Truth #2: Illegitimate Traffic Sourcing is the Main Cause of Fraud

December 6, 2017

Purchasing So-Called Human Website Traffic is a Common Way for Some Publishers to Fulfill Demand

Tom Drouillard, CEO, President and Managing Director

Digital advertising fraud is a widespread industry problem. Marketers, agencies, publishers and technology suppliers are frustrated by the lack of options for bringing transparency to the current supply chain structure.

As an independent auditor, AAM has a unique perspective on digital ad fraud and where weaknesses in the media supply chain exist. Our latest whitepaper addresses the three key issues that allow ad fraud to continue:

  1. Fraud occurs on both fake and legitimate websites.
  2. Illegitimate traffic sourcing is the main cause of fraud.
  3. Ad fraud measurement is used to transact but does not minimize ad fraud.

Last month, we examined the different ways fraudsters use fake and legitimate sites to siphon money away from advertisers and publishers. Now let’s move our focus to the two ways publishers attract audiences to their sites.


Truth #2: Illegitimate Traffic Sourcing is the Main Cause of Fraud

Traffic sourcing is any method by which digital media sellers acquire visitors through third parties. There are two main types: legitimate marketing activity and illegitimate traffic sourcing.

Legitimate marketing activity is when a publisher engages in audience acquisition methods that drive people to their site such as running sponsored posts on social media. This is a legitimate marketing tactic to bring more humans to the site.

Illegitimate traffic sourcing occurs when a publisher pays a traffic supplier for a fixed number of visits to their website. Publishers often buy traffic at the end of the month or quarter to “make their numbers.” Traffic sellers often promise the publishers that the traffic is human and will pass through all ad fraud detection filters. 

Examples of activities to drive site traffic

This type of traffic is likely robotic. Millions of people don’t wait until the last day of the month to visit specific websites in specific quantities. The publisher might not know that this traffic is robotic because it may appear human in their fraud detection reports. It might also appear to be human traffic in the advertiser’s fraud detection reports. And many marketers do not know that this behavior is a common way for publishers to fulfill demand.

The bots used in illegitimate traffic sourcing appear to be humans because fraudsters designed them to pass through ad fraud detection vendors’ filters. A search for “buy website traffic” will return results for numerous suppliers selling traffic compliant with major fraud detection vendors. Publishers can purchase any flavor of traffic that works best.

Sometimes the traffic suppliers are overt and sometimes they are not. Sometimes publishers know what they are buying and sometimes they do not.

But the whole advertising economy relies on this practice today, and it is the main form of digital ad fraud as was outlined in the 2017 fraud study published by the ANA/White Ops.


Download the Full White Paper

Ready to learn more about the causes of digital ad fraud and what you can do to help the industry solve this crippling problem? Download our new whitepaper: 

Download 3 Truths That Help Confront the Digital Ad Fraud Crisis

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