Why Does the MFA Mayhem Continue to Persist?

Brands beware. MFA sites are websites created solely for ad arbitrage. The result is a poor user experience, a negative brand association and a wasted ad budget.

Reading Time: 4 min 


  • Imagine a marketing leader seeking insights into the top customer data platforms. The person types the search query, hoping for comprehensive information. Instead, being directed to a promising webpage at first glance, but upon scrolling, it quickly becomes apparent that something’s amiss. The page is inundated with distracting ad banners and poorly executed clickbait, severely detracting from user experience. Relatable? 

    This scenario is a prime example of the user experience on a Made For Advertising (MFA) website. It highlights outdated contextual strategies and urges advertisers and marketers to grasp their implications and devise strategies to circumvent them.

    Taking “made for advertising” literally did nobody any good. According to a recent report, 10% of global open programmatic ad spend went to likely MFA sites in March 2024 alone. 

    These platforms continue to proliferate, raising the question: why does the MFA mayhem endure? The industry is discovering the intricate web of factors sustaining their existence and exploring the ongoing battle to reclaim integrity in online advertising.

    How can you identify MFA?

    MFA websites, alternatively known as Made for Arbitrage platforms, encapsulate digital spaces filled with superficial content, including AI-generated clickbait, redundant slideshows, and affiliate sites. 

    Common characteristics of MFA

    • Showcases misleading ad placements and formats, such as pop-ups, intrusive ads, overlays and more, all placed around clickbait-style headlines and content
    • Reflects sudden inorganic traffic at specific points without any explanation to artificially inflate page views 
    • Executes unusual navigation and user journeys, tempting them to view misleading ads as a step to maximise ad exposure. For instance, it prompts accidental ad clicks with ad placements near Call-to-Action (CTA) buttons 

    Also Read: DoubleVerify Launches Solution to Prevent MFA Content

    How do digital advertisers perceive an MFA site?

    MFA sites emerge due to persistent pressure from certain advertisers to attain broad reach with minimal ad expenditure, often to the detriment of user experience.

    These sites present a catch-22 dilemma for marketers and advertisers: on one hand, they offer potential cost savings in advertising; on the other hand, they jeopardise brand perception through low-quality content and limited customer engagement.

    How is MFA impacting legitimate publishers?

    MFA websites can create a challenging environment for legitimate publishers by siphoning ad revenue, undermining trust, and saturating the market with low-quality content. For instance, fraudulent ads can be placed on a publisher’s website without consent, replacing the genuinely existing ads with fake ones. Consequently, it might trick advertisers into paying for app installs that didn’t happen, further deteriorating the brands’ trust in the publisher.

    Has Google tackled the spammy sites?

    Google has been constantly making algorithmic enhancements to its core ranking systems to ensure they surface authentic web content. The company has also kept on updating its spam policies, keeping the lowest-quality content out of search. Beginning with its Helpful Content Update (which launched in 2022) and ending with March 2024’s Core Update, the changes have created turmoil for spammers. 

    As a repercussion, the combination of these updates and Google’s previous efforts are likely to or have reduced low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%. Some of the targeted actions under its spam policy are to reduce: 

    • Scale content abuse, where AI-driven content pages and feeds at a scale which add little value for users 
    • Site reputation abuse, where marketers use various black hat SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, hidden text, and links to manipulate reputation and ranking on search engines
    • Expired domain abuse, which includes purchasing and repurposing expired domains to influence search rankings for hosting low-value content 

    Previously, Integral Ad Science rolled out an AI-driven technology for detecting and circumventing MFA sites, enabling advertisers to regain authority over their media quality and curtail squandered ad expenditures on a large scale.

    The problems linked with MFA websites have been extensively debated, and pioneers in the digital advertising sector strive to combat them. Whether through Google’s Search Engine updates or IAS’s AI-powered site detection and avoidance technology, the revolution endures.



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