MIVA sets fire to 2nd Tier

miva_logo-thumbUnless you just haven’t been paying attention,  you already know that there’s a fire burning in the 2nd Tier.  These are the search firms that are outside the Big Three (Google, Yahoo, and MSN – who also syndicate search results) like Looksmart, Marchex, MIVA, Kontera, eZanga, etc.   Yes, I’m talking about the knee-deep web, land of bots, spiders and Indian sweat shops.  Second tier engines are more vertical, niche, and include things like local search sites.  If you’re a publisher looking to optimize your page views, then chances are you’ve probably tried the 2nd Tier by now.  Purchasing ad space on more than just Google makes good sense if:

  1. You need volume.
  2. You need low cost traffic.
  3. You have a CPM model in place.

Good deals can be secured on these low cost, high volume traffic providers but only for the proper business model. I’ve used this traffic to monetize a CPM model, and it works great.  But at the end of the day, you are expecting that traffic to be legit, and so are your advertisers.   But at $.01, .02, or even .03 per click, you know you are taking the good with the bad and if you don’t, well…you’re just naive.  So for some it can be a necessary evil, with the power for good.  And to some, it can be a lifeline to riches – dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

Here is an excepert from a former MIVA employee…

“I used to work for Miva. The problem lies in the sub affiliates. if they have an affiliate that is supplying lets say 200 good clicks a day; they likely have a sub affiliate supplying another 150-200 bot- clicks. When you remove the sub affiliate from the net work.. it takes the primary affiliate that was supplying some decent clicks along with it.

“Once you do get a campaign to convert; it has been optimized down to the point where there is simply put, no traffic, i.e. not scalable. aside from the management team being a joke; most of the players they are generating traffic with are disreputable and the type of guys you would like to kick the shit out of at the pub. I was there 7 months before resigning.”

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How do you think they fulfill large traffic volumes?  Well, if you are willing to pay $.03 and someone else can create the traffic for $.01, everyone gets paid.  To do this nefarious publishers and affiliates create bots that simulate real clicks, even performing actions once they land on your site so they appear to your analytics as human in nature.  As you can imagine if you are a spammer sending bots out and they are clicking on Google AdSense, which is a popular revenue stream for many, then money is exchanging hands at an alarming rate.  In other cases, there are reports of actual sweat shops where people are getting paid pennines to generate traffic by clicking on ads.  And also, your competitor can be clicking on your ads in order to spend your money.But some do their jobs very well, causing “spikey” activity, like abnormal high CTR on things like Google AdSense or banner ads.    On the surface everything looks copacetic, but an analysis of variance reveals the source.  A best practice is to channelize your traffic, so you can isolate sketchy activity.

All of this is called click fraud, and we all know that your at risk of getting burned when you leave the Big Three.  And the content networks just can’t say no to money (who can these days?).  So they fill the requests, and then get busted.  Like MIVA – which ignites the whole tier.  MIVA’s $4MM click fraud settlement has sounded the alarms – We’ve got a full blown mess up here! (And this isn’t the first for them.) Now the engines will tell you that they are working to curb this type of activity, but the fact of the matter is they aren’t really.  Any smart player knows that these types of content networks are in the business to provide traffic, any which way.   If you spend significant money, you may not get the cold shoulder when you ask for a refund, but don’t count on it.  And since the people who profit the most from the fire are the internet lawyers, every engine that doesn’t start with the letter G better start forming a bucket brigade right now, because fires spread really fast.

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