What Is a Viewbot and How Can You Stop Them Ruining Your Campaigns?
If you’ve dealt with ad fraud before, you know just how pervasive it can be -- and the online streaming world isn’t immune to it. Viewbots are draining advertisers’ budgets by inadvertently targeting paid banner and video ads.
Designed to create fake engagement on online streaming platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Gaming, TikTok, and Instagram, viewbots are playing havoc with advertisers’ online campaigns.
If you’re scratching your head and asking yourself, “What is a viewbot?”, we’re here to help. Here, we’ll explain what a viewbot is, how its use negatively affects advertisers, and how you can prevent viewbotting from destroying your ad campaigns.
What is a viewbot?
A viewbot is essentially a bad bot created to watch videos or live streams, resulting in fake views, live view counts, and other channel statistics. They are used primarily by streamers who want to catapult themselves to higher places on online leaderboards to gain exposure and obtain real subscribers, followers, and views.
Viewbotting -- the technique that employs viewbots -- is used across many online streaming platforms, including Twitch, YouTube Gaming, Mixer, and even on music streaming and metaverse platforms.
The objective behind using viewbots is similar to that of click farms: They both intend to boost engagement metrics and inflate impressions. The difference is that while click fraud consists of fake clicks, viewbots generate fake views.
Why has viewbotting become such a popular tactic?
Recognizing the potential of platforms such as Twitch, which has 30 million daily active users, advertisers are increasingly investing in influencers, content creators, and channels to reach specific audiences -- especially younger generations. Combine this with the fact that those content creators and influencers are extremely keen to get as many views and subscribers as possible (the amount they earn increases as their viewership grows), and a perfect viewbotting storm is created.
Often, new content creators begin their streaming careers by buying views to get a headstart on their subscriber base and manipulate algorithms into showing their videos to more (genuine) users.
What does this mean for advertisers?
Advertisers running ad campaigns on channels that are being viewbotted will be negatively impacted.
Since viewbots are relatively cheap (many also offer free trials) to use, access, and implement, content creators can instantly buy as many views that they like. And not only do viewbots inflate channel and video views, but the same bots also view any paid banner and video ads on display.
However, despite the dishonest intentions behind the use of viewbots, viewbotting is not yet illegal. In fact, there are plenty of viewbotting services out there -- all streamers have to do is pay a monthly subscription fee based on how many fake views they want.
What other types of bots target the livestreaming and video content industry?
The most common type of viewbot pretends to be a real viewer watching a video or a livestream. However, other types of bots in the livestreaming and video content industry can perform malicious activities.
Engagement bots, for example, comment on posts as if they were real users in an attempt to increase engagement metrics. Chat impersonation bots also intend to artificially inflate engagement metrics by spamming the chat sections of livestream videos with automated messages.
Why is viewbotting detrimental to your ad campaigns?
At this point, you’re probably wondering how exactly video streamers' purchase of fake followers and the inflation of their engagement metrics directly impact your campaigns.
Advertisers are often unaware of how severely viewbots affect their efforts. Here are the main impacts that viewbots have on advertisers and their campaigns.
Viewbotting results in huge revenue losses for advertisers
If viewbots are present on channels on which advertisers run ads, they will steal their ad revenue.
When viewbots view channels, and therefore the paid ads too, advertisers are paying the platform, content creator, or influencer for fake views. While the streamer earns money for displaying the ad, advertisers receive nothing in return.
Advertisers that pay per impression/view (commonly found in CPM campaigns) are wasting money and missing out on real opportunities.
As the use of viewbots increases, so does its contribution to the larger ad fraud problem, which is estimated to cost $100 billion per year by 2023.
Viewbotting generates misleading/false impressions
Viewbots artificially inflate engagement metrics, creating distrust in advertiser-influencer partnerships.
As an advertiser, you’re used to vetting influencers and channels to select the best, most appropriate homes for your campaigns. Since it’s not immediately obvious to advertisers that viewbots are being used to exaggerate popularity statistics, they’re vulnerable to investing in channels/partners that can’t provide them with any return on investment.
Whether the channel’s owner is intentionally using viewbots or the channel has been infiltrated with them unknowingly, advertisers are left feeling betrayed and with much lighter pockets.
Viewbotting skews campaign analytics
When your campaigns are hit by viewbots, not only is your ad budget drained but your ability to make future decisions is impacted, too.
Failing to identify viewbots means that advertisers suffer setbacks in the way they make decisions on where to invest their ad spend. Since viewbots can generate countless views, advertisers’ campaign metrics can often appear more successful than they actually are.
Then, your ability to strategize future campaigns is tainted by skewed metrics and data, which are among some of the most destructive impacts of fraudulent ad interactions.
How can advertisers prevent viewbots from damaging their ad campaigns?
Viewbotting goes against the terms of service of many of the major platforms, including Twitch, YouTube, and Instagram. These platforms also encourage users and advertisers to report suspected viewbotting activity so that they can take action by way of bans and the demonetization of channels. However, viewbotting is still considered a civil matter and is not yet illegal.
This means it's up to advertisers who use these channels for their campaigns to protect themselves from viewbots.
1. Do-it-yourself methods
There are a few ways to detect viewbot activity manually. Here’s what to look out for when assessing channels, influencers, and content creators:
- High view to low chat ratios: Videos with a high view count but few comments or engagements can be a telltale sign of viewbots.
- Repetitive, generic comments: While some viewbots can successfully engage in live chats, high numbers of similar, bland comments -- such as “Amazing!” or “Wow, love it” -- are indicators of viewbot activity. Also, watch out for comments unrelated to the content.
- High subscriber to low view ratios: Unrealistic subscriber/view ratios are something to look out for. For example, a YouTube channel with 5,000 subscribers and millions of views could indicate the presence of viewbots.
While these indicators are useful to recognize, the efficiency of manual methods is quite limited. It’s highly unrealistic to assume that advertisers with large audiences have time to comb through each channel’s statistics to detect viewbots -- or any other type of ad fraud.
2. Use a fraud prevention solution software
With the rise of sophisticated viewbots, advertisers need a full-funnel, cross-channel defense against not just viewbots but all types of ad fraud.
Rather than relying on manual methods to detect the presence of fraud, a specialized anti-fraud solution can automatically detect invalid traffic deriving from advanced ad fraud techniques before it has the chance to destroy your campaigns.
The best anti-fraud solutions will allow you to both detect and prevent viewbots from depleting your advertising budgets.
Viewbots are just one piece of the larger ad fraud puzzle
Viewbots are part of a larger landscape of ad fraud that affects advertisers and marketers. Understanding exactly how viewbotting is performed gives you a much better chance of succeeding in preventing it from devastating your ad campaigns.
However, as with all cases of ad fraud, proactive prevention is better than reactive measures. Anti-fraud solution Opticks provides you with the viewability into your campaigns that you need to detect invalid traffic and stop ad fraud before in its tracks.
Want to learn more about how the expert team at Opticks can help prevent ad fraud before it can impact your advertising campaigns? Contact us here to schedule a free demo.