Click Fraud: 5 Ad Fraud Questions All Media Buyers Need to Ask

November 22, 2017

When you’re a media buyer, you don’t want to purchase worthless traffic. It not only reflects badly on you, it hits you in your wallet... hard. Advertisers are losing $7.2 billion annually to ad fraud.

Guess who that trickles down to? You.  

Media buyers who are concerned about job security, need to stop the bleeding. While they can’t stop click fraud, they can mitigate it by knowing what they’re dealing with.

Here are five questions all media buyers should be asking.

1. What Makes a Click Fraudulent?

Any click made by a non-human is considered fraudulent. So, it sounds like it would be easy to detect then, right? Not exactly. Ad fraud doesn’t come in one shape or size. It takes many forms (e.g. click bots, bot farms, botnet). Traffic validation companies employ experts who study analytics, patterns, markers, and methods to capture and reduce click fraud incidents.

They determine if a click is fraudulent based on browser information, user session patterns, information about the host network, IP address attribution, duplicate IP addresses, geotargeting, and more.

Once you’ve detected a fraudulent click, there are ways to defend yourself. A go-to line of defense is the CAPTCHA form. In the past, this block of text could only be filled out by a human. But bots have become more sophisticated and can now fill out a CAPTCHA form.

CAPTCHA - click fraud

Source: Hallam

So, it doesn’t hurt to also have a backup method like luring bots into traps, known as honeypots or blackholes. These will protect your form without interrupting the user experience.

2. Where Is the Traffic Coming From?

Not all traffic is good traffic.That traffic surge for a Disney vacation display ad placed on an adult website means nothing if it’s hurting your brand safety.


Source: Marketing Keys

Make sure you know where your traffic is coming from. Ask for a list of publishers. Be cautious if you’re quoted a low CPC for your ads. A lower quote means you’re probably going to have your ads appear on lower-quality sites. If you want to reach a premium audience, you’re going to have to invest more money.

Shelling out money for premium traffic doesn’t mean you’ll be free of fraud. But it is the first step in finding clean, converting traffic.

3. Is There a Third-Party Validation System in Place?

Third-party traffic validation systems help validate traffic. They review the traffic your ads receive from a publisher, and score the quality of each click.

Each system has their own algorithms to determine if a click is legitimate. Some publishers score well on certain networks, and not so great on others. Don’t feel married to one system.

Test a few, and go with the one that provides the most clean, converting traffic.

4. What’s Your Traffic Filtration Score?

Traffic scoring isn’t a universal system; not every system will be the same. Before choosing one to use, look how it scores traffic. You’ll want a scoring company that looks for:

Source Location. Helps you determine whether the location of your traffic is useful to your campaigns. One way to track where traffic is coming from is with UTM codes, or bits of text at the end of a URL that tells you how users found your site.

Variable Conversion Rates. High conversion rates aren’t always the goal. Sometimes, if you’re just starting out, you may aim for more modest traffic to get your brand noticed. Consider your campaign goals before assuming a low score automatically is a dud.

Clean Traffic. Will determine if your traffic coming from reputable sources and converting.

5. Is Your Traffic Filtered in Real-Time?

There are two options for filtered traffic: real-time or after they’ve visited your page. Filtering in real-time has its benefits, namely, fraudulent clicks won’t touch your budget.

However, the Media Rating Council (MRC) has recommended that traffic only be filtered after the fact. Some filters are unable to fully analyze a click in real-time. To meet the MRC’s guidelines, many services will wait until after the traffic has visited your page to report.

But not all services are following the MRC’s standards. Do some digging and you might find some who are still using real-time filtering.  

Never let down your guard with ad fraud. The battle is never over. Keep digging into your campaign and remember the best media buyers always ask questions.


This article was originally posted in July 2017 and has been republished with new information.