Ad fraud is really urgent issue especially for mobile marketing. If we define it to form a picture in your mind, it is a fake ad activity that prevents to be seen by real people. The results of ad fraud representing fake traffic, fake leads or misrepresented and ineffective ad placement are worthless for developers and advertisers. It is because they are fake numbers, not organic.
To understand it wrap around the digital world to what degree, let’s dig into numbers
- Association of National Advertisers (ANA) reported that advertisers lost $7.2 billion globally to bots in 2015. Again in the same report, it was said total spending was $12 billion that means 60% of all digital display ad budgets are lost due to ad fraud.
- Another report by Adage every $1 of $3 spent on online advertising goes to fraud’s pockets.
- Last research I want to show is conducted by ad verification company Adloox estimates advertisers could be wasting $16.4 billion due to fraudulent actions in 2017.
These research results reveal how ad fraud hurts the industry. If you don’t take any step to avoid it, it will poison your brand.
The best way to handle it is to know your enemy very well. We can start by identifying the types of existing ad frauds.
We can divide ad fraud into two types:
- Non Human Traffic
- Human Traffic
Ad Fraud Types That Use Non Human Traffic
When we talk about ad fraud, the first that comes to our mind is bots. Bots perform specific actions automatically. Over time, they get complicated and appeared in the form of imitating human behavior like filling a form. So, it becomes difficult to detect bots.
Simple bots are scripts running from a server. The reason why we call them “simple” is implicit in being easy to identify. Having a static IP, user ID, device ID or so on make them detecting and blocking easily.
On the contrary of simple bots, it is hard to detect and block sophisticated bots. They have advance tactics such as imitating real mouse movements, spoofing IP addresses, using random proxies. To mimic human behavior patterns, they exploit users’ cookies.
According to ANA findings, the sophisticated ad fraud is coming from residential computers at most.
Among three of them, botnets is the hardest one to detect. Fraudsters control a large number of residential computers to generate fake actions like clicking your ad. It is hard to block, but not impossible. At the end of the day, botnets are programmable that lets them exhibit patterns and this makes them detectable.
Ad Fraud Types That Use Human Traffic
Human traffic is more sneaky than non-human traffic, since the end users are real. Therefore, it is tough to detect them.
It is the most simple method that use human traffic. You have probably seen a job posting that said “work from home” If you want to apply this kind of job, your main and only job is to click on ads or fill out forms. It is what click farms practice. A large group of people click on ads. If you pay attention on your analytics result, you can realize this kind of ad fraud.
Another form of human traffic is hidden ads. Why it is called “hidden or invisible” is because they are hidden behind the main ad. I mean there is more than one ad in the same ad spot. It has no chance to be seen by human, but advertisers pay for all of them without knowing.
Invisible ads are practiced in the form of pixel stuffing. Each ad is stuffed into a single pixel that makes impossible to spot.
Cookie stuffing is nothing new. It is practice of attaching multiple cookies to the user not within him/her knowledge. In the affiliate marketing, X publisher gets paid for the sale if the visitor s/he sent bought something. With cookie stuffing, fraudster gets paid instead of publisher X by dropping multiple cookies after someone views a page or clicks on a single link.
In this ad fraud type, fraudsters represent themselves as a premium website even though they are low-profile websites. They do this by using malware ad injections and modifying ad tags.
After a user downloaded a malware application unconsciously, malware begins running its own code in the user’s browser, then injecting ads.
Fraudsters gain access to the code in the ad tag and impersonate any property. While advertisers think their ads are published on premium websites, they are published on substandard properties.
Without user’s and publisher’s knowledge and the permission of site owners, sometimes ads can be published on websites. It is done through browser toolbars or adware plugins and called “ad injection” Injected ads can replace other ads totally or can be seen on some parts of the page not supposed to have ads at all.
To battle with ad fraud, many ad tech providers and ad platforms begin analyzing ad fraud patterns. Thanks to this strategy, they flag potential fraudsters when they see something out of the norm like very high click-to-install rate. To deep into mobile ad fraud, you can also read another blog post related mobile ad fraud detection and prevention
The more industry has an ad tech with powerful detection and defense strategies, the more fraudsters develop more sophisticated ad fraud methods. It is important to be up-to-date at any time. You should monitor metrics such as conversions or purchases that show something going wrong regularly and blacklist potential fraudsters and update this list.
As App Samurai, we monitor each mobile ad campaign with ad technology that detects mobile ad fraud pattern and sends an alert to the system and ad fraud prevention team who control each ad campaign conversion rates manually.
If you want to get more information, you can contact us or sign up easily.