View Full Version : Spyware-driven forced visits inflate site Hit-counts

2007-05-08, 21:16

- http://www.benedelman.org/news/050707-1.html
May 7, 2007 ~ "The usual motive for buying spyware popup traffic is simple: Showing ads. Cover Netflix's site with an ad for Blockbuster, and users may buy from Blockbuster instead. Same for other spyware advertisers. But there are other plausible reasons to buy spyware traffic. In particular, cheap spyware traffic can be used to inflate a site's traffic statistics. Buying widespread "forced visits" causes widely-used traffic measurements to overreport a site's popularity: Traffic measurements mistakenly assume users arrived at the site because they actually wanted to go there, without considering the possibility that the visit was involuntary. Nonetheless, from the site's perspective, forced visits offer real benefits: Investors will be willing to pay more to buy a site that seems to be more popular, and advertisers may be willing to pay more for their ads to appear. In some sectors, higher reported traffic may create a buzz of supposed popularity -- helping to recruit bona fide users in the future.
Yet spyware-originating forced-visit traffic can cause serious harm. Harm may accrue to advertisers -- by overcharging them as well as by placing their ads in spyware they seek to avoid. Harm may accrue to investors, by causing them to overpay for sites whose true popularity is less than traffic statistics indicate. In any event, harm accrues to consumers and to the public at large, through funding of spyware that sneaks onto users' PCs with negative effects on privacy, reliability, and performance. Others have previously investigated some of these problems. In December 2006, the New York Times reported that Nielsen/NetRatings cut traffic counts for Entrepreneur.com by 65% after uncovering widespread forced site visits..."

(Screenshots and more at the URL above.)