Online advertising fraud has been on the rise over the past few years, becoming the scourge of advertising campaigns across the globe. But most business owners aren’t sure what it is or how to spot it. This creates a huge problem, as you can no longer measure how effective your online advertising campaigns are, ultimately making it harder to achieve your goals.
Wreaking Havoc On Your Ad Spend
As small business owners ourselves, we know how precious every advertising dollar spent is to your bottom line. Large brands can absorb some wasted ad dollars, but small businesses definitely can’t.
Here, we examine the 3 most common types of online advertising fraud:
- fake pages
- bot fraud
- domain spoofing
Fake Pages, Hacked Websites
The most common type of ad fraud takes your well-crafted, targeted ads and places them on fake pages or websites where no one will ever see them! For instance, a publisher may claim 10,000 people saw your ad and charge for 1,000 impressions—but really only 10 people saw it.
Even more insidious, some unscrupulous ad networks will sell ads on hacked websites. These hackers build hidden fake pages on legitimate websites and then sell ads on pages that no one will ever see!
The fastest growing segment of online advertising fraud involves fake bot traffic. Bot traffic can come in many different forms and work in a number of ways, but bots are usually used for one main purpose: to fool ad buyers into thinking that ads are being seen by real users.
The most common type of bot fraud is bots designed to imitate actual people using mobile devices. Some bots take random screen grabs from web pages and then use them to represent page views; others mimic specific users and log their mouse movements as clicks on ads.
But it doesn’t stop there.
There are also numerous types of ad-clicking bots: some click every link on a page, while others simply hover over images or links, simulating user activity without actually doing anything useful at all.
As you can see, bot fraud is one of the more subtle forms of ad fraud, since it’s so hard to tell if the data you’re receiving isn’t actual user activity.
Fraudsters can get very clever when perpetuating ad fraud. Sometimes, they will fake legitimate sites simply by pretending to be sites like nytimes.com, wsj.com or espn.com. The extent of domain spoofing is not known, although there is ample evidence that it is prevalent. For example, for some of the largest domains, like yahoo.com and msn.com, there are more than 40X more faked ads than real ones.
Hackers also love faking subdomains, which are small websites within a site. Some shady ad networks create these subdomains in order to sell advertisements on them. Of course, they don’t really care if anyone actually goes to those subdomains; they just want to claim that ads are being shown on major websites.
Business owners and marketing teams aren’t likely to see any traffic as a result of most online advertising campaigns due to the high rate of fraud. Even the most trusted companies selling ads may not be aware of it.
Because many online publishers today install ad fraud detection software, they think they are safe from selling fake ads. However, through our work with prominent online advertising research scientists, Find8 knows that this is simply not true. Unfortunately, many of you may find yourselves out thousands in fraudulent charges and not even know it.
Find8 is Here to Help!
Over the next few months, Find8 Performance Marketing will publish more articles, case studies and research about this subject.
In the meantime, please contact us if you have any questions about ad fraud and if it’s happening in your campaigns. We’re here to help you stay protected against online advertising fraud and provide solutions to decrease these losses significantly.
Our goal is to make businesses aware of just how prevalent ad fraud is today so they can make educated decisions moving forward.