Audit body warns of online tricks used to inflate audiences

The Audit Bureaux of Australia has published a report pointing out what it lists as the main dodges used by websites to artificially inflate their audience numbers.

According to the ABA, the most common trick remains autorefresh – where a publisher automatically renews the page – and ad – without the user’s permission. This means that advertisers can be billed for several ad impressions rather than just one. Several of Australia’s major publishers are still using autorefresh.  

ABA boss Paul Dovas said: “Media buyers are spending money on display ads that are going unseen on background browser tabs and even unattended computers.”

Next comes double counting, where a publisher puts two or more tracking tags on each page, so their traffic appears to be double.

Placement of a tracking tag at the top of the page rather than the bottom also helps boost numbers as it counts pages whether they are fully loaded or not. The ABA said: “Although this seems like a minor point, this common tactic has been found to boost traffic by as much as 50% on certain sites so it’s important that tag placement is standardised across all sites.”

Another is sites failing to geo-target their ads to Australia – so ads are potentially served to overseas visitors, who are of little use to the advertisers.

Another way of fooling advertisers, says, the ABA, is “misreporting ‘server hits’ as page impressions, leading to vast overcounting”. Mumbrella has previously reported on AdNews – which is unaudited – adopting the metric of “advertising impressions”, multiplying the number of page impressions it serves by the number of ads on the page to multiply its true numbers by around six and simply publicising these as “impressions”.

The ABA warned: “”All of these traps impact the media evaluation process, impeding media buyers’ ability to fairly assess where to place their ad investment and have confidence in the figures being used. These traps also put trustworthy publishers at an unfair disadvantage because they will be competing with inflated or even fabricated figures.”

The ABA has published a “safe list” of audited publishers and sites. There are now more than 200 sites which have been approved by the ABA as avoiding the dodges listed above.


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