- mFilterIt Expert
Ad Fraud: The Digital Advertising Industry's Biggest Battle Yet to Win
That’s the estimated amount of money advertisers are expected to lose this year because of ad fraud.
While ad platforms are getting better at detecting such fraud, fraudsters are also coming up with more innovative, hard-to-detect ways to commit fraud. These days, fraudsters employ a variety of sophisticated techniques to fool advertisers.
Even modern ad fraud bots have become sophisticated. These bots have authentic user/device IDs, that can perform complex actions, and mimic human behavior almost perfectly. Entire communities of cyber criminals, backed by handsome development budgets, are engaged in ad fraud.
Using Google Ad Traffic Blocking is a good way to protect your ad campaigns, but it is not enough.
Let’s understand how:
Loopholes In the Google Ad Traffic Blocking
Google Ad Traffic Blocking allows you to block ad traffic from specific sources. This means you can block traffic from known sources of fraudulent traffic. While this sounds great in theory, this strategy has a number of problems:
- The list of sources of fraudulent traffic is constantly growing. Nearly half of the traffic on the web is bot traffic, and bad bots account for 39% of this bot traffic. As you’re reading this, there are hundreds of fraudulent websites being created. By the time you add new websites to your ad traffic blocking list, new ones will already be in operation.
- Many advertisers depend on their Google Analytics data to detect sources of fraudulent traffic and use Google ad blocking to prevent their ads from appearing on these websites. This isn’t a sustainable strategy. It is almost like you are paying the ad platform to learn about fraudulent traffic sources. Depending on the size of your ad budget, such a strategy can potentially cost you thousands of dollars every month.
- The combination of Google Analytics and Google Ad Traffic Blocking only works for sites using simple bots. It is much more difficult to manually detect the activity of sophisticated bots.
- While Google does not release how it tracks fraudulent clicks, many experts believe it uses IP addresses. If that is the case, fraudsters can simply change their IP address and avoid being included in the Google Ads exclusion list.
Marketing professionals and ad platforms realized long ago that they must evolve in order to put an end to ad fraud. To that end, there have been a number of innovative attempts in recent years.
Let’s examine some of these and determine if they are truly effective.
Methods Used by Marketers and Ad Platforms To Combat Ad Fraud
Ads.txt is a public text file that allows publishers to identify themselves as authorized publishers and prevent spoofed inventory. Unfortunately, the use of Ads.txt did little to stop ad fraud. Besides major sellers like Rubicon, most publishers also allow other “resellers”. You can find these resellers in almost every Ads.txt file. These resellers are not required to disclose the names of the advertisers, they are selling their traffic too. This means that they could be reselling the same traffic to you and a number of other parties.
Moreover, fraudsters have found many ways to conduct fraud using Ads.txt files. 404 bot is one of the most famous instances where fraudsters have launched entire bot networks designed to surpass ads.txt protection.
2. Play Protect
Play Protect was another initiative by Google, designed to potentially prevent the release of fake and malware apps on the Android Play Store. Play Protect scans applications for malware and other threats before allowing them to become available for download on the Play Store.
While this effort did stop some obvious forms of malware and fraud on the platform, it has not been very effective. The proof of the same lies in the fact that there have been many cases of ad fraud on Google’s Play Store and even Apple’s App Store in the recent past.
3. Fake Account Prevention
Just like Google ads face issues with fraudulent publishers, social media platforms are plagued by fake accounts. The issue got serious attention when the Elon Musk-Twitter deal almost fell through because Twitter (allegedly) failed to disclose the real number of fake accounts on the platform.
Social media platforms claim that they routinely run checks and purge fake accounts on their platforms. However, new fake accounts pop up just as quickly as old ones are removed. While it is true that creating fake accounts is relatively difficult these days, it is still easy enough to be done at a scale.
Why Is Ad Fraud Hard to Stop?
Ad fraud is hard to stop for multiple reasons. For one, there are significant monetary benefits associated with successfully committing ad fraud. This motivation makes fraudsters stay committed to finding new ways to steal advertisers’ money.
Another hard reality is that some ad platforms may let a small percentage of bad traffic through to inflate numbers. After all, the only one losing money because of ad fraud is the advertiser.
Finally, as fraud techniques and bots become increasingly sophisticated, detecting, and preventing fraud will only get more difficult.
So, what are advertisers supposed to do? Should they accept that they cannot do anything about ad fraud?
Quite the contrary.
Just like fraudsters have committed teams and communities constantly finding new ways to commit fraud, you need a team on your side that is committed to preventing said fraud.
mFilterIt's ad fraud detection tool enables the detection and prevention of invalid traffic in real-time. In other words, with mFilterIt, you can not only identify bot traffic coming to your ads, but you can also prevent its impact, essentially saving your precious ad budget. Our tool employs AI, ML, and data science capabilities to detect and prevent ad fraud.
Ad fraud is constantly evolving, making it incredibly difficult to detect and prevent. However, combating ad fraud isn’t impossible. To survive in this ever-evolving digital ecosystem impacted by malicious elements like bots, advertisers need to go beyond traditional methods. With an advanced ad fraud solution, advertisers can ensure that sophisticated bots cannot sneak under their noses pretending to be real human traffic.
What is going to be your choice?