Are My Digital Ads Only Being Clicked by Estonian SpamBots?

A POV from Neil Olinger, Associate Media Director at Nina Hale, Inc.

One of last week’s biggest stories in the Wall Street Journal concerned a “crisis” in digital ad traffic. According to the article, more than one-third of digital ad traffic is considered “fake” and advertisers are panicking.

But we’ve known about bots and fraudulent traffic since we’ve been in business. That’s why we don’t measure success on the amount of traffic or reach alone; we prefer conversion based models. At Nina Hale, Inc., we judge campaign quality based on cost-per-action (CPA) or return on ad spend (ROAS). We optimize toward a lead-based goal, rather than a traffic-based goal.

In fact, we advise our clients that traffic volume is never the sole measure of success for any digital media campaign, whether it’s Owned, Paid, or Earned media. We recommend measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) based on conversion points, rather than judging by the number of eyeballs — or spambots — who pass through.

We make sure that our conversions are real. Bots can place an order and complete a form, but if we happen to see a large amount of low quality or fraudulent activity from a specific source, we no longer direct spending toward that source. Over time, this leads to high-efficiency digital media.

A graphic in the Wall Street Journal story notes that 80% of digital ads are purchased through software, rather than humans. And it’s true, we use trusted SAAS, like bid management tools and Google AdWords, to help purchase ads. But we are experts in using those tools to help us identify and eliminate fraudulent activity, providing leads that have real value for our clients.

We provide a transparent view of our traffic and lead numbers, so we can ensure that our clients are seeing that their traffic isn’t all coming from a single IP address in Estonia. We are proud to drive traffic from credible sources. We let our clients know what tactics we’re using and how they are scaling to budgets as well as business goals. We regularly review lead, order, and traffic quality; if an issue arises, we know how to stop it and move on.

Taking a holistic approach to digital marketing — integrating and maximizing all owned, paid, and earned media channels — also helps us maximize our clients’ investments. We know that a digital presence isn’t established with a single traffic source; it’s a multifaceted application of digital media that leads clients to qualified customers and purchasing actions, which we measure and attribute.

At the core of the quality conversion discussion is the relationship between agency and client. We are fortunate to have exceptional clients who readily share performance feedback, including lead quality metrics. These relationships allow us to act quickly on their behalf to optimize media performance through data analysis.

At the end of the day, there will always be bots, grifters, and people gaming the system. But we’re well aware of “The Secret of Online Ad Traffic,” as the Wall Street Journal titled their story. We want to be clear that nothing about our clients’ CPAs or ROAS remains hidden: whenever our clients ask us where their leads and purchases are coming from, we’re happy to provide them with strong sources that lead to actual customers at computers.

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