Are Your Website Visitors Human?

Juicy Jay

I have good and bad news. The bad news is that over half your website’s traffic is fake. It’s a shocking truth, so I’ll say it again. Over 56 percent of all web traffic is bots of one kind of another, whether its hackers, scrapers, spammers, or “good bots.” The other bad news is that the bad bots are winning, they make up 29 percent of the total while only 27 percent are the “good” self-identifying spiders and bots like Googlebot who say outright, “Hello world, I’m a computer and its nice to meet you! Would you like some pi?!”

Yes, computers now outnumber humans on the Internet as a whole, according to a recent study completed by Incapsula, who used a data set of over 15 billion impressions from 20,000 websites. There are even fake bots running around pretending to be Googlebot (because you’d never block Google, right?) On smaller websites below 1,000 daily visitors, the concentration of bots can be over 80 percent. Not very encouraging news for hard-working website publishers, and a bit of a warning shot to underhanded publishers (we know what you’re up to).

Many reputable networks are transparent and show you exactly where traffic comes from, complete with volumes of impressions and clicks from each source.

Don’t panic. There’s good news. First, there are still plenty of membership sales to be made and people still buy porn. There are still many publishers who make a fortune sending sales from their quality traffic, and many advertisers that make profit buying traffic as affiliates. Second, this IS NOT the traffic you buy from (most) honest advertising networks. Reputable advertising networks including us here at JuicyAds have a lot of anti-fraud technology at our fingertips to detect and prevent bots from eating into our advertiser campaigns and we successfully block (or void you from paying for) the majority of it. No solution is perfect, and even the sources who claim 100 percent human traffic have no way to guarantee this and veteran media buyers understand that this is simply the cost of doing business.

Some publishers are in denial and believe that all of their traffic is real (and these folks aren’t cheaters). They say things like “ ... but Google Analytics shows I get this traffic, it must be real!” I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but all websites have some concentration of invalid bot traffic, and Google Analytics’ purpose is only to track and display it, not to validate its legitimacy. Over 22 percent of web traffic is generated by a computer and bot networks that attempt to behave like human traffic. Most publishers accept and trade this as legitimate traffic, and statistics programs and counters often accept it as real, also.

If you are going to give media buying a try, one must beware of shady figures lurking in the shadows with the lure of cheap “real human traffic” on forums and even on eBay. For as many intentionally malicious Publishers there are out there attempting to defraud advertisers, there are as many unknowing Publishers who purchase traffic to try to build their websites and earn more profits, only to have their efforts hurt their earnings instead when the traffic turns out to be spoofed or iframed traffic. This traffic will never pull out a credit card, and in most cases a human will never lay eyes on your website. Of course your hit counter will get bigger but your wallet will not. These operations are found all over the Internet, and newbies always get caught in the net. There are many reputable people selling ad spots on forums, but there are many who are not legitimate.

Facebook has a unique way of verifying people. The social network uses its own network of humans to verify and confirm someone’s identity and confirm that they are who they say they are. Unfortunately you don’t have that option to ensure you are buying quality traffic, but there are other ways. A simple way to peer review ad networks is to look at their list of awards (which are usually earned as the result of public voting). You can also ensure that you are using a reputable network or broker by verifying on the forums or industry hubs like XBIZ.net, or just ask around. Reputation is everything, and we are very proud of ours here at the Sexy Advertising Network.

Never trust blind testimonials posted on a website from people or companies who you can’t verify with, this is almost always just fluff. Some brokers will even state in their FAQs that their traffic “is not Google AdSense friendly.” Most likely it is generated by a computer and Google is smart enough to detect this fake traffic, so the seller doesn’t want you to find out and blow their scam. Sometimes you’ll even see brokers claim that their traffic “isn’t good for signups or sales.” More than once we have seen claims that the bogus seller can even target the traffic you buy from them to click on a certain area of your website or focus clicks on a specific spot. Wow, that’s amazing! They can target traffic to click certain things on a page.

Of course not. It’s not possible to “target” like this without click farming or programmed bots, and in both cases you’d be better off to light a cigar with that money than buy that traffic. (Further to this, if you’re lighting cigars, why wasn’t your favorite traffic expert invited? How rude.) I am not making this up, these are actual claims by actual websites we have found while investigating the source of large volumes of fraudulent traffic.

Ask where the traffic is coming from. Any legitimate seller will provide you with some samples of domains that the traffic originates from. If your broker is unwilling to give you even a taste (or provide a list of websites that seems unbelievable), run away and take your business elsewhere. While there are a very small number of reputable brokers who do not want to share their sources, not divulging them is a telltale sign that the traffic is coming from nowhere. Many reputable networks are transparent and show you exactly where traffic comes from, complete with volumes of impressions and clicks from each source. Once you see the source of the traffic it is easy to review their Alexa, Quantcast, or Google PR ratings to determine if the website appears reputable.

Finally, it seems counter-intuitive, but avoid any broker or network that claims that they have “100 percent real human traffic” or similar claims. Its like a used car salesman saying they’re honest, its a huge red flag. If they have to say the traffic is real, chances are, its not. Being “genuine human” should be a given truth. But then again, computers are the majority now.

If only the bots would start pulling out their credit card and buying porn, then we would all drive Lamborghinis. Vroom vroom!

Juicy Jay is CEO and founder of JuicyAds.com. Follow Jay and JuicyAds via Twitter — @juicyads.