Online Advertising Fraud

In May, we published a blog article on Display Ads. We outlined how these ads can complement your printed catalog for attracting new prospects. Although this approach can be successful, it may not be reaching your audience as often as you think.

Yesterday, Mathew Ingram from Fortune magazine published an online article “There’s a ticking time bomb inside the online advertising market” where he claimed, “Half of all online ads are never seen by a human being, huge amounts of traffic and clicks come from bot networks, and fraud is rampant.” Is online advertising worth the investment? The answer is still probably yes. Monitoring your Google analytics closely might help you understand when bots are creating many of the clicks (impressions).

Here are a few suggestions to consider changing in your Google Analytics filters according to Rob Flaherty from Parsnip:

New Visitor

Generally speaking, bots do not store cookies so bots will always appear as New Visitors. You can select New Visitors by using a Count of Visits = 1 filter.

Visit Duration

Visit Duration in Google Analytics is calculated when a user triggers an event or visits a second page. Because cookies are required to string together multiple pageviews into a visit, bots will always report a Visit Duration of zero seconds. You can filter for this with Visit Duration = 0.


Bot visits will not contain a referrer, meaning they will always show up as Direct Traffic. The filter for this is Source exactly matches (direct).

Page Depth

This is the same explanation as for Visit Duration. Bots will appear as single-page visits (bounces). Note that bots often trigger a visit but fail to trigger a pageview. This means you need to filter for a Page Depth value equal to or less than 1. Page Depth ≤ 1.


This one is fun. So again, one of the defining qualities of bots is that they don’t store cookies. When a new visitor arrives, if we could check to see whether they already have cookies stored from another site, that would tell us whether or not we were likely dealing with a human or a bot. How can we do this? Demographics. Google Analytics demographics data is stored in a cookie. If a visitor has one of these cookies they are probably not a bot. Assuming you have demographics enabled, you can filter for this with a Gender does not match regex = male|female filter. If you do not have demographics enabled, you’ll need to leave this filter out.

Dingley is currently working with a specialty online advertising provider who is focusing on expanding their patented technology to the catalog market segment. The goal is to help catalogers find the best way to attract prospects. Next month we’ll follow up with our findings and share the results with you.

About the Author: Jim Gibbs

Vice President of Sales & Marketing at The Dingley Press. Jim has been with Dingley since 2002 and lives in Maine near our Lisbon, Maine plant location.