Is Your Money Safe With Pay-Per-View?

Pay-Per-View is important, but what about impression fraud?
Pay-Per-View is important, but what about impression fraud?

Pay-per-view is when you display an advert and pay for every time it is displayed. Often you are charged a set amount for every thousand or so impressions. This has long been a standard for online advertising that has run alongside pay-per-click models.

However, there are limitations for this model; firstly, you cannot guarantee that views are going to generate leads or that the right audience will be viewing your advert.

And secondly, you could face Impression Fraud. This is where a pay-per-view network intentionally deceives the advertisers into thinking more people have seen their advert. A 2015 paper by Kevin Springborn and Paul Barford, found that impression fraud is high and a serious threat to businesses.

Types Of Impression Fraud

There are several types of impression fraud. The most common are:

Hidden Ad Impressions: fraudsters place teeny one-pixel-by-one-pixel windows on a website and serve adverts through these. It is virtually impossible to see the adverts and fraudsters could have hundreds on a webpage and you wouldn’t know it. One report found 85 adverts hidden on a single webpage.

Fake Sites: websites are created with only advertising spaces. These sites generate little traffic, but with bots and enough of them, revenue for fraudsters can be high.

Paid Traffic: Publishers buy ‘traffic’ from third parties to generate a higher numbers of visitors. Reports have found that 52% of these visitors are usually bots and most visits occur between midnight and 7 am.

Retargeting Fraud: Bots are programmed to mimic specific and desirable consumer behaviour. The bot will go to specific websites and act as if they are interested in a purchase, but not complete the transaction. Then they will go to other websites inside the retargeting network and trigger the retargeting campaign to be active.

The Cost To Your Business

The study by Kevin Springborn and Paul Barford found that this a growing concern for businesses. Pay-per-view is reliant on a healthy and clean industry with website owners being honest in their delivery of traffic. However, they were able to mimic the way fraudsters operate and within their small network estimate that they generated 500 million false impressions.

This was despite the fact that they monitored only ten pay-per-view networks. There are millions of them available on the web, and all are susceptible to fraud.

Based on the average cost per thousand impressions (CPM), the two researchers would have earned $1.4 million. That was using a relatively small network and when you consider the size of the industry, the amount lost to Impression Fraud must be massive.

For your own business, this translates into higher spending and a lower ROI. These can lead to an expensive marketing campaign that provides you with no real results.

Combating Pay-Per-View Fraud

To combat fraud in this industry, Springborn and Barford suggest three changes. These include:

Viewport Size Filters: Advertisers insert a javascript code into their adverts that check the size of the advert displayed on the website. If the advert space isn’t big enough, the advert will not display. In the study, this would have reduced the number of false impressions by 40%.

Use Of Blacklists: Advertisers could use blacklists to remove undesirable networks from displaying their advert. However, this system doesn’t work if iFrames are in use on a website. However, during the study, 99.51% of all bought traffic impressions would have been prevented.

Publisher Blacklists: As well as banning networks, your business could ban publishers with poor reputations. One website suggests when looking at publishers, look for these warning signs that they might not be legitimate:

  • No ‘about us’ page.
  • No dates for published content or by-lines.
  • Duplicate content from third party sites.
  • The website layout is poor.
  • There are more than five advert slots.


Impression fraud is here, and it is hard to detect and combat. You will need to actively challenge its presence to save your business money if you advertise through a pay-per-view model.  By creating and using safety measures, your campaigns are much more likely to be successful.

Have you had trouble with a pay-per-view campaign? What went wrong?

Let us know in the comments below.