FAQ: Why do I see some sites on my report that I didn’t visit?
Accountable2You's monitoring solution processes the internet traffic traveling between your device and each website or app in use. While this method is our best option to provide high-quality monitoring on iOS due to Apple's restrictions, it can sometimes result in confusing reports when our app captures internet traffic that's happening in the background.
This guide includes descriptions and examples of the most common patterns that may indicate activity from websites that weren't legitimately visited.
In this article:
What is it? In some cases, online marketers may use embedded advertisements to fraudulently gain "clicks" (or views) of their ads by running scripts within a web page or app that are invisible to the user.
Because these embedded ads are still using the internet to run in the background, it can be difficult for A2U to tell the difference between this and legitimate activity.
What to look for: "Click fraud" activity often manifests in a sudden "jump" where multiple websites appear on the reports in a matter of a few seconds.
This group of random websites will generally follow a legitimate website visit (it's often a blog page, article, or online shopping site). See below for an example (legitimate website not pictured).
Another pattern you may see is a similar "jump" in websites in between activity records from an app such as a mobile game (see below, where records appear while using a sudoku app).
Keep in mind that "click fraud" records can also include objectionable websites. As a result, your partners may receive an alert for a record created by "click fraud".
Embedded web page elements
What is it? Often, a web page will have other embedded elements within it (somewhat like a web page within a web page), which can appear to our app as if it were a unique visit to that website.
Some of the common ones that our team sees are elements from YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. It often happens on pages such as blog posts and news articles with YouTube videos or Twitter posts included with the article's content.
For instance, when a news article's web page loads the YouTube video embedded within the article's content, it may communicate with YouTube in the background, which can appear to our monitoring as a separate visit to YouTube.
Other times, when sites have social media share buttons or "widgets", these can manifest on the reports as visits to the named sites.
What to look for: Twitter, YouTube, or similar records in between normal web browsing activity. These can be particularly challenging to tell apart from legitimate website visits, but a good clue is the length of time between this record and other surrounding activity records.
Below is an example where Twitter wasn't visited, but there were Twitter posts in the article, "32 NFL offseason fantasy questions." Notice that this article and the "Twitter" record share the same timestamp:
Browser "Preload" features
What is it? The last potential cause covered here is the "preload" feature in a number of browsers. Though we often see it happen due to Safari's "Preload Top Hit" setting, it can happen in browsers like Chrome as well.
This feature allows your browser to automatically load the web page information for the top recommendation while you're still typing a search or page title in the search bar.
Because these settings cause the browser to load the suggested page in the background before the user completes the actual search, our app sees the web traffic between that site and your phone and adds it to the report, even if you didn't intentionally load the suggested web page.
If a nearby Google search has the same letter as the name of the website that seems out of place, then there's a good chance it's due to a preload setting.
In our example, Weather.com (The Weather Channel) wasn't visited at the time listed. As the search for "Wisconsin football" was being typed, Safari saw the letter 'w' and both suggested and loaded Weather.com in the background:
Want to avoid confusion due to browser preload features?
Thankfully, there's a simple way to disable the preload features in most browsers. You can likely find these online, but here are the steps for Safari:
- Open the Safari web browser (and any other browser used on the device).
- Close all open tabs.
- Clear the search history, cookies, and cache for Safari. (Here's how.) This will get rid of any websites from past browsing history that Safari might be using to recommend content.
- Open Settings > Safari and turn off "Safari Suggestions" and "Preload Top Hit".
While we're always exploring ways to continue improving the clarity of our reports, the unique monitoring solution on iOS means that you'll likely see activity like this from time to time.
If none of these common activity patterns seem to explain what you're seeing, no worries – there are a handful of actions you can take!
Some things to try:
- For more general tips on how to interpret reports and alerts, check out our guide here.
- Connect with our friendly Support team. If a particular record leaves you stumped, we'll be happy to help in any way we can!
- Have a conversation with the device user – our blog contains many helpful resources to help facilitate these crucial discussions.
Ultimately, our software is a tool to help promote open communication and accountability. While the reports are helpful as a starting point, they don't always tell the full story!
For this reason, Accountable2You always encourages users and accountability partners to have meaningful conversations about any concerning activity before reaching a conclusion.