Last Thursday, we reported on unusual huge spike of traffic that were marked as direct traffic sources in analytics. I initially blamed Microsoft, because they are a fun target to blame (no seriously), over Internet Explorer 7 having a bug but that was wrong.
It was an issue with AdRoll, a retargeting advertising solution.
AdRoll officially commented on our site admitting fault after being called out by customers earlier in our comments as the source of the invalid traffic.
This issue was identified as impacting various ad tech companies and we're working actively toward a resolution. The sites generating the invalid traffic have been permanently blacklisted and we've enhanced our algorithms to better detect these types of attacks in the future. Based on our initial research, the issue was isolated to a small number of our advertisers. We are now in process of working with those advertisers who were impacted. If you have questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
i am a product manager at AdRoll and we're aware of this issue and working to resolve it ASAP – i wish we had reached out to you guys sooner, more updates from adroll about this really soon.
please drop me an email (email@example.com) if you have any questions and i'll be sure to escalate to the relevant party, but i believe there'll be an official response ASAP.
It seems like AdRoll will need to refund a lot of money to customers and lock down their ad network even more to these types of abuses.
Here is one chart showing the severity of the increase in fake traffic:
There are temporary solutions to filter out the traffic from your Google Analytics reports, if you want.
So if you use AdRoll, you will want to look into this and make sure you get credits.
Update: AdRoll sent me this statement:
We can confirm that we have identified an issue that impacted a range of ad tech companies, including AdRoll, which resulted in invalid traffic being driven to a portion of our customers’ websites.
As you know, invalid traffic is a real issue in the online advertising industry, and we take these matters very seriously. Fortunately, this particular issue was actually fairly small:
- Only 394 AdRoll advertisers had an impact of over $50
- The vast majority of the advertisers affected had an impact of less than $10
That said, we have taken extensive action to address the issue for any customers that were impacted and to prevent this from happening again:
- All advertisers with any amount of invalid traffic have been proactively credited the appropriate amount
- All invalid traffic data has been removed from our reporting
- We’ve permanently blacklisted the sites generating the invalid traffic and enhanced our algorithms to better detect these types of attacks in the future
- Our dedicated Trust and Safety team will continue to keep watch of issues like this and will receive better alerts when issues occur, so we can notify our customers
We’ve confirmed reports of other networks being impacted as well, so we are working with our supply partners to have checks in place to better pre-filter suspicious publishers in the future. This work should benefit the entire digital ad ecosystem.
We regret any inconvenience this has caused our customers, and urge advertisers to check their accounts and contact us if they have further questions. I have copied the email that went out to the impacted customers below for your reference..