Ad Fraud: The Common Enemy We Need to Vanquish

Graphic of a smart phone with an ad saying "free!", indicating digital ad fraud.“Ad fraud” is a 2016-2017 buzzphrase we’ll likely hear more and more until our industry collectively finds a way to better fight this growing phenomenon. But what is ad fraud?

Ad fraud occurs when digital bots trigger ad clicks or impressions. If you’ve ever purchased pay-per-click (PPC) advertising you know how big of a problem false clicks are for your digital ad spend budget.

How Common of a Problem Is Ad Fraud?

Extremely common, and occurs at every budget level. Less experienced black hat SEO hackers may start with smaller businesses, but their reach is no less extensive. Just in December 2016, White Ops, a digital security firm, released an extensive report of Russian ad fraud operations they’ve dubbed Methbot because of its catastrophic effects.

These hackers purchased thousands of domain names similar to landing pages of major U.S. companies, such as Vogue and ESPN, and placed videos on each page. This method tricked ad sellers into placing their ads on these videos as opposed to legitimate videos posted by the real companies. Bots then clicked on these videos and the hackers were able to bring in between $3 and $5 million per day.

How Do We Stop Ad Fraud?

Putting an end to this pervasive scam requires cooperation from a plethora of sources. First, we all have to constantly monitor our own websites and PPC campaigns. We can’t simply “set it and forget it” when it comes to our digital ad spends. Have your clicks suddenly gone through the roof, gutting your monthly budget in a day? Do your analytics reveal the majority of clicks are coming from an obscure foreign country where you don’t do business? These are red flags to keep in mind.

Where Do Advertisers Come Into Play?

Next, advertising sellers need to vet the places in which ads appear. For example, more security on this end could prevent the above Methbot situation, assuming the right systems are in place. This may mean losing some efficiency to bolster authenticity. Publishers, agencies, and other companies that manage PPC strategies for clients also need to accept responsibility. If your agency of choice is missing instances of ad fraud on your site, it’s time to go with a partner who has a dedicated security team in place to prevent such behavior.

Though unfortunate for those who have lost money, the recent Methbot disaster may just bring the attention needed to finally address this issue once and for all. At LegalRev, we remain hopeful that more companies will continue to pay closer attention to their marketing efforts. For more information on SEO and digital advertising, call us at (800) 893-2590 or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

January 13, 2017