February 11, 8 min read

Fighting against advertising fraud

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Fraud constantly evolves and finds new ways of how to bypass the system and deceive you. But how serious can ad fraud be?

Online advertising is a thriving multi-billion dollar market. According to Statista, expenditures on a global digital ad are going to reach more than $3 billion in 2019, and these expenses are steadily growing.


source: statista.com

A huge need in this market led to fraudulence. Actually, everyone who deals with app advertising faces cheating. And if you think you don’t face it, in fact, you do, you just don’t know about it.

Ad fraud is an e-commerce ulcer. Any company that accepts payments via its website or app sooner or later faces a fraud problem and suffers from losses. In order to protect yourself from fraud, use the help of experts who will help you to get rid of scammers.

Let’s figure out how to fight fraud. Fraud constantly evolves and finds new ways of how to bypass the system and deceive you. But how serious can ad fraud be?

The current fraud landscape

Recent reports show that programmatic and ad buys include about 37% of click fraud. Juniper Research suggested that brands can lose near $51 million daily or about $19 billion annually due to fraudulent or invalid traffic. And if ignoring it, losses due to ad fraud will reach $44 billion per year by 2022.

According to the study by Business Insider, publishers can also be affected by ad fraud with the loss of $1,27 billion per year. Bots can collect cookies from publishers’ websites and then go elsewhere to cause ad impressions to load. Invalid, bot-generated traffic will cause damages to publishers, users, and advertisers, ultimately.

As fraud patterns become more sophisticated, it can happen that they bypass fraud detection systems. For instance, a digital media company BuzzFeed revealed that YouTube and Linkedin were used to create pop-under ads and redirect the traffic so that the control system considered them legal. Stuff happens!

source: unsplash.com

  • Major advertisers have already faced fraud and taken measures to fight with fraudsters. For example, Financial Times and Procter & Gamble had to cut advertising budget, stop working with half of their marketing agencies, and spend money on fraud detection.

    Instagram, Facebook, App Store, and Google Play jeopardize mobile attribution as they relate to apps. Fraudsters can easily manipulate since many apps bid on using a CPI pricing model.

    Ad fraud hurts everyone. Advertisers suffer from ad blockers, publishers from lower retention rate (due to inefficient media). Affiliate networks also have problems with ad fraud because their clients (advertisers) receive poor results and go to other alternative platforms.

    How can ad fraud be defined?
    Because there are many types of ad fraud, it is not easy to identify them. Fortunately, there is a pile of companies that specialize in fraud detection.

    According to TechTarget, ad fraud is a type of scam in which advertisers pay for something worthless to them. Usually, fraud includes fake audience, invalid traffic, bot-generated taps and installs - and all of them follow the same goal: to make advertisers pay more.

    source: cpapracticeadvisor.com

    Most of ad detection companies use algorithms that can define fraudulent behavior. For instance, if the campaign has a high CTR index but no conversions, it indicates that something is unclear. Next step, ad fraud detection companies add those URLs and IP addresses to the blacklist. And then fraudsters can’t affect your company.

    Types of Ad Fraud

    As claimed by ad security firm White Ops, over $6 billion are being stolen from advertisers annually. The problem is that some types of ad fraud are very hard to detect, and protection technology is at the dawn of its development.

    The most common types of ad fraud include:

    • Traffic, clicks, and impressions made by bots.
    • Ad on the platforms that aren’t seen by users.
    • Publishers who purchase traffic or use preliminary platforms to distort data and performance.
    • Ad fraud committed by real people. There are different services that offer clicks from real people for money. Yes, clicks are from real users, but they are not interested in your brand.

Human ad fraud types:


source: medium.com

Click farms, also called pay-per-click-fraud. It is a practice of artificially inflating traffic statistics for online advertisements. Fraudsters use automated clicking programs (so-called hitbots), advertisers see the illusion of good performance, when actually nothing works and there is no chance that any of clicks will lead to profit for the advertiser.

