IX Perspectives

Exchange-Wide Non-Human Traffic Rate is Low – Header’s Is Even Lower

As more marketer dollars move to programmatic, vigilance for fraud is expected. A couple of years ago, as the industry started really looking into the cost of fraud, concern swelled significantly. Facts and figures emerged that was often alarming and sometimes downright scary.

Those facts and figures are still around and getting scarier – White Ops and the ANA released a study asserting that the advertising industry could lose $7.2B to bots in 2016. Eek.

Index Exchange has a clean track record when it comes to providing a marketplace free of fraud. When I first started working here, after some time on the analyst side, I’d heard lots of positive opinions about Index Exchange’s cleanliness. Now that I can see the data, I know these opinions are accurate.

We work with a diverse range of publishers, most of which use fraud tackling solutions on their ends to ensure their sites and inventory are protected from fraud and malware. On the exchange side, we carefully vet all publishers to ensure anyone selling inventory through Index Exchange is a reputed digital content creator and programmatically savvy enough to have all necessary controls against fraud in place. We also use a number of verification tools to regularly police our exchange.

Our Average Rate of Non-Human Traffic Exchange Wide is 2%

I looked at the rate of non-human traffic, in header tag auctions and tag-based auctions, over the course of three months: June, July, and August. I was pleased with what I found.

Non-human traffic rate by integration type (June 2016 - August 2016)
Non-human traffic rate by integration type (June 2016 – August 2016)

This is how it works – a verification solution will look at a pool of impressions and identify which impressions are non-human. I cut the data by auction type – header tag and tag-based to compare the rates of non-human visitors in each.

As you can see, the header tag’s non-human traffic rate hovers around 2% while tag-based NHT is 3%. For each, That’s really low. So low, most of it was likely unavoidable. Why? A small portion of web traffic is ‘good’ bots, not fraud bots — bots that crawl the web, responsible for indexing and evaluating pages. According to Ratko Vidakovic of Marketing Land, some exchanges are in the 25-50% range.

While the NHT rate remained low over the course of the summer, the days when it was highest are interesting. The highest days for header auctions were Wednesday and Thursday, June 22 and 23. Tag-based auctions’ highest days were July 15-July 21. (I can’t help but notice those days perfectly align with the Republican National Convention.)

NHT Across Top Categories, By Integration Type

In addition to NHT exchange wide, we examined NHT across the five biggest publisher categories from June – August 2016, for each type of integration. Let’s start with the header.

Top Publisher Categories by Bid Request on Header-based auctions (June 2016 - August 2016)
Top Publisher Categories by Bid Request on Header-based auctions (June 2016 – August 2016)

Above are the five biggest categories (by bid request) for header-based auctions. News and Commentary is by far the biggest, with nearly 350B requests over the last three months. Sites that fall into this category typically have an enormous amount of inventory.

NHT rates across these five categories are quite low. See below:

site category

Tag-based requests accounted for a much smaller portion of our queries than header requests over the summer months. This is both a function of our strategic focus (on the header) and of how header auctions run. Header auctions result in many more requests than tag-based auctions, as all of the inventory on the page is sent to auction.

Top Publisher Categories by Bid Request (June 2016 - August 2016)
Top Publisher Categories by Bid Request (June 2016 – August 2016)

NHT across these categories is a bit higher than in the top categories for the header. The “Celebrities” category, for instance, saw 6% NHT, which is far higher than the exchange norm.

tag based sites

Header Could Help, But It’s Important to Stay Vigilant

While our rates of NHT are extremely low, not all exchanges are the same. The concern around NHT is something publishers need to continue to take seriously.

Advertisers need to know exactly how the publishers they buy from work. Which exchanges do they sell through? How clean are these exchanges?

Publishers, of course, need to continue to protect the home. Make sure you’re using the appropriate anti-fraud tools and regularly evaluate your rates of non-human traffic.

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