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A Google Spin On Unseen Impressions


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#1 iamlost

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 11:28 AM

Analytics is a funny critter. Sort of like The Blind Men and the Elephant (Note: while the story is ancient I'm partial to this poetical version) wherein truths can be limited. Even (deliberately) misconstrued.

A month or so ago I posted Fool Me Once... Fool Me Twice... noting the Road to Damascus moment of an enterprise CMO and the dirty little ad impression 'secret'.

Now Google itself has released a study, The Importance of Being Seen, Viewability Insights for Digital Marketers and Publishers, (pdf file, 496KB), November-2014, that agrees to 56.1% of their ads being served not being seen - but still counted as impressions.

There is a nice dollap of information provided BUT the twists and turns and exceptions are very telling and on which I'll be commenting; go read it for the good stuff, there is some. :)

The biggest laugh - if one is an advertiser - is that Google uses the Media Rating Council and IAB standard of a viewable impression as: 50% of an ads pixels are on screen for one second. Yup, that's a 'viewed' ad, folks!

The most obvious twist is Google's always following the 56.1% unseen number with - and highlighting - average publisher viewability is 50.2%. Yup, the percentage is skewed by a 'small' aka 10% number (20% by my interpretation) of sites. It is interesting to note that Google, while noting this, says nothing about addressing it.

Their turn (following the twist) is the graph showing that vertical ads are seen more... given that it is more likely that 50% of a vertical ad will be seen at or below the fold this is not exactly surprising.

And then here comes the exception: study based on display (but not including video) ads rendered in browsers only.

Me thinks, that while there is a lot of useful information provided (go read), the manipulation and benchmark shenanigans lower the percentages substantially. That doing so still can't get below 50% overall is hysterically troubling. For advertisers.

Lies, damned lies and statistics... in a similar vein to the above is how the shale gas reserves are being calculated (included for our resident geologist) by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) and a new university study. Natural gas: The fracking fallacy by Mason Inman, Nature, 03-December-2014.
 

 

The main difference between the Texas and EIA forecasts may come down to how fine-grained each assessment is. The EIA breaks up each shale play by county, calculating an average well productivity for that area. But counties often cover more than 1,000 square kilometres, large enough to hold thousands of horizontal fracked wells. The Texas team, by contrast, splits each play into blocks of one square mile (2.6 square kilometres) — a resolution at least 20 times finer than the EIA's.

Resolution matters because each play has sweet spots that yield a lot of gas, and large areas where wells are less productive. Companies try to target the sweet spots first, so wells drilled in the future may be less productive than current ones. The EIA's model so far has assumed that future wells will be at least as productive as past wells in the same county.

 

 

Analytics.
GIGO.
What it says on the box may not be what is inside.
Caveat emptor.

 



#2 bobbb

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 12:06 PM

What they don't address is: Do they charge RPM for ads not seen?

I suspect Yes.



#3 tam

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 02:46 PM

Does google sell by impression too - I thought it was clicks? To be honest I thought a page load counted as an impression, so that they don't actually count it unless the ad shows (however briefly) on the screen makes it more accurate than I'd have expected.



#4 EGOL

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 04:38 PM

Google ads work these ways...

 

* advertiser pays per click

 

* advertiser pays per impression

 

* advertiser pays per action (sale, sign-up, or other goal)



#5 earlpearl

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Posted 08 December 2014 - 05:12 PM

"back in the day" for our local smbs that ran adwords on a regional basis and when google was giving keyword data...I would run an analysis based on total impressions in that area and all clicks on our basic phrases.  Those phrases were our most popular.  We'd show organically, via ads, and via LOCAL or the google maps insert.

 

For some sites, we had great coverage with #1 organics, #1 maps, and we usually ran #1 in adwords.

 

When we were at our strongest we would see ranges of about 60-75% of clicks to impressions.  Really high.  

 

Highest rates were for searches for our name--> branding searches.  But we also had rates of 60% or more for some discovery searches in our region, where we had dominant organic/LOCAL-Maps) visibility...all the while with 24/7 adwords coverage.

 

I tested that for a variety of phrases for a variety of smbs (small to medium businesses) in different markets (regions).   We had some really dominant web presence for search terms...and we got some of those ABOVE 50% clicks on all impressions in those market areas.    (REALLY GREAT imho).    and of course we had terms with less and less market share of all the impressions per phrase.

 

At least on those wherein we were nicely over 50% clicks of all the impressions its difficult for me to buy into the "56% of all ads/impressions are never seen by humans"  theory...unless of course...bots were seeing our ads and organics...and bots were clicking on the pages.

 

But we had plenty of leads to back up the data on number of visits to the pages.

