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Company Claims 80% of Facebook Ad Clicks Are From Bots 402

Posted by samzenpus
from the where-are-all-the-people dept.
pitchpipe writes "A start-up company, Limited Run, claims that 80% of its ad clicks on Facebook have been coming from bots and will be deleting their page. Their Facebook page reads: 'Hey everyone, we're going to be deleting our Facebook page in the next couple of weeks, but we wanted to explain why before we do ... We built our own analytic software. Here's what we found: on about 80% of the clicks Facebook was charging us for, JavaScript wasn't on ... The 80% of clicks we were paying for were from bots. That's correct. Bots were loading pages and driving up our advertising costs.'"
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Company Claims 80% of Facebook Ad Clicks Are From Bots

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  • I'm not surprised. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rob from RPI (4309) <xrobau@gmail.com> on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:31PM (#40823157) Homepage

    Facebook is a TERRIBLE advertising platform. I've tried it, and had nothing but rubbish. In fact, I read an article about it not long after I tried it, saying that Facebook Advertising just doesn't work, and the only way they keep it up is by new people going 'Well, all these other people are advertising, I'm sure I can try that too'. Then they give it up as a bad job, but not before someone ELSE sees it and goes 'Hmm. FB Advertising'...

    So, basically, I wasted $50, and learned that trying to appeal to the facebook crowd with something they have to pay for just doesn't work.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:32PM (#40823159) Journal

    I wouldn't know, I don't have an account.

  • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:06PM (#40823583) Homepage
    If this gets attention from other companies who pay facebook for advertising placement, it could make facebook's advertisment revenues fall quite a lot. Click fraud is a really big deal.
  • by boristdog (133725) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:07PM (#40823587)

    Except FB charges for clicks.

    So they are charging for fake clicks, which means they are engaging in fraud if FB is behind the fake clicks.
    And even if FB is not behind the fake clicks, FB will have to severely reduce ad rates because they cannot deliver true clicks.

    I stand by my assertion that FB will tank.

  • by icebike (68054) * on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:15PM (#40823669)

    Exactly.

    Click fraud has been a huge problem. Even Google has had to put mechanisms in place to detect it and control it.
    But none of these ad companies have a real strong incentive to do so, other than to maintain a reputation for fairness
    among advertisers. Facebook? Fairness? Reputation?

    In my day job we were a Google advertiser, and on more than one occasion we started seeing huge spikes in clicks
    when we did nothing different on the web site or in commerce to warrant such an increase.

    I called Google about it, and they ran a review of the clicks and dropped the actual click count to below what
    it had been prior. They do respond, but you have to complain some times.

    They are especially good at catching bots.

    We've put a ceiling on the amount we will pay for these clicks, and when ever that ceiling is reached we get
    a notice from Google. Unless we just started an advertising campaign in the trade rags (or something to generate that
    increase in traffic), we usually just file another click fraud complaint to them and they invariably
    we are the target of another E-Gold "get paid to click ads" scam.

    (We always suspect, but can never prove that one of our competitors is behind this click fest to drive my ads off the
    search results by over-running our limits, because they always seem to happen when they launch a new product).

  • Re:Follow The Money (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tgd (2822) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:29PM (#40823805)

    Who profits from BOTS pumping the FACEBOOK advertising system?

    In practice it will be effectively impossible to identify the person-or-company who is *originally* responsible for this clickvertising pumping scheme.

    But I know who I'd be betting on.

    Someone shorting their stock would be the top of my list ...

  • by epine (68316) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:36PM (#40823831)

    Why? This is a nonevent (even if it is true.) It's like proving that 80% of TV ads air when people are out of the room. It does nothing to change the basic equation of how advertisers decide whether to place ads, which is: place some ads, see if your sales go up enough to justify the cost; if so, buy more... and so forth.

    And your competitors can invent extra TVs in all your extra, unoccupied rooms, and when they do, your ad bill escalates. These scenarios are so identical you need a scanning electron microscope with the gain set to 11 just to tell them apart. Apparently.

