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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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  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:27PM (#40823119) Journal

    If you don't have javascript, you're a bot?

    • by Desler (1608317) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:30PM (#40823135)

      Since the ads require Javascript to be visible, yes. If you don't believe me just disable Javascript on Facebook and watch as all the ads disappear until you reenable it.

    • by Yaur (1069446) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:31PM (#40823149)
      The percentage of real users with javascript disabled is much lower than 80%... so if these numbers are real It seems reasonable that the bulk of them are bots.
    • by boristdog (133725) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:31PM (#40823155)

      RTFA. They did the analysis. 98-99% of their direct-clicks had javascript. 0nly 20% of the ones from Facebook had javascript.

      Sorry if I RTFA. I'll try not to next time.

      Upshot: Facebook stock tanks again.

      • Upshot: Facebook stock tanks again.

        One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered Facebook community when Limited Run confirmed that Facebook ad effectiveness has dropped yet again, now down to less than 20% legitimate clicks. Coming on the heels of a recent stock crash which plainly indicates that Facebook is losing investors' confidence, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. Facebook is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

    • by MtHuurne (602934) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:32PM (#40823169) Homepage

      Nowhere near 80% of Facebook users has noscript active or otherwise disabled JavaScript; TFA says this number is about 1-2%.

    • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:44PM (#40823337)

      No.

      Read their actual page on facebook linked in the summary. Only 1-2% of their traffic were of the 'no script' variety (which is actually between 5 and 10% of their legitimate traffic), the 80% is bots they couldn't find the source of.

      Now the things I'm not sure of here, is how much they were spending on advertising in the first place, and how many clicks they were getting. As part of their own writeup they say 2k/month on facebook advertising was way more than they wanted to pay for a name change. That's fair enough, but then how much were they paying? Which leads into the second point, how many clicks are we talking about here? If there are say 80 bots (or even 800) that just are always out there trolling pages, and you only get 100 hits, or 1000 hits or whatever, then sure, you're getting hit for 80% bots, but your cost has to be pretty low too. If you're getting a million hits and 800k of them are bots then there's a very serious problem, but then if you're getting a 200k legitimate page views maybe 2000 bucks a month is reasonable (depends a lot on what your business does).

      Facebook does run, and needs to run bots on its service, if part of the cost of doing business with them is paying for when the bots are hitting your page to verify that you're in compliance that's fine, just as long as facebook is up front about how often those bots should hit your page and therefore how much you're paying. On the other hand, if it's a bot farm selling services to a SEO or something then you have a very different problem.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Uhhh...how would you click on a javaScript ad if you were a human with no JavaScript on (aka NoScript) in the first place? Answer, you can't hence its bots.

      So then it becomes WHO is controlling the bots? As far as i see it there can only be one of two choices: 1.-It is a rival to the company wanting to hurt them financially, or 2.-Its FB themselves trying to drum up revenue and keep the stock from tanking.

      If its #1 it shouldn't be too hard to simply ask the company in question, as those that have rivals t

    • No, just that 80% of Facebook users fail the Turing test.

      The remaining 20% ate the test.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:27PM (#40823121)

    It's rude.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:30PM (#40823141)

    Ad rotator services and click-throughs are WORTHLESS.

    The internet gives you the power to directly connect with people and most companies still only understand advertising through broadcasting which is like tossing thousands of coins waiting for one to land on its edge.

    I hope they've learnt their lesson before someone actually punches their monkey.

  • 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.

    • It is not surprising that people don't see the ads. The traditional Facebook page (I have not seen Timeline) has four columns, three of which can be entirely ignored.

      I find myself developing a unique "blind spot" for every common page with static ad placement. It's hard for me to find the ads even when I want to browse them.

    • by rgbrenner (317308) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:15PM (#40823663)

      I've advertised on quite a few platforms (although have yet to try Facebook), and this is a common problem. In 2006, there were lawsuits against Yahoo and Google for click-fraud.. both were settled (I was included in the settlement for both.... got virtually nothing.. something like $20 refund for $100k in clicks.)
      http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/10294.asp [imediaconnection.com]

      Google does a pretty good job, which is probably a large reason why they control such a large portion of the online ad market. Yahoo, depending on their platform of the week, can be hit-or-miss. They usually do a good job, but there have been a few times when it is just terrible. When Yahoo announces a change to their search.. watch out. (Bing's ad performance has been pretty good over the past couple of years at least)

      I've seen some ad platforms that just ignore the problem, and it's easy to spend several thousand dollars and not get a single customer from it on those platforms. If facebook does nothing to control the problem, I'm sure there will be another class action.. probably won't cost them much to settle it, but might destroy the trust they have with advertisers, their stock price, and business.

    • by wmbetts (1306001) on Monday July 30, 2012 @11:00PM (#40824979)

      Not to be rude or offensive, but you failed at it because you didn't know what you were doing. I know several people (for companies not themselves) spending six figures a month with facebook and generating sales numbers larger than that. It's working great for them. If I tried that I would have the same results as you until I learned what I was doing. To do it "right" it requires a custom software and understanding of all the analytics. I've asked them in the past about their budget for testing new ads and products. They will blow a couple grand just getting everything dialed in. Unless you're copying someone verbatim (and that would require hacking them and seeing everything on their back end not just their fb ads) $50 isn't even close enough to begin getting a campaign profitable.