 

On the other hand, I'm sure there is some level of accuracy to those claims.  Some of these smbs are quite old; we've been measuring marketing efforts and successes since pre internet days.  Some were dependent on Newspapers.  They would report some readership stats ...etc..  and its quite obvious if they reported some readership data (that was audited)....clearly/clearly/clearly  a tiny minority of readers of those local media sources would see our ads.    Likewise if you are running ads on a billboard with daily traffic that drives by it and reportedly has drive by traffic of 30,000 cars/day....how many of those drivers or passengers ever look at your ad on that billboard????   

 

The billboard example is extreme...maybe 1/10 of 1% of the drive by traffic gets any sense of the billboard ad...but the group buying the ad gets billed on the basis of the drive by traffic of 30,000 cars/day.   

 

I'm sure there is truth to that advertising info...but its not materially different from other advertising sources over time.   (Unless I'm missing something)

 

You really have to assess many many metrics to try and make sense of all this data ....no one piece on its own tells a complete story.

 

(meanwhile I read the article about assessing gas reserves.   I found that very interesting and a situation of significance that is also subject to much new analysis...>  I bet that analysis will change over time as its new and evolving.   But very interesting on many levels.)



#6 earlpearl

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 04:51 PM

So I just got an invite//contact from a google adwords rep to once again go down the merry path...as they update us...and show us ways to spend more money.   Such nice and courteous folks.

 

So many aspects to ads...and ad impressions, etc etc etc.

 

Our new to be friend at google sent me a reminder for one of our smbs.  He referenced 40,000 plus impressions last month and just under 1k clicks on our ads.  (did they really click or not--how the heck do I know?????).

 

This acct, as with others is irking the heck out of me.  I just looked at several Novembers over the last few years--just to check.  We are spending roughly twice what we spent 3 years ago...and greater multiples than that.  For roughly the same number of clicks.   Adwords Click volume has been consistent over quite a few years.  Its costs that have gone through the roof.

 

Our new friend at google wrote us that he wants to HELP US.  --> yeah, right.  I believe that like I believe in a hole in the head.

 

Our cpc (costs per click) have about doubled in the last 3 years while seeing steady increases in the interim.  

 

I've referenced this before...in other threads on adwords.   Impressions, that which IamLost referenced above, have increased for these campaigns at a monumental level---16,500 in November 2010 and over 41,000 this past month.

 

I really haven't done much to change the thing...except pare  down the geographical reach most recently.  

 

So....yesseree bob....our ads are showing ....and people aren't seeing them...or the so called impressions are being seen by bots....or something else is going on.  

 

Meanwhile our total volume of leads is comparable to past periods and our volume of sales is comparable---->>>  BUT IMPRESSIONS have increased by roughly 2.5 times.

 

What is occurring on this acct and others is that the folks at the googleplex are showing our ads all over the place.

 

These days if I'm advertising for blue widgets  google is showing those ads for Lady Sings the Blues: Blue on Blue-Heartache on HeartAche: the BluePlate Special:   Blue Suits, Blue Underwear, BLACK AND BLUE....and endless variations.   Likewise for our CORE search phrases I see all kinds of cr@ppy arsed SHIP that has no relevance to our core phrases....but it increases the base competition....and drives our click costs up!!!!!!!!   (I'm feeling black and blue from a google beating!!!!!!!!!!)

 

So some years ago, I'd get the roughly same number of clicks and the ctr (click through rate) was about 6%.  Now I have the same number of clicks and the CTR is about 2%.

 

Realistically....who cares if my ads are being seen by BOTS or my ads are being seen for something incredibly irrelevant for our smb and its services.  It has the same impact.   We don't get anymore business.

 

Anyway, I'm going to prepare for this get together with our newest best google friend.  I want to cut costs.  Can this guy help us???????????????????????



#7 bobbb

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 09:39 PM

So....yesseree bob....our ads are showing

That's what I thought and I'm think that if the ad is below the fold or lower and the visitor does not go there you get hit for an impression 'cause if I'm being paid RPM then someone is paying CPM. Their stats tell us not everyone goes to the bottom if the publisher has ads there.

 

Just like in the print world you pay by circulation. If you have a kick-donkey ad in the sports section and I don't read that you still pay. Not much that can be done. G will just quote "my line"

 

The bots don't see them. They don't read javascript.

 

Maybe just run ads in the top half of a page on only above the fold if possible.



#8 bobbb

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 09:47 PM

Funny Kim started a thread http://www.cre8asite...rtising-bureau/ and look what I see in the anti fraud section http://www.iab.net/m...enter/antifraud

 

The rapid and continued growth of the digital advertising ecosystem has allowed less scrupulous businesses to participate, unnoticed by their partners.  The complex interconnectivity of the ecosystem means that even well-intentioned participants may serve the goals of these unscrupulous ones, feeding money into an infrastructure designed not to deliver the right ad at the right time to the right user, but rather to extract the maximum amount of money from the digital advertising ecosystem, regardless of the presence of an audience.  This outflow of legitimate advertiser dollars to fraudsters results in poor actual ROI for the entire digital advertising ecosystem, reducing the perceived value when compared against other media types

 

 

Recognise anyone there? Just had to post.



