Ad Fraud Detection

Everything you need to know about ad fraud, ad fraud detection, and how Anura’s solution can help.

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In an ideal world, marketers would set aside a certain amount of money for their digital advertising campaigns, and all of that money would be spent serving up legitimate ads to real, live humans. 

Unfortunately, where ill-gotten gains can be made, fraudsters eventually show up.

In the world of online advertising, ad fraud is a massive problem. For example, some accounts estimate that as much as 25 percent of all ad clicks are fraudulent. For the average pay-per-click campaign, fraudsters end up stealing one out of every four dollars from your budget—and stuffing that cash into their own pockets.

Ad fraud is already a tremendous challenge, with bad actors defrauding unsuspecting businesses by upwards of $42 billion in 2019. According to Juniper Research, this is a problem that’s only going to compound over time. Believe it or not, Juniper predicts that the ad fraud problem will cost a whopping $100 billion by 2023—more than doubling in four short years.


Chapter 1

What Is Ad Fraud?

Before we jump in, let’s take a step back and get our definitions straight.

Ad fraud is the practice of viewing, clicking, converting, or generating false interactions with any web asset for the sole purpose of earning money, directly or indirectly.

By its nature, ad fraud is eclectic; it can be perpetuated by bots, malware, humans, or a combination thereof. Not only can ad fraud be carried out by all of these different actors, but the fraud itself can take many different forms. Here are some of the more pervasive forms of ad fraud on the market today:

Ad Stacking 

This form of ad fraud occurs when publishers stack several ads on top of each other, leaving only the ad on top visible. Let’s say 10 ads are stacked on a website, and a visitor lands there. All 10 ads register impressions, even though the visitor only saw one. In this scenario, nine ads will fail to perform because no one can see them.

Ad Injection 

Ad injection is a more nefarious pathway for fraud. This method uses malware to infect a website to override normal ad placement protocols, opening the door to unwanted advertising that can be placed in spots that haven't been paid for. Even worse, these unpaid ads can replace legitimately purchased advertising space. Most injected ads are irrelevant to the website in question or feature inappropriate content. Due to the malware required to achieve this strategy, ad injection poses a significant risk to the sites in use. This scam can affect companies of all sizes.

Affiliate Marketing Fraud 

Affiliate marketing is a marketing avenue in which businesses pay affiliates who can draw in new visitors or customers. Generally, the affiliate receives some sort of kickback for every new action generated, which can be in the form of impressions, clicks, leads, or e-commerce purchases. Affiliate marketing fraud aims to cheat merchants, buyers, or legitimate affiliates through the use of misleading or fraudulent activity to earn illegitimate commissions.

Pay-Per-Click or Cost-Per-Click Fraud

This kind of advertising allows an advertiser to place their ads onto a site or network and only charges them when someone clicks on their ad. Fraudsters take advantage of this type of marketing by using bots, malware, or humans to click on ads to make money. In some cases, click fraud is committed by competitors who are trying to deplete the competing company’s advertising budget.

Influencer Marketing Fraud 

In marketing terms, an influencer is someone who has a large following on social media and is able to "influence" others to make specific buying decisions. Influencer marketing fraud occurs when an influencer is either using bots or other techniques to artificially inflate their engagement with the advertiser. Sometimes, the influencer isn't even a real person.

Lead Generation Fraud 

Lead generation is one of the primary objectives of digital marketing. In a lead generation ad, online advertisements take users to a landing page where they can sign up to request more information. In order to commit lead generation fraud, a fraudster will use a bot, malware, or humans to fill in the lead forms using stolen information to bypass detection. This creates a myriad of issues for the advertiser, including legal compliance issues.

Pixel Stuffing Fraud

Pixel stuffing is a technique in which a standard ad is reduced in size and placed in a single pixel. The ad technically exists on the site and visitors trigger impressions each time it is accessed. However, individual pixels aren't visible to the human eye, so viewers aren't actually viewing these ads and any impressions generated are illegitimate. Because pixel-stuffed ads take up very little real estate, fraudsters can fill an entire site with pixel-stuffed ads to create the illusion of a significant number of impressions.

