malware, or human fraud farms mimicking human behavior, making it harder to detect. SIVT can get around many anti-bot tools such as CAPTCHA or reCAPTCHA.
Invalid traffic of all kinds comes at a cost to marketers, creating false clicks and ad impressions which lead to higher ad costs. Publishers pay the price as well; if they are unable to stop invalid traffic, brands will stop advertising, resulting in lost revenue.
What Are the Signs of Invalid Traffic?
It’s highly likely that you have invalid traffic from your online ad campaigns. It’s been estimated that more than 40% of internet traffic is generated by bots, both good and bad, and that advertisers will lose more than $100 billion this year due to invalid traffic.
Here are some signs that you need to take action against invalid traffic:
High bounce rates
The bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors that leave your site or quickly go back to the page they clicked on to get there. A low bounce rate likely means actual humans accidentally clicked on your ad. What is considered a “high” bounce rate is relative; Semrush suggests anything above 46% is high. A much higher percentage may be a sign of IVT.
Low (or high) session duration
Session duration is the time a visitor spends on your site. As with bounce rates, what’s considered average depends on your goal. But a zero or extremely low session time likely indicates bot traffic; an unusually long session time may mean the desired action isn’t clear to the visitor.
High traffic, low conversion rate
If your campaign is generating a lot of traffic to your site or landing page but you aren’t seeing the results you expected, it could mean you’re targeting the wrong audience or that your call to action isn’t clear. It could also indicate that much of your traffic is invalid. You’re paying for those clicks, so you want to get to the bottom of this.
How Does Invalid Traffic Affect Online Advertising Campaigns?
Even benign IVT can negatively impact your online marketing efforts. If you ignore it, it won’t go away; the negative effects can continue to impact future campaigns.
Inflated impressions and clicks waste your precious advertising dollars, not to mention the time it takes to plan, create and implement your campaign. We find that, on average, 25% of traffic is invalid, which means 25% of your budget is not creating any return on your marketing investment.
IVT distorts your data, so you have no idea how your campaign is performing and where your real leads are coming from. Unless you can identify IVT and its source, you won’t know how to improve future campaigns, so the losses are ongoing.
Damaged brand reputation
It’s bad enough when the IVT results in false impressions and clicks; it’s even worse when invalid traffic leads to malware or other malicious activity on an advertiser’s site. Publishers who deliver IVT to their advertiser sites quickly lose advertisers’ confidence and revenue.
How Can I Stop Invalid Traffic?
To stop invalid traffic, you first need to detect it. That’s easier said than done, especially with SIVT as it closely mimics human behavior. An ad fraud solution can help you find how much of your traffic is invalid, where it’s coming from, and then collaborate with you to stop it from negatively affecting your campaigns, your website activity, and your reputation.
How do you choose the right ad fraud detection partner? They must go beyond conventional methods such as blocking IP addresses or recognizing simple patterns. They should use AI or machine learning, but also have the human experience and expertise to understand your unique situation and provide context to the problem, as well as to the solutions.
While there are other ad fraud detection partners out there, only a few, including Anura, have gone through the rigorous TAG third-party certification process. TAG Certification means Anura is certified to follow the industry standards set forth by the Media Rating Council. And only Anura is 99.999% accurate when reporting fraud. With Anura at your side, you can move into the HOV lane and avoid invalid traffic!
Invalid traffic is a major contributor to ad fraud. Download our Ad Fraud 101 eBook to learn more about the ugly facts of ad fraud.