80% of digital publishers don’t know how their web traffic is audited

The burden of proof is on publishers to defend their web traffic, yet 80 percent admit they don’t have insight into how their traffic is audited, raising questions about which traffic is non-human traffic (NHT).

web traffic auditing

Marketers are no longer willing to pay for NHT, with 74 percent of publishers reporting that traffic quality issues are part of pre-sales discussions, and 68 percent stating they have received requests for information (RFIs) with acceptable NHT thresholds. This disconnect is leading to lost money and frustration for both advertisers and publishers.

These statistics are included in a new report from The 614 Group and sponsored by Distil Networks. The report includes a survey of 40 of the comScore 250 publishers, including AccuWeather, A&E Networks, Hulu, Thomson Reuters and Univision, about their attitudes and experiences with NHT, both as an internal issue and as a discussion point with clients considering direct buys of their inventory.

“Ad agencies will stop paying publishers for NHT, yet only one third of publishers are blocking nefarious NHT proactively,” said Rami Essaid, co-founder and CEO of Distil Networks. “Monitoring fraud post-campaign isn’t the answer. Bot operators, and the NHT they generate, are only becoming more sophisticated, and unless publishers can gain control over their unsolicited inbound NHT, the numbers aren’t going to add up and the industry is headed for major contention.”

The report brings to the fore the lesser known cascading negative effect of even nominal amounts of NHT. That is, the impact of bots collecting cookies on legitimate publishers’ sites, only to lure those advertising dollars away to nefarious players.

“If publishers could understand the individual revenue impact from NHT activity on their own sites and beyond, they could easily make the case for the proper amount of resource investments to fight the issue. This would make the ROI calculation simple to make,” said Rob Rasko, founder and CEO of The 614 Group. “And according to our survey a majority believe they would see an ROI, and beyond that, a premium could be charged for certified NHT-free traffic.”

Key findings

  • Most publishers (77 percent) are victims of NHT; yet only 38 percent purchase traffic, meaning NHT is getting onto their sites through other means of no fault to the publisher. For this reason, many marketers are losing trust in the digital advertising marketplace.
  • Spurred by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), marketers are no longer willing to pay for NHT. Seventy-four percent of publishers said that traffic quality issues are part of pre-sales discussions, and 68 percent said they’ve received RFIs mandating acceptable NHT thresholds.
  • The cost of fraud is greater than the NHT that arrives on a publisher’s site. It should also include consideration of the ad units purchased by advertisers in the open ad exchanges like synthetic user profiles created by “cookied bots.”
  • Publishers must draw a connection between the $8.2 billion lost to fraud and campaign-level damage. Almost 70 percent of publishers believe that it’s possible to calculate the ROI of effective anti-NHT efforts on a per-campaign and per-client basis.
  • 70 percent of publishers believe it’s possible to proactively block NHT, before a page loads and before cookies are set, yet less than one-third of the publishers take that approach.