Viewability Fraud 

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) defines viewability as "... greater than or equal to 50 percent of the pixels in the advertisement were on an in-focus browser tab on the viewable space of the browser page, and the time the pixel requirement is met was greater than or equal to one continuous second, post ad render." In essence, this means at least half of your ad is in view for a minimum of one second. Display ads are sold based on this viewability standard. Fraudsters know how to hide ads and trick the measurement companies into thinking they’re in view when in reality, they’re not. Also,  note that the definition of viewability doesn't specify who is viewing the ad. Instead of a legitimate person, it could be a bot, malware, or a human fraud farm.

This list of the types of ad fraud is by no means comprehensive, but it should give you a pretty good idea of how sophisticated fraudsters can be. The good news is that, when it comes to stopping ad fraud, you’re not completely powerless. By investing in an ad fraud detection solution, your business can protect itself against even the most advanced fraudsters—maintaining your reputation, reaching more customers, and keeping more of your hard-earned money along the way.

To expand your knowledge on ad fraud, check out Anura's Glossary

Explore Our Ad Fraud Glossary

"Ad fraud is the practice of viewing, clicking, converting, or generating false interactions with any web asset for the sole purpose of earning money directly or indirectly."

Chapter 2

What Is Ad Fraud Detection?

At this point, you know that ad fraud is a serious problem—one that’s only going to get worse over time. You also know that fraudsters can target your business in several different ways.

Well, what can you do about it?

If you know what you’re looking for, it’s possible to figure out whether you’re the victim of ad fraud. Here are some of the telltale signs that might indicate fraudsters have you in their crosshairs:

  • You’re getting a lot of clicks, but you aren’t getting many conversions.
  • Your best-performing campaigns are suddenly generating little to no return on investment (ROI).
  • You’re getting a lot of clicks on unexpected pages of your website (e.g., people going straight to your company’s privacy policy).
  • Your campaigns have extremely high bounce rates.
  • You’re noticing that your leads are confused as to why you’re calling them (i.e., they didn’t fill out any lead-generation forms themselves).
  • Your website metrics reveal that many visitors to your website are bouncing within one second.
  • You’ve put together a great campaign but nobody is clicking on it, which could indicate you’re the victim of pixel stuffing or ad stacking.
  • You’re noticing a lot of traffic originating from unfamiliar sources (e.g., an area outside your target audience, or lots of clicks from the same IP address).

As you can see, there are many ways to determine whether you might be the victim of ad fraud—and this list isn’t complete, either. But there are only so many hours in the day, and you’re busy enough as it is. Do you really have enough time to thoroughly review all of these metrics on a regular basis to make sure you’re protecting your marketing budget?

The good news is that you don’t have to detect ad fraud manually. By investing in an ad fraud solution, you can let technology take care of the lion’s share of work on your behalf.

For example, Anura’s ad fraud solution enables you to validate traffic in real time. The solution sits quietly in the background and lets you know whether users are real or fake. Armed with that information, you can then determine the best course of action forward for your business.

While ad fraud solutions can help protect your business against fraud, not all solutions are the same. Next, we’ll take a look at why, specifically, Anura is the best ad fraud detection solution on the market today.

"The good news is that you don’t have to detect ad fraud manually. By investing in an ad fraud solution, you can let technology take care of the lion’s share of work on your behalf."

Chapter 3

How Can Anura Help with Ad Fraud Detection?

Plenty of ad fraud solutions on the market are all talk and no action, but with Anura’s decades of experience helping businesses overcome ad fraud challenges, we’re very serious about what we do. We believe that we succeed only when you do.

