Web traffic is money. And when it comes to views on videos or live streams, social proof is a valuable commodity. Influencers are eager to rack up those views or subscribers and get as many impressions as they can… And this has resulted in a booming industry for fake views.
Where do these fake views come from?
These bots can be hired for relatively little money to boost the viewing figures on any video channel, from YouTube or Instagram to Twitch or TikTok.
What are viewbots?
Viewbots, as the name suggests, are bots programmed to watch videos to inflate the view stats. They can be used on virtually any platform video is played, or even on music streaming sites.
View bots don’t just view whatever activity is occurring on the screen at any time. They also view media such as banner ads, pre or post-roll video ads and other paid elements.
This form of bot is relatively complex, as they need to avoid detection by the sophisticated filters on the video platforms. But they are widely used and easy to find.
When searching for view bots, there are hundreds of results in the organic search pages.
And, yes, even though hiring view bots is against the TOS for pretty much all video sites, this doesn’t stop people buying these very affordable bot packages. In fact, many of them offer free trials, so you don’t even need to pay to inflate your views.
Why do people use view bots?
The biggest objective of any YouTube or Twitch creator is to get more views. The more views they get, the more money they make, and that’s all the motivation they need to use viewbots.
Newbie creators on video platforms are particularly susceptible to using viewbots as they look to grow their subscriber base and convince the algorithms to show more people their video.
It also doesn’t hurt them that view bots aren’t difficult to set up. You can find websites like ViewerLabs and UseViral that walk you through setting up a viewbot for your YouTube channel. Many are quite affordable (UseViral offers 10,000 views for a little over $100.)
Although most of us think of social media sites like TikTok, YouTube or Twitch, there are also other view based sites such as esports platforms where you can unleash a viewbot.
And as this form of online entertainment is increasingly popular with younger audiences, marketers are looking to streaming services or even metaverse games to run their ad campaigns.
Types of view bots
‘View bot’ is a blanket term for a wide range of bots that are programmed to help inflate video metrics. Most obviously these bots click on videos and raise the view count. But they can do other things as well.
Live stream bots
Some vIew bots can also hop on Twitch and Facebook live streams to make it seem like the streamer has a wider audience base. The goal here is to draw in more people to join the stream.
Chats and engagement bots
People see through views without engagement pretty easily, so many YouTube view bots have been programmed to engage as well. However, the engagements are flat and, well, unengaging. You’ll usually see this with Instagram and Facebook comments too. We’ll talk more about these in a bit.
Although these aren’t viewbots in the traditional sense, engagement groups act as a sort of human view bot.
Instead of getting Youtube viewbots that are prohibited by the TOS, creators often sign up with communities where they watch and engage with each other’s videos. For creators, they get the metrics of more views and comments.
But for advertisers, this is non-genuine human traffic with a very low chance of converting. And to add to this, engagement groups may also click on ads within videos, blogs or other content to inflate the payout for the creator. In short, they commit click fraud.
Chat impersonation bots
Another form of view bot, chat impersonation is often presented as a way to ‘prank’ your friends on their live streams. But, of course, these bots are often bought to increase engagement on live streams or videos.
Like other forms of view bot, these chat impersonators also affect ad impressions and distort view metrics.
Creators risk a lot by using view bots
Fraudulently inflating your engagement is against the terms of service on all of the major platforms, including YouTube, Twitch, TikTok and Meta (Facebook/Instagram). Content creators who are caught run the risk of:
- Getting their videos taken down
- Losing the ability to monetize their content
- Being banned from the platform altogether
Twitch takes an aggressive approach against viewbotting. Besides banning creators, the platform has a history of suing bot creators.
For example, In 2018, Twitch won a $1.37 million lawsuit against Michael and Katherine Anjomi, creators of a viewbot.
Bots on YouTube and other platforms don’t just rob advertisers of their ad revenue; they also make a fool out of real users. Many people follow creators online because of the social proof that thousands of others enjoy their content.
When these creators get busted, they don’t just lose their videos; they often lose the trust of their subscriber base.
Take Pink Sparkles, a Twitch streamer who got banned after mistakenly flashing her bot software on-screen during a stream. This, in addition to other violations, earned her an instant ban from the platform.
Meanwhile, over on Instagram, around half of all influencers on the platform are knowingly engaging in forms of fraud, such as buying subscribers and viewers.
And when an influencer is discovered to be using fake followers or view bots, it can seriously damage their status.
Amongst all this, there are several ways you can spot fake profiles and view bots on social media.
How can you spot a viewbotter?
Here are three quick ways to identify a profile with viewbots on any platform.
1. Low chat with high views
These are the biggest giveaways that someone doesn’t have real views. The average view to chat ratio varies between platforms and the kind of content being shared. However, a video with thousands of views and a few dozen comments usually means one of two things: the video is promoted, or the profile uses viewbots.
2. Generic comments
We mentioned this earlier. Some sophisticated and higher-priced view bots will also engage with comments. However, the comments are prescripted, generic, and usually appear repeatedly.
Look out for comments that require zero thought and seem to appear regularly. Typical examples include:
- I love your stream
- This looks great
3. Low subscribers
A realistic youtube subscriber/view ratio is 8-12%. That means accounts with 10,000 subscribers can expect 800 to 1,200 views per video. Of course, these numbers will fluctuate, but when you start to see 7,000 consistent views on a channel with 10,000 subscribers, you know view bots are involved.
How view bots affect advertisers
Perhaps the most obvious impact for advertisers is in CPM advertising. If you’re paying per 1000 impressions, and around 15-20% of those impressions are fake, you’re leaking money.
Referred to as both click fraud and ad fraud (although the two terms mean slightly different things), the impact to the global marketing industry is estimated at around $40 billion each year, and growing.
Impression fraud also means that your ad spend is exhausted faster, often meaning you’re missing out on genuine ad opportunities.
Another issue is that the inflated view metrics skew your ad data, effectively making your video ads or banner ads seem more successful than they are.
And in an age of influencer marketing, embellished video and stream views also artificially inflate the value of an influencer. When you consider that the definition of an influencer is someone with a few thousand followers, and that those followers could cost someone just a few hundred bucks, the cost of this deception to marketers can mount up.
Would you be happy paying your ad budget to target an audience of click farm robots?
What can you do about view bots?
If you advertise on any video based platform, the chances are that your ads are exposed to viewbots in some capacity.
Considering that between 40-50% of all internet traffic is non-human, this presents a major headache for marketing budgets. And yes, although the platforms such as YouTube and Twitch do use filters to block bots on their sites, the truth is a large amount of non-human traffic stills gets through.
Research from ClickCease shows that an average of 14% of all Google Ads clicks are non-genuine. Even on Facebook and Instagram, fake profiles (including view bots) are responsible for a big slice of the ad spend.
ClickCease’s industry leading fraud prevention software blocks bots, including viewbots, on your Facebook, Instagram and YouTube ad campaigns. Whether you’re running pre-roll or post roll video ads, paying for display ads on YouTube or any other form of video marketing, blocking bots can save your ad campaign.
Sign up for a free trial of ClickCease to run an audit on your ads.