      Something else they will do is literally upload hundreds of different ads with different pictures, text, etc. Then they'll choose the ads that have the highest CTR (click through rate). Apparently one of the metrics fb uses for click prices is the CTR. If you're getting a crt of around .1% or higher you'll be getting some great click prices. Which is why they upload so many creativities. They have software that will take images, titles, bodies and generate ads for all the permutations and set very specific demographics for each set (a set would be the total permutations) of ads then upload them to fb. That allows them to see which ads work best for which demographics.

      Click fraud is a huge problem though. A lot of ad networks will reimburse you for bot clicks if you can prove they were in fact bots and not real people. A lot of times it will be a small percentage and you eat the cost, because it's not worth the trouble of fighting for it. Think of it as theft if you were running a retail store, because that's essentially what it is. However, at 80% that's just crazy and this company has every right to be upset regardless of the amount they spent. They didn't get what they paid for.

      After saying all of that. I'm sure if you had the money to burn you could figure it out and make a nice side income. You would have to treat it like any business though and expect to lose money for a while until you learned the ropes.

  • by greg1104 (461138) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:44PM (#40823347) Homepage

    With some Facebook bots starting at $30 [freelancer.com] to $50 [freelancer.com] to build, of course people are doing that. Facebook has bigger [yahoo.com] problems [zerohedge.com] than giving a crap about this company's complaints or requests. If our SEC wasn't a toothless corporate captive, the company would already have been halted for securities abuse.

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

    by WaffleMonster (969671) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:47PM (#40823379)

    We use adwords from time to time and had similar experiences a few years back with the "content network".

    We analyzed our stats and even went as far as manually browse access logs. The hits we got were crap just like the sites most of the referrals came from.

    There is a huge sesspool of scum on the Internet funded by leeching off ad revenue wherever it exists.

    If companies are not on top of it and not careful about how they are spending their advertising dollars this kind of fraud could easily eat into a sizable chunk of their budgets and they might not even know it.

    Do your homework before you throw your money away.

    • by rgbrenner (317308)

      The poor response rate on the content network is well known. Which is why the recommended advice, even from google, is to bid substantially lower on the content network.

      The lower bid amount compensates for the low response rate.. so the cost per acquisition is similar to the search network.

    • 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!

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

        by PReDiToR (687141) on Monday July 30, 2012 @10:31PM (#40824853) Homepage Journal
        Someone modded this troll?

        So, how many times have you seen a vapourware product on this site and gone to their site to see:
        A) How much it costs
        B) Where to buy it
        and been REALLY FUCKED OFF to find that this information isn't available?

        Advertising, Slashvertising and posting 250 words over 6 pages of ad-infested blog wipe doesn't sell products. It sells hype and only marketing get rich off hype.

        Here is the perfect advert:

        For rent: NATALIE PORTMAN
        Comes with HOT GRITS, NAKED.
        NPORTMAN.COM, UPS delivery to continental US only, $200 per night. Availability is 1/per customer, per night, first come first served.

        And I think that makes the word "amirite" necessary here.
  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:47PM (#40823385)
    Maybe the bots are genuinely interested in Mom's Old Fashioned Robot Oil.
  • by ebcdic (39948) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:48PM (#40823389)

    I google for "whiplash" or "loans" and click on all the ads.

  • OMG!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rudy_wayne (414635) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:52PM (#40823429)

    The 80% of clicks we were paying for were from bots. That's correct. Bots were loading pages and driving up our advertising costs.

    Advertising on the Internet is based on click-fraud. Where have you been for the last 10 years?

  • Follow The Money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:54PM (#40823443) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • But the IPO (Score:4, Funny)

    by Loughla (2531696) on Monday July 30, 2012 @06:56PM (#40823463)
    and subsequent public trading of Facebook are both good ideas, and this company's shares are definitely not overvalued. . . . . .
  • Lack of Analytics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dogtanian (588974) on Monday July 30, 2012 @07:04PM (#40823555) Homepage
    However much truth there is in this story, there's one notable thing about Facebook's advertising. It's that they don't- or at least didn't the last time I looked into it (late 2011 IIRC)- provide any proper tracking or analytics service that you can easily integrate into your own website. Yes, they'd tell you how many clicks you got on your Facebook page, but so what?

    IIRC apparently they'd had some analytics/tracking code available at one point but *supposedly* they were worried about the data it provided being misinterpreted, so they withdrew it. They were still providing it, but only to their large corporate customers. Hmm.

    One could still use specialised third-party tracking solutions, but (e.g.) getting it to work properly with Google analytics proved more complicated than it might at first have appeared, involving faffing about with funnels and the like (which I still don't think I got working properly, as I was distracted by more important things shortly afterwards).

    Given that this was around the time stories were starting to come out explaining how Facebook- which everyone had assumed would be the holy grail of targeted advertising- was in truth delivering very poor results for advertisers, a cynic might assume that it really wasn't in Facebook's interest to make keeping close tabs on the effectiveness of its advertising easy for customers. This might or might not have been the case, but I'm pretty sceptical.

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