#9 earlpearl

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Posted 11 December 2014 - 12:05 PM

Funny Kim started a thread http://www.cre8asite...rtising-bureau/ and look what I see in the anti fraud section http://www.iab.net/m...enter/antifraud

 

 

Recognise anyone there? Just had to post.

Its freaking pervasive.  Name a company on the web....and its everywhere.   I was working on Bing's newly changed system, and trying to both find places where some ads were run...and getting some tracking up...

 

With a bing customer service rep, we found an ad run on one of bing's partners.   It turns out to be one of those "spammy search engines" that gets downloaded to your site on occasion....and are a pita to remove.

 

Look up that search engine....and there are endless links to documents on how to remove that "SE" from your computer.  

 

What endless trash!!!!!



#10 glyn

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Posted 11 December 2014 - 05:07 PM

Seems appropriate to drop this report in, which was published two days ago [Link]

 

 

NEW YORK – December 9, 2014 – Almost a quarter of video ad impressions and more than half of third party sourced traffic is fraudulent, according to the ANA
(Association of National Advertisers) and online fraud detection firm
White Ops' study of bot fraud in the digital advertising industry.

The ANA/White Ops study
analyzed 181 campaigns from 36 ANA member companies, which were tagged
to identify bot fraud. During the study, 5.5 billion impressions in 3
million domains were measured over 60 days in line with industry
spending patterns. Bot fraud originates from malicious sites with phony
ad traffic that passes through both legitimate and "phantom" elements of
the digital advertising ecosystem.  Fraudsters collect payments from
advertisers for non-human impressions.

Topline findings from the study conducted in August and September 2014 include:

  • Botnet controllers hijack everyday consumers' identities and home machines to conduct ad fraud
  • Almost a quarter (23 percent) of video ad impressions were identified as bot fraud
  • Eleven percent of display ad impressions were classified as bot fraud
  • Publishers who bought sourced traffic from a third party, as a means
    to drive additional unique visitors to their site, had a bot fraud rate
    of 52 percent on that sourced traffic
  • Programmatic display bot traffic averaged 17 percent bot fraud
  • Bot fraud for retargeted ads was 19 percent

The study also revealed that bot fraud levels vary across the day
with peak activity occurring when users are sleeping, but their
computers are still awake, between midnight and 7am. Additionally,
impressions coming from older browsers such as IE6 (Internet Explorer 6) and IE7 had fraud levels of 58 and 46 percent, respectively.

In response to the findings, the ANA, in collaboration with White Ops, has created an action plan
for the key industry players — advertisers, agencies, publishers — to
substantially reduce bot fraud. The action plan includes key tactical
advice on how to structure business operations in a way that will
protect against ad fraud. Among the recommendations are:

  • Advertise During Waking Hours
  • Demand Transparency for Sourced Traffic
  • Include Language on Non-Human Traffic In Terms and Conditions
  • Announce Your Anti-Fraud Policy to All External Partners
  • Use independent monitoring and conduct ongoing fraud analysis of advertising traffic

In all, 17 recommendations have been put forth to help fight bot fraud.

Bob Liodice, President and CEO of the ANA commented: "The findings
from this study and our industry action plan reflect the joint mission
of the ANA, IAB and 4A's to create a trustworthy supply chain. The
eradication of bot fraud is critical to the ongoing health of the
internet and the ANA is taking the steps necessary to meet this
challenge.   

"This report identifies specific practices marketers, agencies and
publishers can immediately implement to combat fraud and the fraudsters
that perpetrate it. The ANA is committed to working closely with our
industry partners to support this critical mission. We invite the entire
ecosystem to collaborate and invest the necessary resources to
reinvigorate trust and confidence in the digital supply chain."

 "This study confirmed some prior assumptions and fears, but it is
not about sowing distrust or policing ecosystem partners," said Michael
Tiffany, White Ops CEO. "It's about stopping outright criminal theft. Ad
fraud is hugely profitable and is one of the major sources of funding
for a global underground responsible for a broad spectrum of cybercrime.
To protect this cash cow, adversaries are aggressive, smart and
adaptable. As such, the results of this study should not be about
building better mousetraps, but about driving substantive change in the
industry to alter the economics for criminals, and ultimately drive them
out of business."

