This is the first blog in our "Pharma and Digital Ad Fraud" series. In the coming weeks, we’ll take a close look at the threat bots present and what pharma marketers can do to reduce the risk of ad fraud.
Jupiter Research predicts that in 2018 advertisers will lose $51 million dollars per day to digital ad fraud. Growing advertising budgets and high CPM make pharma a particularly attractive target for cybercriminals. Fortunately, there are ways to protect your marketing budget from fraudulent activity.
Developing a thorough understanding of bots is the first step. We’ll kick off our new bot series by exploring the differences between good bots and bad bots.
What is a Bot?
At its most basic, a bot is “a software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet” (Wikipedia). Bots typically perform simple, repetitive tasks, but these days, they’re everywhere. Bots are found on the web, in smart appliances, self-driving cars, and more.
For digital marketers, web bots usually come to mind first. Even then, there are two kinds to consider.
Good Bots are a Marketer’s Friend
Good bots support the development of the web by analyzing and classifying content. The most common good bots are the webcrawlers, or spiders, that systematically browse the web in order to index content for search engines. These are the bots that recognize quality pharma content and put it at the top of the list for relevant searches.
Google’s indexer is perhaps the best known webcrawler, but Facebook, Pinterest, and countless other sites also use webcrawlers to contextualize webpages for searchability. Other good bots include trader bots, which scour the web looking for the best deals on products you value, and copyright bots, which search for plagiarized content.
Good bots are regulated, and you have some control over how they visit and index your pages.
Bad Bots Undermine Marketing ROI
Bad bots are mostly unregulated and deliberately malicious. They wreak havoc across the web by fraudulently clicking on ads, stealing content, spamming social media accounts, and even impersonating humans to spread misinformation. On the entertainment and retail side, bots buy up in-demand tickets or the season’s biggest toy (think Fingerlings) in a few nanoseconds, and then resell them at 10 times the original price.
In 2018, advertisers will lose $51 million dollars per day to digital ad fraud.
Of these, pharma marketers are concerned primarily with the click bots responsible for ad fraud. When these bots click on ads, they distort your web traffic data.
A recent Healthcare Analytics News article explains an experiment I did that reveals how easily cybercriminals can generate bot traffic. In this experiment, I created a mock medical website that went from zero to 220,000 ad impressions in just a few weeks. But only 0.03 percent was human traffic.
If you’re running pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, you end up paying more than you should for digital advertising. Worse, if you use fraudulent data for marketing planning, your future marketing ROI will also be affected.
How Bad Can It Be?
Across all websites, more than 50 percent of traffic comes from bots. About 23 percent of total traffic is good bots, while approximately 29 percent is bad bots. In pharma and healthcare, the numbers look even worse.
Our research shows that bad bot traffic makes up as much as 60 percent of total traffic on some healthcare websites. On others, it’s as low as 20 percent. (The difference is likely tied to the quality of the publishing environment, as discussed in these recent articles).
Clearly, ad fraud continues to be a major concern for pharma brands. Next week, we’ll begin looking at some of the ways you can protect your digital advertising investment.