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Are bots eating your Facebook budget?

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Are bots eating your Facebook budget? 1

By Mike Townend, founding CMO of Beaconsoft Ltd

In an increasingly digitised world, social media has arguably become the most powerful and influential tool at the disposal of businesses, both large and small.

With more than 3.6 billion active social media users worldwide today, it is no surprise that many companies view it as an unparalleled means of marketing their products and services to new and otherwise unreachable audiences, as well as an opportunity to better understand consumer demand and habits.

Facebook is often regarded as one of the very best social media platforms for marketers – not least because of its targeted digital advertising service – but many firms using it may not realise just how much of their budget could be being wasted due to ad fraud.

Numerous studies suggest digital ad fraud affects between 10% and 60% of all types of digital advertising, with businesses of every size falling prey to so-called ‘bots’ – automated programs used by scammers to undercut deals, divert visitors or steal clicks.

But how do bots work, how might they be affecting businesses’ Facebook budgets, data and analytics, and what can be done to combat them?

How do bots work?

A report published by security firm Imperva found that bots – both good and bad – are responsible for 52% of all web traffic, while a separate study by White Ops concluded that as much as 20% of websites that serve ads are visited exclusively by fraudulent click bots.

In simple terms, a click bot is specially designed to carry out click fraud – in other words, the bot poses as a legitimate visitor to a webpage and automatically clicks on pay-per-click [PPC] ads, buttons or other types of hyperlinks.

Their purpose is to trick a platform or service – in this case, Facebook – into believing that real users are interacting with the webpage, app or ad in question.

Usually, bots will not just click a link once; they will click it over and over again to give the impression that the webpage is receiving a high level of traffic.

Why is this a problem?

The presence of click bots on Facebook is particularly problematic because they can effectively drain a business’ online marketing budget without many of its targeted ads reaching real users who might have a genuine interest.

There are a number of reasons why click fraud could be used – for example, competitors may employ a ‘click farm’ – a group of low-paid workers or bots hired to click on paid advertising links – or organised criminals may have found a way to profit from clicking on a business’ links.

In other cases, apps and software are created to collect the payout for a company’s ads, often with the help of bots.

Mike Townend

Mike Townend

Considering the average cost per click in the UK is £0.78, according to Hubspot, with some ad campaigns for popular key phrases running at £10 per click, or even more, it is clear to see how easily this could mount up if a firm’s budget were to be hijacked by scammers.

How might bots affect data and analytics?

Negative click bots have the potential to produce skewed analytics from Facebook advertising campaigns.

Because many businesses are unable to distinguish between fake clicks and legitimate ones, the data that they collect can lead to false conclusions and decisions that could have a detrimental impact on the business. For example, firms may choose to overspend or under-invest on a campaign based on findings that are substantially erroneous.

Businesses must be confident that they are making sound decisions that are informed by reliable data and analytics – and fortunately, there is a way that they can do this.

Taking the fight to the bots

There are a number of methods that firms can use to identify bot clicks, some more straightforward than others.

Frequently checking Facebook analytics for irregularities in traffic that could be attributable to bots can make this task considerably easier.

Specific things to monitor include the average number of page views, the average session time, and the source of referrer traffic – if there are any glaring anomalies in the data, bots could be the source.

Big spikes in page views caused by a higher number of visits than usual can also be indicative of bot activity and are especially dangerous given their propensity to slow down the page for genuine visitors.

Once malicious traffic has been identified, steps can then be taken in blocking it at source, although this is not a simple process and requires technical knowledge and know-how.

After removing negative click bots, companies can take comfort in knowing they are optimising their campaigns by gaining accurate insights that help to increase efficiency, lower the cost per visit, and improve return on investment.

Conclusion

Defeating the bots that are impairing a business’ performance on Facebook is by no means easy, and it requires time and effort to keep malicious traffic under constant surveillance.

Having experts on your side who are well versed in identifying and removing instances of click fraud can help to turn the tide in the battle against bots and ultimately allow a company to make big savings on its advertising spend.

Firms not only owe it to themselves, but to their customers also, to knock these harmful and disruptive programs offline for good.

