Having plenty of people viewing your YouTube videos has achieved such social status that prominent YouTube creators are “cheating.” In this video Redskulled describes the simple method to inflate total views on your video, and identifies some of the “famous” YouTube cheaters — and shows the crude and simple ways to cheat.
Consider, then, the sites that share ad revenue, and the deeper incentive to cheat. Since the creator and the video site are often paid on total views, we can imagine that many views of videos are, in fact, browsers automatically refreshing (instead of new eyeballs). Even sites that earn on click-thru (instead of impression) are vulnerable.
Eventually advertisers will demand that the sites identify and take action of fraud — just like Google is supposed to be policing click fraud. As an example, we evaluate our Google text ads not on cost per click-thru, but on a “quality formula” of what the visitor did on the site- and whether they visited select “quality pages.” If I see clicks without quality page views, I smell “click fraud.”
There are lot of ways to catch cheaters:
- Do the views come from the same subscriber?
- Did views skyrocket in a certain period with a steady instead of random growth rate?
- Did a user view more videos in a period than possible?
- Is the ratio of views/subscribers dramatically off norm?
- Is the ratio of views/comments off norm?
- Are all of the views (regardless of the username) coming from the same IP address — or a masked IP?
Still, it will take a while for reported views to approximate actual views. Why?
- The technology is like radar detectors. When the video site or advertiser (police) finds a new tool, the cheaters (speeders) have already moved on to something new.
- The cheaters benefit the video site in the short term. Even cheat views can create revenue. Although eventually this will undermine the site’s credibility with advertisers, it’s a quick fix for cash flow and to satisfy nervous VCs.
I have advertised on video sites, and have seen lower than average “click thrus” to my “call to action.” That suggests there may be a problem.
Some sites have identified and corrected click fraud. Revver, for instance, is paid not on views but on the click of an ad frame. Earlier this year I noticed some of my videos exploding. Turns out it was click fraud from someone benefiting from affiliate earnings from my video. Revver reconciled and I watched my earnings go down for a sad period.
Click fraud and viewer cheats is unethical, and arguably illegal if it creates artificial revenue for the creator. Here’s hoping more Redskulled folks identify cheaters and keep ’em honest.