  • Re:I don't doubt it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chemisor (97276) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:41PM (#40823863)

    There is no cesspool of scum on the internet leaching off add revenue. A cesspool of idiocy is more like it. People who take your money are not the problem - you are the problem. Advertising does not work. In the age of the internet, if you want to sell something, all you need to do is make it easy to find. Advertising does not do that. Advertising clogs the pipes with crappy messages telling me to buy without telling me what you are selling. List the damn product on amazon. Sell it on eBay. Make it show up on a search. And tell me what the damn thing is and how much it costs. These two things are the only things I need to know to make a purchasing decision, and advertising goes to incredible amount of effort to hide them from me. Let me find it. Tell me what it does. Tell me what makes it different from the alternatives. Is it the cheap one? The best made one? The one with feature X? The one with feature Y? The locally made one? Give me the damn facts. Stop telling me what I should think about it. Stop buying goddamned ads!

  • by HapSlappy_2222 (1089149) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:46PM (#40823921)
    No. This would be like proving that 80% of TV ads cause voice-simulation-robots to dial the phone number on the screen. Your analogy also misses that the network is charging for the original ad, based on length and broadcast time, NOT per call about the advertised company/product.

    The difference is that someone, somewhere, for some reason, is artificially driving up per-click costs for companies that participate in Facebook's advertising schemes. You would be completely correct if the Facebook ad banner had a pre-determined, up-front cost, like TV and radio ads do.

    If it's mostly bots, then the amount advertisers are willing to pay will go down in proportion to how much bot "views" go up (or as people simply grow insensitive to the ads, or don't have enough disposable income to buy the product, etc etc).

    Market forces? Maybe over the long run, but that doesn't mean companies aren't getting SCREWED by this right now (it's blatantly unethical, and probably illegal). How many companies would just herp-derp along, paying 80% too much for their ad space? This company wisely put a very basic test in place (one that FB really should be implementing prior to sending the click; in fact, Google has been doing this for years).

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Monday July 30, 2012 @09:10PM (#40824465)

    But none of these ad companies have a real strong incentive to do so, other than to maintain a reputation for fairness
    among advertisers.

    Actually, they have a strong incentive: staying in business. My wife runs her own business, and I help her with advertising. We track the source of every click through to a sale. Then we calculate the ratio of (ad expense)/(profit generated). For Google ads, this is about 1.6. For Facebook ads, it is about 0.2. Guess where we no longer buy ads?

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday July 30, 2012 @11:13PM (#40825051) Journal
    There is another option, FWIW. Whenever I see an advertisement on Google for a company I don't like, I click on their link. It's probably unethical, but it's oh-so-tempting.

    So over the years, I've probably transferred like $1.35 from Microsoft to Google as a result of my actions. Yay!
  • by Maxmin (921568) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @12:57AM (#40825533)

    Disabling Javascript doesn't eliminate FB ads. Try it. Turn off Javascript for all sites, clear cache, and load www.facebook.com.

    I see ads, clickable ads that reach their destination. Looking at the page in the developer tools, there's no JS being executed (pause does nothing), and neither the Scripts nor the Resources tabs reveal anything resembling a script.

    Further, all the ads link through the same base URI, what is likely a FB redirector script: https://www.facebook.com/ajax/emu/end.php [facebook.com]. I've written ad software for websites that doesn't use a bit of JS, and it appears that FB is capable of doing the same.

    Reenabling JS shows the ads have both the base URI AND a mousedown handler with function reference of a similar name: a.emuEvent1.fbEmuLink.image.fbEmuImage

    Finally, advertisers and the agencies that put their ads on FB don't have to rely on FB for click metrics, it's normal practice to redirect through a third-party agency that counts ad clicks.

    It's possible that this company didn't understand the incoming requests. I'd love to see their analysis of User-Agent signatures and client IP addresses.

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