How fake traffic affects the advertising industry

Today I'm going to try to talk a bit about the fake traffic, also known as bot traffic. For those that don't know what that is, the fake traffic represents the visits on either pages or ads that do not come from a real human visitor that landed on the page / ad on his own accord.

Fake traffic has multiple forms and has evolved a bit since the early days of the world wide web. For example fake traffic now days is able to spoof referrers, click on pages and many more automated actions, thus sometimes almost impossible to distinct from a real human. The good side is that not every single guy out there that tries these low methods of earning a few cents is smart enough to do it the right way, therefor most of the times, ad networks ban the #$%# out of them, and for good reason.

So, i'm going to try to divide fake traffic in a few branches. For example :
- The main branch would be traffic generated by viruses ( a trojan infects someone's computer and then opens a page ).
- Another important branch would be VPS traffic ( a pretty common method amongst the people that are happy with a few cents as earnings, mostly in 3rd world countries ).
I'm going to add a two more branches although the traffic itself is not automatically generated by a bot or script, and those would be :
- Auto surf / manual surf, traffic exchanges, paid to promote and all the other similar methods of forcing a person to view a page that he has zero interest in. I wanted to add these methods of getting traffic because just like the first two there is no way on earth you could convert such traffic.
- Lastly, the paid to click traffic is, in my opinion, fake traffic as well.

So, now that we are aware of what fake traffic is let's talk a bit about how harmful it is for the advertising market. First of all, I would like you to excuse my acid tone, but people that go for this deserve it. Fake traffic is slowly but surely destroying once successful payment models such as CPM ( cost per mille / thousand views ), CPC ( cost per click ), etc... Why? The reason is rather simple to understand. Send fake traffic to a landing page, it generates 0 conversions although the advertiser paid for each 1000 of them for example. The advertiser is unhappy and stops advertising. Everyone loses, publishers, advertisers and intermediaries ( ad networks / agencies / marketeers ). So why do people still do this? Because they are stupid enough to be happy with a few pennies, if they even get those, and can't picture themselves growing a healthy website in the first place ( most of them don't even know how ). Bottom line though is that their stupidity is hurting everyone else and literally billions are lost in the process.

The real question is, how do we prevent such traffic on our landing pages / campaigns / banners etc...? The answer is that most of the times you can't programmatically block it all but you have some handy tools at hand to filter most of it :
- Fake traffic mostly comes from proxies. Block them! And yes, I know what some of you may say, dude, some people use proxies as well. I know, but the amount of the real human traffic that you block by blocking proxies is almost insignificant if you compare the harm that fake traffic does if you allow proxies.
- Make good use of blacklists. There are a few out there that are free and some other that are paid but are worth every penny such as MaxMind.
- Create your own blacklist and include all the free VPS IP ranges you can find. I personally noted a high drop in fake traffic after doing this.

There is probably more to it than what I wrote above but I think that if you got this far you understood my opinion and thoughts about fake traffic, and I honestly hope this article will help you get a better picture.