Fraud has been a problem since the dawn of the internet. Online advertising is no exception as a lot of money is spent on it every year. According to Juniper Research, ad fraud will reach 44 billion dollars by next year.
Ad verification is a way to fight this. With it, you will be able to track the placement of your ads saving money in the process. But what exactly is ad fraud?
Ad fraud is a practice of intentionally misrepresenting online advertisement data. It can include any information associated with the performance of an ad. Views (or ad impressions) and clicks are abused most often. Fraudsters put in a lot of effort to make this data seem legitimate.
We can also describe ad fraud by its effect. It causes activity not generated by a real user with a genuine intention. That’s called invalid ad traffic (IVT) and can also appear unintentionally. For example, when a user just clicks an ad link accidentally. It can be hard to distinguish whether an activity is fraudulent. For this reason, let’s describe some common ad fraud types.
The least sophisticated methods are well known and easily defined. Creating click farms means hiring people who manually press on links in ads. Shady advertisers use another primitive ad fraud type. They just report false ad performance data to their clients. What’s worrying is that these techniques can become something even harder to defend from. Here are a few examples of more complex fraud.
- Ad replacement hides the originally advertised website and instead shows the fraudster’s ad. Replacement happens if the domain website has malware in it. Fraudsters want to profit from this activity and avoid getting caught. So they often mix fraudulent ad traffic with genuine one as a distraction. It’s called impression laundering.
- Click hijacking (or click fraud) can be a simple click with the intention to increase ad revenue. More sophisticated versions use networks of hijacked computers, called botnets. Clicking software is run on them, so no people are needed. Depending on the appetite of fraudsters, large botnets can produce enormous amounts of damage.
Ad fraud is most commonly used to increase fraudsters’ earnings. But it can also grow the spendings of the competition. If you don’t have any reliable way to check your ad data, you are vulnerable to even the simplest of these scams.
Ad verification is a process of checking the quality of ads that are displayed. It helps to detect whether the ad is shown for the intended audience, in an appropriate context, and on the right website. In short, ad verification ensures that the ad falls in line with what the demand site has ordered.
One of the main uses of ad verification is fighting ad fraud. It’s because of the transparency it brings to the table. You can know where, how often, and by whom your ads are viewed. Analyzing this data gives clear signals of when fraud might be happening.
Ad verification can help you even before your marketing campaign starts. You can prevent ads from showing on websites of your choice. All you need to do is blacklist websites that might be fraudulent or have low visibility. Your ads need to have verification tags, also called beacons, for this to be possible.
Beacons are placed inside the code that allows the ad to be displayed. Without this code, the ad cannot function. So you will always know the placement of your ad and how it’s performing. By reviewing reports of this data periodically, you can see the red flags of ad fraud. Here are some of them:
- Suspicious IP addresses. For example, only those from data centers
- Questionable origin websites of customers
- A sharp drop in performance
- Unnaturally large Clickthrough rate (CTR)
Large scale Ad Verification
Knowing the red flags of ad fraud is not enough; it also takes a large amount of data to find them. Even more, you have to gather and analyze this data constantly. The more ads you have, the bigger the headache this will bring you.
It’s standard practice to gather this data automatically. Although, many websites restrict this for the same reasons they fight fraud. There is a solution for those of us with the right intentions. SERPMaster delivers a handy tool with a free trial available.
Catch ad fraud with real-time data and not bother with anything else. Data formatting, CAPTCHAs, geo-restricted content – all of that is taken care of.
Ad fraud is a serious problem, and only a few tools are available to fight back. We have to make full use of them. Even if you won’t clean the whole internet, looking after your own campaigns is a good beginning. So let’s start!