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Australian online publishers have been accused of pumping up their audience numbers and misleading advertisers, following research from measurement watchdog the Audit Bureaux of Australia (ABA).

The new report from the ABA claims that practices such as double counting of page views, counting pages before they load and counting pop-ups to boost audience figures are widely practised.

The ongoing practice of auto-refreshing pages and the risk this poses to online advertisers and media buyers is also highlighted in the report.

"This practice has been found to significantly inflate key audience metrics, including page views and session times. As a result, media buyers are spending money on display ads that are going unseen on background browser tabs and even unattended computers," said Paul Dovas, CEO of the ABA.

While some 200 leading Australian sites had verified they are not using auto-refresh, there were still some sites continuing the practice and putting advertisers at risk, the report said. Publishers are also counting website traffic from invalid sources, including syndicated content on external sites and non-human traffic such as spiders and bots, according to the ABA report.

The ABA has warned media buyers and advertisers to be aware of these issues and look for the ABA green tick, which verifies a website has been through the ABA's rigorous and independent web audit process. ®

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