###

 

I have always had a problem with the level of transparency being applied on adwords campaign and I think that hiding IP addresses from Google analytics on the basis of protecting peoples personal information on the one hand, while attempting to consolidate privacy policies across various services that Google run, on the other, to be pretty bad.

 

Glyn.


Edited by glyn, 11 December 2014 - 05:09 PM.


#11 bobbb

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Posted 11 December 2014 - 06:35 PM

These days if I'm advertising for blue widgets  google is showing those ads for Lady
Sings the Blues: Blue on Blue-Heartache on HeartAche: the BluePlate
Special:   Blue Suits, Blue Underwear, BLACK AND BLUE....
and endless variations.   Likewise for our CORE search
phrases I see all kinds of cr@ppy arsed SHIP that has no relevance to
our core phrases....but it increases the base competition....and drives
our click costs up!!!!!!!!

I was more thinking your statement with

 

, feeding money into an infrastructure designed not to deliver the right
ad at the right time to the right user, but rather to extract the
maximum amount of money from the digital advertising ecosystem,
regardless of the presence of an audience

Almost your words



#12 earlpearl

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Posted 11 December 2014 - 07:07 PM

@ bobbb    yep!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

On the adwords side, as I look at our "impressions" they have doubled, tripled and quadrupled over the years.  We have not made substantial changes at all.  Same stuff going into the same markets/regions with the same populations....but google has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled the impressions.  

 

The following graph shows the EXTRA impressions google is running for one of our campaigns

 

other search terms.gif

 

From that data google is gving us DETAIL on 7,000+ impressions and clicks associated with them for pretty relevant terms....but for 22,000+ they aren't telling us anything.  That is where they are running the ads for something like blue widgets for completely irrelevant stuff such as Blue on Blue, Black and Blue, and Blue Meanies.   Its why we get such a miserable click through rate....

 

Its the "google way"



#13 earlpearl

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Posted 18 December 2014 - 10:17 AM

We had a marketing sales guy approach us for one of smbs with a lot of remarketing approaches, and technologies involving "buying impressions" or data abt potential customers visiting competitor sites, yada yada yada.

 

I suppose this is where unseen impressions come into play.   The sales pitch was professional and attractive:   The likelihood of our acting on this are slim or none....with the emphasis on none.   We are doing some very limited remarketing for one smb.  So far I don't like the results.  



#14 glyn

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Posted Today, 08:21 AM

.14% conversion, boy is that google tech working well! Heaven forbid those impressions be robots..nah never right?

#15 EGOL

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Posted Today, 08:45 AM

Seems appropriate to drop this report in, which was published two days ago [Link]

 

The only way the folks in this system can make money is to control sites where the impressions and clicks are taking place.  If these clicks are bogus then the conversion rates for traffic coming from those websites should be horrible and the marketing managers of any vendor paying for this traffic should be able to remove those websites from their campaigns.   So, any vendor who is not monitoring his traffic or allowing his advertising to be run by companies who don't have a handle on the conversion data, then they are going to be the victims. 

 

The poor producing domains could have fraudulent clicks being generated by bots, or the human traffic quality there is just so low that the ads are not worth running, or the ads are so poorly placed that nobody will see them.  Anybody who runs ads should be watching the conversion rate on at least a domain level basis and cutting off ads to domains where nothing is happening.  If they are not doing that then they are not very smart.

 

Ad networks also are to blame because they should be approving the websites that display their ads on a domain level basis.  If they have a system like google adwords that connects conversion information with the domains where ads are displayed, they should be able to detect problematic websites that are poor producers - either done by bots or by extremely low quality human traffic. 

 

So, looking back at the original article, what does that tell you about the "36 ANA member companies" who blew a lot of money on "5.5 billion impressions"?  They should be showing their ads on a lot of domains that produce horribly, just cut them off.



#16 bobbb

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Posted Today, 12:44 PM

That was an overall informative article. It answered many questions to which I had suspicions. I realise the document was intended for the "advertisement world" where the jargon is understood instinctively. When, for example, I read "consuming video inventory" my reaction was "Wow, Yeah, I understand it but 'watching video ads' works well too. Really". Reminds me of when I use "male bovine fecal matter" here because I may not use the real term.

Also too bad it did not use real life examples instead of everything being abstract. A bit of finger pointing and naming names would have been nice. Yes, I know, they don't want to be sued. Maybe the finger might have pointed to one of their "strategic partners" affecting it directly or indirectly like Google just for example. The finger pointing could have been hidden using a bit of "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" or "just for example" sarcasm type writing.  Know what I mean? Know what I mean?

Perhaps this is the closest they got to pointing fingers. Kinda clear the agents delivering traffic would engage the bots.
 

When advertisers demand more traffic, often at the end of the week, month, and quarter, the differential between
available humans and advertiser demand for traffic can be made up with bots.




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