Online “Bot Fraud” in Orthodontic Marketing Ads

by Mary Kay Millerdreamstime_evil-businessman-w-robots

Recent studies have shown that roughly one out of every ten clicks for online text advertisements is coming from a computer being remotely operated by cybercriminals; for digital video ads, the number more than doubles to 23 percent.

This means that advertisers are unknowingly having their marketing dollars wasted by criminals. It has been estimated that the fraudulent activity on the ads will cost advertisers $6.3 billion in 2015. The data comes from a study by White Ops and the Association of National Advertisers. ANA President and CEO Bob Liodice put it most succinctly in stating that “Fraud is everywhere.”

The study was conducted in August and September 2014 and measured 5.5 billion impressions across 3 million domains. Researchers placed software on the ads of 36 members of the association that would tell them whether the ads were viewed by a human or a bot. The findings were detailed in a 57-page report.

Here’s how the hack works: Cybercriminals operate programs that seize control of computers (many of them privately owned) and string them together in unison, forming what is called a “botnet.” Once the hackers have control of a large group of computers, they command them to surf the Internet, watch videos, and click on ads. This activity most commonly occurs in the middle of the night when the computers’ owners are asleep.

The botnets can distort the statistics of many ad campaigns, producing inflated numbers for the amount of clicks an advertisement is receiving. Using fake profile attributes, a bot can disguise itself as any individual; a single parent, an avid golfer, a prospective orthodontic patient, etc.

Bot fraud is now added to the list of threats for digital marketers. Consider the pros and cons before starting an online ad campaign. It is important to remember that any traffic to your website coming from paid ads does not count towards your site’s history or click-through rate. In other words, paid traffic might help you schedule a few more orthodontic exams, but it will not help your website rank higher in the long run.

Furthermore, prospective patients who find you through paid advertisements often turn out to be “C” patients. Ask yourself if these are the kind of patients you are trying to entice through the doors of your practice.

The ANA study also found that approximately 50% of third-party sourced traffic is fraudulent, meaning that practices and companies that are paying for clicks may be wasting their money in a big way. Suffice it to say that your precious marketing dollars could be better spent elsewhere.

For more information on how your orthodontic practice might be impacted by changes and updates on the Internet, follow the Orthopreneur blog at

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