Our solutions are designed to help businesses like yours see results that you won’t find anywhere else. Here’s how it works: Anura collects hundreds of data points on the user’s environment via installed code that rests in the background of your websites and digital properties. Once that data is collected, we run it against our rule sets and make a decision about whether a specific visitor is good or bad. To make sure we stay ahead of the bad guys, we continuously update our rules and heuristics to target new forms of fraud as they emerge.

Anura doesn’t stop there, in terms of setting ourselves apart from the pack. Let’s take a look at four differentiating factors that make our ad fraud solution best-in-class.

Anura Differentiator #1: Unparalleled Accuracy

Accuracy is the cornerstone of identifying fraud. When detection measures aren’t up to par, it’s easy to miss signs of fraud.

According to Anura client case studies, our systems register virtually zero false positives. That means that our defenses don’t block real users, ensuring no loss of potential revenue from actual customers. Most of our competitors have false-positive numbers—in some cases in the double digits—which puts a significant damper on campaign effectiveness. Simply put, our resources find gaps the other solutions can’t, and that means we make sure no stone goes unturned.

When Anura says it’s bad, it’s bad. Period.

Anura Differentiator #2: Thorough Results

For an ad fraud solution to deliver the results you need, it has to be thorough.

Anura is committed to covering as many bases as possible and addressing virtually every known area of ad fraud. With a proprietary solution that works around the clock to detect all threats to your advertising campaigns, our algorithms find 200-300 percent more fraud than our competitors, according to our clients.

While other products on the market might help you detect some forms of ad fraud, Anura is the only solution that gives you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ll detect fraud you’d otherwise miss.

On top of that, we are constantly updating our algorithm to keep pace with fraudsters, who are always developing new techniques. Not only is Anura the most thorough ad fraud solution on the market today, but we will maintain that position for years to come.

Anura Differentiator #3: Comprehensive Analytics

Analytics are the crux of identifying fraud. At a very high level, they provide a way to capture concerning trends that highlight problematic activity. No two businesses are the same. Different companies have different priorities, and when they’re the victim of ad fraud, they can get attacked in different ways.

Anura gives you full visibility into the metrics you care the most about. In fact, Anura’s robust dashboard allows users to customize reporting, with the ability to drill down multiple levels and zero in on areas of primary concern. The dashboard allows you to pinpoint exactly where the fraud is coming from—which enables you to better defend against similar attacks in the future.

With more and more data on hand, you can continuously optimize and secure your environment, further protecting your business from fraudsters.

Anura Differentiator #4: Dedicated Support

When it comes to any new piece of technology, there’s usually a learning curve. When you’re struggling to figure out exactly how something works, the last thing you want is to be left all alone with no one to turn to.

We understand this perfectly, which is why we’ve invested so much into our customer support services. When you have questions, we have answers. It’s that simple.

Live phone support is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. EST from our headquarters in Delaware. Our software and technology experts are highly experienced in ad fraud, ensuring you’ll have access to accurate and comprehensive information whenever you need assistance.

We also maintain comprehensive documentation to help you figure out how to optimize your ad fraud solution in very little time.

"“Anura was able to identify the affiliates who were not the best affiliates. We were able to start pruning our affiliate lists because of what we found in Anura.”"

- —Judith-Ann Sarjeant, Security, Fraud, and Compliance Specialist

Chapter 4

Ready to Prevent Fraudsters from Stealing from Your Business?

Identifying the difference between legitimate transactions and fraudulent activity can be a delicate balance. With the right monitoring tools in place, you can take proactive steps to reduce the impact ad fraud has on your business—or maybe even eliminate it altogether.

With Anura doing the heavy lifting on your behalf, you can maximize your marketing dollars while focusing more of your resources and energy on other important areas of operations. As a result, you’ll know whether your visitors are real or fake, you’ll improve the effectiveness of your campaigns, you’ll mitigate potential risks, and you’ll generate higher ROI—all while ensuring the bad actors don’t take money out of your pocket.

What’s not to like?

Get in touch with us today to eliminate ad fraud in your marketing endeavors and bolster your bottom line. We look forward to hearing from you!

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