How to Detect Invalid Traffic on YouTube

This article explores how invalid traffic (IVT) on YouTube hurts advertisers. It explains different types of IVT and how to detect them using YouTube Analytics and specialized tools. It concludes with best practices to avoid IVT and a case study showcasing the benefits of using an anti-IVT tool.
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Are you concerned about the performance of your ads on YouTube? Something seems off, and you are far from the results you need?

Invalid traffic on YouTube is a problem you need to address as quickly as possible. The number of creators complaining about IVT on their channels is growing, which means your campaigns might be getting hit by fraudsters. 

In this article, we dive into what invalid traffic on YouTube is and how it impacts the work of advertisers. You can also learn to detect and prevent invalid traffic from draining your budget and skewing your campaigns. 

What is Invalid Traffic on YouTube?

To quote from the Google support page, “Invalid traffic is any activity on your channel that doesn’t come from a real user or a user with genuine interest.” 

Essentially, if there are clicks or views on YouTube videos that do not come from people who are interested in the content, they are considered invalid traffic because they damage the efforts of the creator and the advertiser. 

Types of invalid traffic 

But despite being classified as invalid traffic, they vary in intention and method, so let’s separate them into different types of IVT: click fraud, view fraud, and unintentional invalid traffic.

Click Fraud

Click fraud on YouTube refers to situations in which a fraudster clicks on the ads displayed on videos. That leads to ad budget waste as the advertisers do not reach the right users.

As for the creators, they are affected by YouTube’s policies against IVT by having fewer ads on their videos and a significant drop in RPM (revenue per 1000 views).

View Fraud

This type of IVT consists of manipulating view counts using viewbots, software that simulates video playback, or video embeds on pages with low traffic. 

Unintentional Invalid Traffic

Not all types of IVT are malicious. Unintentional invalid traffic is persistent, and it can happen to any creator.

In several cases, supportive family members or friends who want to help a YouTube creator increase their view count as quickly as possible end up watching their videos repeatedly.

Despite being harmless, it is still invalid traffic.

Why is Invalid Traffic on YouTube a Concern for Advertisers?

YouTube’s monetization model makes it a preferred target for fraudulent activity.

Creators earn revenue mainly through the ads displayed on their videos. The more views a video has, the more ad impressions it generates, thus leading to higher earnings. 

That makes YouTube more susceptible to view count inflation by third-party fraudsters, and even some creators, to increase revenue, leading to wasted ad budgets on uninterested users.

The Impact of Invalid Traffic on YouTube Advertisers

Now that we have gone through what invalid traffic is and what forms it can take, let's analyze the reasons why advertisers should be on the lookout for invalid traffic on YouTube.

Financial Losses

Invalid traffic on YouTube makes advertisers lose money on clicks and impressions that do not translate to customer interest. 

IVT is responsible for inflating view counts and generating fake clicks, which harms the performance of both Cost-Per-Mille (CPM) and Cost-Per-Click (CPC) ads by draining the ad budget.

View and click inflation naturally leads to cost inflation. In other words, if an ad has a high Clickthrough Rate (CTR) and low conversion, the artificial clicks or impressions will likely inflate your Cost-Per-Lead (CPL).

Misleading Metrics

Another harmful consequence of getting invalid traffic on YouTube is its impact on key metrics. IVT in the form of fake views and clicks can skew essential data like view count and CTR.

In addition, it can also distort engagement metrics, such as likes, comments, and shares, making it extremely difficult for advertisers to identify the demographics and interests that genuinely resonate with the target audience.

By becoming unreliable indicators of genuine interaction, these metrics can taint the decision-making process and lead to misguided investments. 

For example, you might allocate more budget to channels of demographics with inflated metrics, failing to reach the audience that would convert more consistently. 

Decreased ROI

As a result of the inflated CPL and skewed metrics, invalid traffic lowers the overall return on investment (ROI) for ad campaigns. 

The effects of IVT make you spend money presenting your product or service to an audience that is not interested and will not make purchases.

That significantly lowers the return you see on your ad investment.

Common Sources of Invalid Traffic on YouTube

Bots: One of the most common sources of invalid traffic on YouTube is automated bots. They are programmed to mimic human behavior and can be set to play videos repeatedly, click on ads, and even leave generic comments using emojis, for instance. 

Click Farms: Click farms consist of large operations where humans or bots play videos or click repeatedly on ads.

Misleading Embeds: Sometimes, videos are embedded in odd or fraudulent websites filled with bots, bringing in invalid traffic. 

How to Detect Invalid Traffic on YouTube

As an advertiser, it is important to know how you can use YouTube Analytics and other tools to read your audience, establish patterns, and identify anomalies.

Let's look at some simple steps that can save your campaigns:

Monitoring Traffic Patterns

Monitoring the channel analytics is one of the most effective ways to detect invalid traffic on YouTube. 

