Viewability – Are Your Ads Even Being Seen? 5 Ways to Check

Digital fraud. We all know it exists, although up until recently the industry tended to avoid too much discussion on the subject, mainly because reliable verification was so hard. But it happens and exists in many different formats, like the practice of stacking ads, where a website has one visible ad on its page but has a number of other ads in that same spot but which cannot be seen by site visitors (even though they count as delivered impressions). Until now, I had never personally dealt with a partner who practices this – but that all changed a few weeks ago.

The data doesn’t lie, and on a client report, it was very clear that something was amiss when one of our sites was registering thousands of clicks and impressions, but no actual visits to the campaign landing page. To the Just Media Data Crew, this had red flag written all over it, and the alarms were ringing. After ruling out any technical issues on our end, we reached out to the site in question.

Come to find out, the site said that they do “rotate” ads, which auto refresh even if the user cannot see them. The site was in effect, stacking ads, but it seemed like they didn’t really know it, or realize the impact this could have (we gave them the benefit of the doubt given the relationship we have with them). But this highlighted the danger in this practive, because it makes it impossible for the user to click on the correct ad, and there is no control over what they are actually clicking on or where they are being directed. We were clearly counting clicks from ads that were not even ours.

Five Ways to Check your Campaigns:

1. Click to landing ratio – your reports should always include click to landing data. Our norms are 10 clicks to 9 landings for search, 10 clicks to 7 landings for branded websites and 10 clicks to 5 landings for mobile and programmatic buys. Anything outside these numbers is suspicious.

2. Low click rate – ads that cannot be seen often cannot be clicked on. A simple check is has a specific site or placement delivered an unusually low CTR. Might be worth further investigation.

3. Geo checking – one common problem is ads being shown to visitors from outside your agreed geographic areas. Check geo reports and look for sites “bleeding” ads into unauthorized markets.

4. Use a viewability solution like Integral Ad Science. Our most recent tests have given us some amazing and shocking data (some sites had less than 30% of ads in view). This is great technology – we love it.

5. Check you sites in your buy – OK you might need to refresh pages a few times but it’s always worth checking the sites and seeing where your ad actually appears. Don’t forget to check below the fold!

If you want to understand more about this subject I would recommend downloading our “A View from the Top” white paper from Integral Ad Science CEO Scott Knoll or email and chat with Frauke Cast or Sebastien Damas from our Data Crew. They will be happy to advise on best practice to help combat digital fraud in your campaigns.

Let us know if you have had any incidents with your programs. Together we can help combat this.


Nyla Murphy
Just Media, Inc. 

Posted on May 30, 2014 in Nyla Murphy

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