Ad stacking. This type works when a publisher sells multiple ads for the given spot. All the ads generate impressions, users see them, but the ads are stacked so that only one top is viewed.

Pixel stuffing. This type of fraud works as follows: publisher places ads within pixels, impression registers, but in fact the ad is invisible and no potential customer actually sees it.

Click injection. This type of fraud technique works when fraudsters detect that other apps are downloaded and trigger clicks before the install completes. As a result, the fraudster receives the credit for installs.

Click spamming, also known as click flooding or click fraud, describes any type of fraud scheme that makes clicks on behalf of user’s devices without their consent or intent.

What you can do to protect your ad campaigns

It’s always better to prevent than treat. Start with fraud model definition, consult with specialists who have special programs to detect fraudulent actions. Find out which of them can track the movements of the fraudsters.

Measure conversions constantly, or let your marketers do it for you. Give all the information to the advertising team since it’s harder to simulate human actions in the upper level of the conversion funnel.

Create a database of IP addresses that were identified as scammers, avoid them or pass this info to the security companies so they can add the IPs to the blacklist. Also, there are different forums and social media channels where you can join the group of affiliates and share information about the fraudsters.

What more you can do to detect the scammers

Ad fraud is a really serious problem. In 2016 Google blocked 1,7 billion “bad ads” and banned 200 publishers. Every year advertisers lose their money that could be spent on marketing or improvement in quality. At the same time, many ad fraud detection methods are ineffective or outdated.

But it doesn't mean that we have to stop fighting. We have to try and try different methods since this struggle is eternal. Let’s see methods that help to detect, prevent, and measure specific types of fraud:

Ad viewability measurement

source: adage.com

Ad viewability is a concept of how the ads are visible to users. The ad is considered “viewed” if at least 50% of the banner or creative displays on the screen more than one second. This rule is defined by the Internet Advertising Bureau.

This concept gained popularity after comScore reported that over 54% of display ads weren’t seen to the users, despite advertisers paid for them. First days networks used to check the number of ads served and not on the number of ads viewed. It gave fraudsters the possibility to develop and continue scamming.

Publishers that want to show their “fair game” can cooperate with ad verification vendors who can measure viewability across digital campaigns.

Use the heuristic-based and machine-learning algorithms that detect fake traffic
Traffic is one of the most important factors to evaluate the website or application. Traffic quality depends on different factors including long-term stability, bounce rate, geolocation, cost, etc.

Fake or invalid traffic is generated by bots or software. Usually, marketers use fake traffic from third-party providers to artificially inflate the cost of the website before submitting it. But it is a pretty ineffective way.

Early or late, advertising networks will identify fake traffic and place the sanctions on the publisher’s advertising account after detection. In order not to fall for this trick and not to pay for invalid traffic you have to analyze the website. Do not be lazy to do it.

Pay attention to:
- Bounce Rate. If you’ve noticed a lot of refuses, then you shouldn't interact with these publishers.

- Average page session duration. It can also tell you a lot, short stay on the page or in the application shows bots system work.

- Extremely high level of new sessions also gives the occasion to analyze everything again.

And one more life hack. There are three metrics in Google Analytic which can identify fake traffic: language, country, and city. Use this data to self-control.

Website and botnet monitoring software
To avoid fraudsters you should work with programmatic partners that are transparent and prioritize quality and fraud prevention. Use the help of programs and software that monitor websites for botnets.

source: thehackernews.com

Usually, botnet behavioral patterns are like signature-based, anomaly-based, DNS-based, and even mining-based. To find them, work with companies that are based on the Instruction Detection System (IDS), they are aimed at botnet detection.

To receive access to the command-and-control server, bots have to perform DNS queries to find a particular server. This is a good thing for those who works on fraud detection methods because they can create a detection mechanism that monitors DNS traffic, searches for DNS anomalies, and block them.

Anyway, despite the success in fraud detection technology ad fraud still appears to be a marketer's big headache for a long time due to the constant growth of digital ad spend.