Select videos with more views than the rest and enter the analytics page.

Check the “Reach” Tab

Here, you should analyze traffic origin. Check the information regarding external sources and verify whether the traffic comes from reputable sources.

Check the “Audience” Tab

Analyze the locations of the audience in “Top Geographies."

Ensure most of the channel’s audience is in an area where users can resonate with the content and language of the channel. Some locations, namely third-world countries, are more associated with IVT than others.

Check the “Revenue” Tab

Check revenue and see the Cost-Per-Mille (CPM) metrics:

  • CPM: the cost you pay for 1000 impressions
  • Playback-based CPM: the cost you pay for 1000 playbacks.

Compare the CPM with your CTR. If the CTR is significantly higher than average and is followed by an equally high CPM, you could be facing fraudulent activity.

A very low CTR can also be a red flag, as it means you are reaching uninterested users.

Analyzing Engagement Metrics

Be sure to analyze how the audience interacts with the content. Understanding the audience’s engagement on YouTube is crucial for optimizing your strategy.  

Check the “Engagement” Tab

Select this tab and look for “Average view duration.” A high view count with a low average watch time is a sign that something might be off. 

As you scroll down, you can find other important engagement metrics, such as:

Audience retention in the form of a graph

Likes & dislikes count

Comment count

Compare the metrics across similar videos to see if a video’s engagement is strangely low. 

Using Specialized Tools

YouTube Analytics can only take you so far, so it is crucial to invest in specialized tools that protect your ads against fraudulent activity. 

Advanced tools like Spider AF use the latest technology to provide detailed information about your ad clicks and views and take immediate action against invalid traffic if detected. 

How Spider AF Can Help Detect and Prevent Invalid Traffic

Spider AF can make a difference in your ad performance. Here is how our cutting-edge tools protect you against fraudsters:

Advanced Detection Algorithms

Spider AF combines machine learning and behavioral analysis to detect and block invalid traffic. 

Our advanced algorithms are constantly evolving to keep up with the latest tactics used by fraudsters, ensuring that you are protected against fraudulent activity carried out by all types of bots, even the most sophisticated ones.

Real-Time Monitoring

Real-time monitoring is a powerful tool because it is like having a sort of digital security guard, allowing you to get a faster response as soon as the fraudsters are detected. 

Spider AF uses a Javascript tag to capture device and session user signals. Using this combined with several lists, we detect and block invalid traffic. 

After detection, we prevent suspicious clicks from entering your database with our real-time blocking feature.

Comprehensive Reporting

Spider AF provides you with detailed reporting on the performance of your campaigns. Our reporting tools allow you to see exactly how your campaigns perform, giving you valuable insights to optimize your website and advertising efforts. 

Spider AF’s dashboard contains a section dedicated to ad network breakdowns with nearly real-time updates. You can see the most important metrics you should track to detect invalid traffic by network and campaign.

You can also find insights in each section of our dashboard and download them to analyze or share them with your team. Additionally, our Customer Success team usually sends reports, and you can set up a meeting with the team and clarify any doubts about the results provided.

How Spider AF Helped Detect a Loss of $2,894 in Three Days

Savas Tutumlu, a seasoned Performance Marketer, resorted to Spider AF to improve his campaign performance metrics.

Within the trial period of just three days, Spider AF uncovered an alarming $2,894 of ad expenditure lost to placements on irrelevant websites, resulting in 106 fraudulent registrations.

Three months after integrating Spider AF, Savas Tutumlu experienced significant improvements: his Cost per Acquisition (CPA) improved by 14%, indicating more efficient spending on acquiring leads; additionally, there was a 12% increase in Conversion Rate (CVR), leading to a higher number of successful conversions within the same advertising budget. 

Savas Tutumlu saved $516.37 in ad click costs on one ad placement that generated 26 irrelevant conversions, and we forecast he can save approximately $28,940 in blocked placements across irrelevant websites. 

Best Practices for Advertisers to Avoid Invalid Traffic on YouTube

Do you want to stop invalid traffic on YouTube from damaging your campaigns? Take these simple steps to drastically reduce the impact of IVT on your budget.

Perform Regular Traffic Audits

Do not wait for the problems to come your way. Schedule regular audits of your ad traffic data and look for activity that is out of the ordinary.

Keep an eye out for key metrics, such as the geographic origin of clicks and view duration. 

Partner with Reputable YouTube Channels

Your choice of business partners is crucial for your ads’ performance.

Conduct a thorough analysis before partnering with a YouTube channel and choose reputable channels with a history of genuine engagement and content that aligns with your target audience and brand values. 

Using Ad Verification Tools

Invest in ad verification tools that help you detect IVT quickly through constant monitoring using sophisticated technology, such as Spider AF.

Real-time monitoring, source identification, and detailed reports are essential to stop invalid traffic on YouTube from damaging your campaigns. 

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