Business

JPMorgan to launch UK consumer bank within months

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JPMorgan to launch UK consumer bank within months 2

LONDON (Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase & Co will launch a digital consumer bank in Britain under its Chase brand within months, the U.S. banking giant said on Wednesday.

The bank said the new business had already recruited 400 people and would offer a range of products, including current accounts.

The UK venture will be led by Sanoke Viswanathan, who has been named chief executive. Viswanathan was previously chief administrative officer for JPMorgan’s corporate and investment bank.

The digital bank will be headquartered in London’s Canary Wharf financial district, with customers supported from a new call centre in Edinburgh.

Reports about a likely tilt by JPMorgan at the UK consumer market have been circulating for around a year, but the bank had publicly disclosed few details.

“The UK has a vibrant and highly competitive consumer banking marketplace, which is why we’ve designed the bank from scratch to specifically meet the needs of customers here,” said Gordon Smith, CEO of consumer and community banking for JPMorgan.

(Reporting by Iain Withers; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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European regulator clears Boeing 737 MAX airliner for return to service

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European regulator clears Boeing 737 MAX airliner for return to service 3

(Reuters) – Boeing Co’s modified 737 MAX airliner is safe to return to service in Europe, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said on Wednesday, lifting a 22-month flight ban after two crashes of the jet which caused 346 deaths.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said it had “every confidence” that the plane was safe following an independent European review of changes ranging from cockpit software to maintenance checks and pilot training.

“Let me be quite clear that this journey does not end here,” Ky said in a statement.

“We have every confidence that the aircraft is safe, which is the precondition for giving our approval. But we will continue to monitor 737 MAX operations closely as the aircraft resumes service.”

Regulators around the world grounded the MAX in March 2019, after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet five months after one flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea. A total of 346 passengers and crew members were killed in the two crashes.

The United States lifted its ban in November, followed by Brazil and Canada. China, which was first to ban the plane after the second crash, and which represents a quarter of MAX sales, has not said when it will act.

Relatives of some crash victims have strongly criticised the move the clear Boeing’s best-selling airplane.

EASA represents 31 mainly EU nations, excluding Britain which formally left the bloc this month. Britain is expected to issue its own separate approval on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Rachit Vats; editing by Jason Neely)

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Wall Street expects near-record iPhone sales despite delay, shut Apple stores

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Wall Street expects near-record iPhone sales despite delay, shut Apple stores 4

By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) – During the last three months of 2020, Apple Inc delivered its flagship iPhone 12 model weeks later than normal iPhone debuts and shuttered some of its stores due to the pandemic.

But Wall Street is still expecting a near-record sales quarter for the Cupertino, California company’s signature device when it reports fiscal first-quarter earnings on Wednesday, with estimates of $59.8 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv as of Jan. 26. If Apple beats the number, it could eclipse its all-time record of $61.58 billion in iPhone sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2018.

Analyst largely attribute the boost to the timing of the iPhone 12 lineup, which had a new look, 5G cellular data connectivity and new models at the top and bottom of the sizing range.

“They have an extremely good understanding of what their refresh cycle looks like and when waves are possible and whey they are not,” said Ben Bajarin, head of consumer technologies at Creative Strategies. “Every bit of data across China and Europe has shown that not only was the installed base getting older, but people were not refreshing. I think (Apple) knew it would be heavy refresh cycle.”

Analyst also expect strong Mac sales of $8.69 billion, according to Refinitiv data from Jan. 26, thanks in part to the introduction of models with the first central processor chip for its laptops and desktop that Apple designed itself. Overall, analysts expect $103.28 billion in sales and earnings per share of $1.41 for Apple’s fiscal first quarter.

A “super cycle” of booms in iPhone sales after several more modest years are not new to Apple – the company’s previous high came after it announced the iPhone X, with a new design. During previous cycles, Apple’s shares often traded at lower price-to-earnings ratios than its rivals due to Apple’s dependence on the iPhone.

But those ratios have risen over the past year, and analyst Toni Sacconaghi of Bernstein wondered how much further they can go.

“At 33x consensus (fiscal year 2021 earnings per share), and buyside expectations above the Street’s, we struggle to see case for material outperformance in (Apple), absent a surprise product announcement or migration to a bundled hardware subscription model,” he wrote in a note to clients.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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