February 11, 8 min read

Fighting against advertising fraud

Fraud constantly evolves and finds new ways of how to bypass the system and deceive you. But how serious can ad fraud be?

Online advertising is a thriving multi-billion dollar market. According to Statista, expenditures on a global digital ad are going to reach more than $3 billion in 2019, and these expenses are steadily growing.


source: statista.com

A huge need in this market led to fraudulence. Actually, everyone who deals with app advertising faces cheating. And if you think you don’t face it, in fact, you do, you just don’t know about it.

Ad fraud is an e-commerce ulcer. Any company that accepts payments via its website or app sooner or later faces a fraud problem and suffers from losses. In order to protect yourself from fraud, use the help of experts who will help you to get rid of scammers.

Let’s figure out how to fight fraud. Fraud constantly evolves and finds new ways of how to bypass the system and deceive you. But how serious can ad fraud be?

The current fraud landscape

Recent reports show that programmatic and ad buys include about 37% of click fraud. Juniper Research suggested that brands can lose near $51 million daily or about $19 billion annually due to fraudulent or invalid traffic. And if ignoring it, losses due to ad fraud will reach $44 billion per year by 2022.

According to the study by Business Insider, publishers can also be affected by ad fraud with the loss of $1,27 billion per year. Bots can collect cookies from publishers’ websites and then go elsewhere to cause ad impressions to load. Invalid, bot-generated traffic will cause damages to publishers, users, and advertisers, ultimately.

As fraud patterns become more sophisticated, it can happen that they bypass fraud detection systems. For instance, a digital media company BuzzFeed revealed that YouTube and Linkedin were used to create pop-under ads and redirect the traffic so that the control system considered them legal. Stuff happens!

source: unsplash.com

  • Major advertisers have already faced fraud and taken measures to fight with fraudsters. For example, Financial Times and Procter & Gamble had to cut advertising budget, stop working with half of their marketing agencies, and spend money on fraud detection.

    Instagram, Facebook, App Store, and Google Play jeopardize mobile attribution as they relate to apps. Fraudsters can easily manipulate since many apps bid on using a CPI pricing model.

    Ad fraud hurts everyone. Advertisers suffer from ad blockers, publishers from lower retention rate (due to inefficient media). Affiliate networks also have problems with ad fraud because their clients (advertisers) receive poor results and go to other alternative platforms.

    How can ad fraud be defined?
    Because there are many types of ad fraud, it is not easy to identify them. Fortunately, there is a pile of companies that specialize in fraud detection.

    According to TechTarget, ad fraud is a type of scam in which advertisers pay for something worthless to them. Usually, fraud includes fake audience, invalid traffic, bot-generated taps and installs - and all of them follow the same goal: to make advertisers pay more.

    source: cpapracticeadvisor.com

    Most of ad detection companies use algorithms that can define fraudulent behavior. For instance, if the campaign has a high CTR index but no conversions, it indicates that something is unclear. Next step, ad fraud detection companies add those URLs and IP addresses to the blacklist. And then fraudsters can’t affect your company.

    Types of Ad Fraud

    As claimed by ad security firm White Ops, over $6 billion are being stolen from advertisers annually. The problem is that some types of ad fraud are very hard to detect, and protection technology is at the dawn of its development.

    The most common types of ad fraud include:

    • Traffic, clicks, and impressions made by bots.
    • Ad on the platforms that aren’t seen by users.
    • Publishers who purchase traffic or use preliminary platforms to distort data and performance.
    • Ad fraud committed by real people. There are different services that offer clicks from real people for money. Yes, clicks are from real users, but they are not interested in your brand.

Human ad fraud types:


source: medium.com

Click farms, also called pay-per-click-fraud. It is a practice of artificially inflating traffic statistics for online advertisements. Fraudsters use automated clicking programs (so-called hitbots), advertisers see the illusion of good performance, when actually nothing works and there is no chance that any of clicks will lead to profit for the advertiser.

