"Ghost users" driving up traffic using Facebook mobile ads
Facebook made a change back in August to the way they display advertisements for their mobile apps. When they show a display ad to a Facebook user, they pre-emptively fetch the linked pages and cache them in the Facebook browser, just in case the Facebook user might click on the ad. This enhances the user experience of clicking on the ad because if they do click through, the destination page loads immediately. Sounds great doesn't it?
Sadly, we found out, this can have a downside, if it catches a retailer off-guard: it significantly drives up the volume of traffic on their own website, with ‘ghost users’. This can really wreak havoc on a traffic management (or virtual queuing) solution, because the Facebook campaign can flood the queuing solution with these 'pre-fetch' requests. So, every user that is shown a display ad in Facebook, even if they ignore it and scroll straight past, all count as an active user on the retailer's website. This drives down conversions and could leave real customers locked out and pushed into the waiting room.
But there is a way to get around this issue, by working with Facebook to 'blacklist' a whole set of URL's, which means that Facebook apps will no longer attempt to pre-fetch the content from the retailer's website... just in time for Black Friday!
So for retailers who use a traffic management solution, and also like to use Facebook advertising campaigns, watch out for the header 'X-Purpose:preview', and feel free to reach out to us for more information.