Facebook Advertising Costs Driven up by Bots, Claims Limited Run

A New York-based start-up has made some pretty hefty allegations against Facebook. Limited Run, which builds e-commerce sites for music merchandising, has gone public with their findings and claimed that around 80% of the clicks on the Facebook advertising campaign were not from real users.

They were so dissatisfied with the advertising platform, and the customer service that went with it, that they decided to put an end to their presence on the site and move their social media efforts over to Twitter. In a statement on their Facebook page, they announced that they in the early stages of advertising on Facebook they started noticing discrepancies between the clicks they were paying for, and the traffic that was coming through to their site.

I’m not entirely sure how much longer this statement will be online, so here it is in its entirety.

“Hey everyone, we’re going to be deleting our Facebook page in the next couple of weeks, but we wanted to explain why before we do. A couple months ago, when we were preparing to launch the new Limited Run, we started to experiment with Facebook ads. Unfortunately, while testing their ad system, we noticed some very strange things. Facebook was charging us for clicks, yet we could only verify about 20% of them actually showing up on our site. At first, we thought it was our analytics service. We tried signing up for a handful of other big name companies, and still, we couldn’t verify more than 15-20% of clicks. So we did what any good developers would do. We built our own analytic software. Here’s what we found: on about 80% of the clicks Facebook was charging us for, JavaScript wasn’t on. And if the person clicking the ad doesn’t have JavaScript, it’s very difficult for an analytics service to verify the click. What’s important here is that in all of our years of experience, only about 1-2% of people coming to us have JavaScript disabled, not 80% like these clicks coming from Facebook. So we did what any good developers would do. We built a page logger. Any time a page was loaded, we’d keep track of it. You know what we found? The 80% of clicks we were paying for were from bots. That’s correct. Bots were loading pages and driving up our advertising costs. So we tried contacting Facebook about this. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t reply. Do we know who the bots belong too? No. Are we accusing Facebook of using bots to drive up advertising revenue. No. Is it strange? Yes. But let’s move on, because who the bots belong to isn’t provable.

While we were testing Facebook ads, we were also trying to get Facebook to let us change our name, because we’re not Limited Pressing anymore. We contacted them on many occasions about this. Finally, we got a call from someone at Facebook. They said they would allow us to change our name. NICE! But only if we agreed to spend $2000 or more in advertising a month. That’s correct. Facebook was holding our name hostage. So we did what any good hardcore kids would do. We cursed that piece of shit out! Damn we were so pissed. We still are. This is why we need to delete this page and move away from Facebook. They’re scumbags and we just don’t have the patience for scumbags.

Thanks to everyone who has supported this page and liked our posts. We really appreciate it. If you’d like to follow us on Twitter, where we don’t get shaken down, you can do so here: http://twitter.com/limitedrun

The key indicator was that around 80% of the clicks were coming from sources which has disabled Javascript. They noted that in their experience “only about 1-2% of people coming to [us] have JavaScript disabled, not 80% like these clicks coming from Facebook.”

While they aren’t actively blaming Facebook for the bots, they are calling for the issue to be looked into more closely. This could be a huge blow for Facebook if it is revealed that advertisers are paying for clicks from bots.

Facebook advertisers either pay on a per click (PPC) basis, or on a per impression (CPM) basis. For a new start-up, it’s important that they are paying for

So why are people calling foul?

This case is causing a stir in all regions of the advertising arena. One side is saying that this is absolutely correct, and it’s the relatively small size of the company that makes them an easy target, and less of a priority for Facebook. TechCrunch users are commenting that they have ” been spending millions for years and have not noticed a huge issue with this.” Which begs the question; does size matter to Facebook?

On the other side, people are questioning the timing of these allegations, as this very public outburst has given them a good proportion of publicity right before they launch. Limited Run commented that they have simply been too busy with getting ready for the launch to go public with their findings, but their timing is still just too convenient for some.

Among their other reasons for cancelling their Facebook account is the accusation that Facebook would only change the name of their brand page if they agreed to spend £2000 per month on advertising. Which is money they obviously wouldn’t want to spend, given their belief that £1600 of this would go down the drain. Facebook has denied this, and cites a miscommunication, which makes sense, sine a quick Facebook search reveals that the name ‘limited run’ is already taken by an online magazine.

I’m sure the rest of the Facebook advertising community would love to see their findings published, so let’s hope they have a smooth launch, and can get their analytics data online so we can finally hear an official response from Facebook.

Do you advertise on Facebook? Have you noticed anything fishy about your CTR?