12-letter ad fraud. Travel Wednesday

On April 5, 2017, Sadbottrue.com has published the “12-letter ad fraud” investigation. The ad fraud scheme includes more than 1000 unpronounceable 12-letters domains, that sent more than billion of simulated visitors on different sites, that have made hundreds of billions of ad views total.


Among largest recipients of simulated visitors and beneficiary of 12-letter ad fraud was the site...



TravelWednesday.com


Created on October 17, 2014




Content type


How it writes about itself, this is a weekly travel blog. Here are 2 important facts about it.


1. The site is not updated for more than a year. The last post appeared on March 29, 2016.

2. The average article consists of 1 picture or short video and only 4-5 sentences.


This is all you need to know about this popular media.



Traffic stats, audience characteristics


Despite the lack of new content, the site has millions of monthly audience.


Travelwednesday.com is active since December 2014. Over the time it has been ranked as high as 8 489 in the world, while most of its traffic comes from the USA, where it reached as high as 1 496 positions.





The site is kept in the Alexa Top 50,000 throughout the life cycle.

Traffic stats in last active month, February, 2017


6.2% was ad traffic, mostly from Pop Ads.

88.96% was referral traffic, all from 12-letter domains.


The largest sources of traffic (% of total referrals).


qiqrguvdhcux.com 15.14%

chytrrvwvabg.com 7.53%

nfsqrijauncb.com 7.10%

fpvfeyjrwlio.com 5.99%

kyzhecmvpiaw.com 4.36%


The largest traffic was in November, 3.2 million visits. The next 3 months, there have been more than 2 million visits. February 24, 2017 traffic fell almost to zero.





Audience behavior


We turn to the most important anomaly of this site. Average visitors spend on the site 29 minutes viewing 52 pages per visit in February. Even in March with only 46,500 visits, the average visit duration was 16.5 minutes, and 30 Pages per Visit. But according to Alexа, the average visitor made 3 page views in 7 minutes.


Systems have a significant methodological difference in interpreting visitor behavior. Alexa does not consider the auto-reload and reactivation of the page as a new page view. But since these actions usually lead to the launch of new advertising units / systems, it is better to use the Similar Web stats to estimate the number of ad views.


Travelwednesday.com on Alexa and SimilarWeb.


The site could get into the top 100 American publishers. It made almost 107 million page views from US traffic, slightly less than WSJ.com (109M views), but little more than news.yahoo.com (94M), or reuters.com (80M), according to US Media Publications Ranking for February 2017.


Most of the largest advertising systems are installed on the site (we managed to find 72), including all the major partners of the Open RTB.


Advertising appears only if you click on the link (referral traffic), almost does not appear after direct visits. You may try to click here to visit the site as a referral. Perhaps it will define you as a bot and show the ads. For example, PayPal via DoubleClick.






Advertising is placed via the optimization system (SSP) Komoona.com. It is connected to the majority of participants in the open RTB. The number of displayed ads depends on the settings of the bot.


But the main source of income of the site was video advertising. All video advertising is displayed through a software set of the two systems, Genesis media (player) and Moat (supplier and verifier).


The promotional video lasts 15 seconds. The average bot spends 29 minutes on the site. For half a year the site showed about 600 million advertising videos, with no cost to content and promotion.


Video advertising costs about $ 10 per 1000 impressions. An approximate estimate of advertisers' losses from this publisher is at least $ 1,000,000 dollars a month. And at least a million more dissolved in the supply chain to the ad fraud site.


This site is an excellent example of the triumph of contextual advertising. All ads on it are associated with travel and entertainment or related services. For Example, France.fr, Holiday In, B & B.




Video advertising


Universal Orlando Resort.





Nationwide






Lasvegas.com







The beneficiary


It is hard to imagine that such incredible statistics were verified to some unknown publisher without a reputation. But even we were surprised, even shocked, who knew who owns this domain. Just look at domain registration data.


DOMAIN MANAGER

MONIKER ONLINE SERVICES, LLC

Owner since March 22, 2015

Corporate profile on bloomberg.com

Corporate profile on crunchbase.com


This is official ICANN-accredited domain name registrar (530,000 domains at the moment ).


It also owned 670 domains as a registrant, one of them is Travel Wednesday. Its registrar, by the way, is Enom, not Moniker.


Moniker Online Services, LLC (Florida) was acquired by Key-Systems GmbH (Luxembourg) on February 8, 2012. This means that the site was created by the domain manager of the new owner.



Sad questions


Probably, sad questions should be asked the founder Key-Systems (Germany) and chairman of Monicker board Alexander Siffrin. He probably should know what's going on.