Ad stacking. This type works when a publisher sells multiple ads for the given spot. All the ads generate impressions, users see them, but the ads are stacked so that only one top is viewed.

Pixel stuffing. This type of fraud works as follows: publisher places ads within pixels, impression registers, but in fact the ad is invisible and no potential customer actually sees it.

Click injection. This type of fraud technique works when fraudsters detect that other apps are downloaded and trigger clicks before the install completes. As a result, the fraudster receives the credit for installs.

Click spamming, also known as click flooding or click fraud, describes any type of fraud scheme that makes clicks on behalf of user’s devices without their consent or intent.

What you can do to protect your ad campaigns

It’s always better to prevent than treat. Start with fraud model definition, consult with specialists who have special programs to detect fraudulent actions. Find out which of them can track the movements of the fraudsters.

Measure conversions constantly, or let your marketers do it for you. Give all the information to the advertising team since it’s harder to simulate human actions in the upper level of the conversion funnel.

Create a database of IP addresses that were identified as scammers, avoid them or pass this info to the security companies so they can add the IPs to the blacklist. Also, there are different forums and social media channels where you can join the group of affiliates and share information about the fraudsters.

What more you can do to detect the scammers

Ad fraud is a really serious problem. In 2016 Google blocked 1,7 billion “bad ads” and banned 200 publishers. Every year advertisers lose their money that could be spent on marketing or improvement in quality. At the same time, many ad fraud detection methods are ineffective or outdated.

But it doesn't mean that we have to stop fighting. We have to try and try different methods since this struggle is eternal. Let’s see methods that help to detect, prevent, and measure specific types of fraud:

Ad viewability measurement

source: adage.com

Ad viewability is a concept of how the ads are visible to users. The ad is considered “viewed” if at least 50% of the banner or creative displays on the screen more than one second. This rule is defined by the Internet Advertising Bureau.

This concept gained popularity after comScore reported that over 54% of display ads weren’t seen to the users, despite advertisers paid for them. First days networks used to check the number of ads served and not on the number of ads viewed. It gave fraudsters the possibility to develop and continue scamming.

Publishers that want to show their “fair game” can cooperate with ad verification vendors who can measure viewability across digital campaigns.

Use the heuristic-based and machine-learning algorithms that detect fake traffic
Traffic is one of the most important factors to evaluate the website or application. Traffic quality depends on different factors including long-term stability, bounce rate, geolocation, cost, etc.

Fake or invalid traffic is generated by bots or software. Usually, marketers use fake traffic from third-party providers to artificially inflate the cost of the website before submitting it. But it is a pretty ineffective way.

Early or late, advertising networks will identify fake traffic and place the sanctions on the publisher’s advertising account after detection. In order not to fall for this trick and not to pay for invalid traffic you have to analyze the website. Do not be lazy to do it.

Pay attention to:
- Bounce Rate. If you’ve noticed a lot of refuses, then you shouldn't interact with these publishers.

- Average page session duration. It can also tell you a lot, short stay on the page or in the application shows bots system work.

- Extremely high level of new sessions also gives the occasion to analyze everything again.

And one more life hack. There are three metrics in Google Analytic which can identify fake traffic: language, country, and city. Use this data to self-control.

Website and botnet monitoring software
To avoid fraudsters you should work with programmatic partners that are transparent and prioritize quality and fraud prevention. Use the help of programs and software that monitor websites for botnets.

source: thehackernews.com

Usually, botnet behavioral patterns are like signature-based, anomaly-based, DNS-based, and even mining-based. To find them, work with companies that are based on the Instruction Detection System (IDS), they are aimed at botnet detection.

To receive access to the command-and-control server, bots have to perform DNS queries to find a particular server. This is a good thing for those who works on fraud detection methods because they can create a detection mechanism that monitors DNS traffic, searches for DNS anomalies, and block them.

Anyway, despite the success in fraud detection technology ad fraud still appears to be a marketer's big headache for a long time due to the constant growth of digital ad spend.


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2019 © Evertrack. All rights reserved
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