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

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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. Approximately 25% of all paid traffic is fraudulent. In 2020, $65 billion dollars were lost to ad fraud, and that number is only growing.

Who does this impact? 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 and taking necessary precautions.

Here are five questions all media buyers should be asking.

Get started with a free trial today to see exactly how much you could be losing  to ad fraud.

1. What Makes a Click Fraudulent?

We know that any click made by a non-human is considered fraudulent. However, it's not as simple as it sounds.  Ad fraud doesn’t come in one shape or size; it takes many forms (e.g. click bots, bot farms, botnet).  Even clicks made by actual humans can be fraudulent.  Human fraud is the hardest form of ad fraud to detect as it relies on a network of humans to interact with ads and create false transactions. Because actual humans are interacting with the ads, there are no obvious signs that can differentiate normal traffic from human fraud.

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.

A common defense against click fraud is CAPTCHA.  CAPTCHA is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” The goal of the tool is to prevent bots from being able to complete forms or perform other activities.

Initially, this helped to reduce ad fraud. However, the bots used by fraudsters were quickly improved to bypass CAPTCHA. New versions of the software, such as reCAPTCHA, noCAPTCHA reCAPTCHA, and reCAPTCHA v3 were then developed to combat this problem. However, each of these “improvements” to CAPTCHA still had its own problems. Many fraudsters use human fraud to bypass CAPTCHA.

CAPTCHA - click fraud

Keeping that in mind, it doesn’t hurt to have a backup method in place, such as luring bots into traps, known as "honeypots". These can protect your form without interrupting the user experience.

2. Is There an Ad Fraud Detection Solution in Place?

Ad fraud solutions (or anti-fraud solutions) help validate traffic. They review the traffic your ads receive from a publisher, and score the quality of each click, to confirm whether the click is fraudulent or legitimate.

Each ad fraud solution has its own algorithms to determine if a click is real. 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 cleanest, converting traffic.

3. 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 at 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: This will determine if your traffic is coming from reputable sources and converting, or if you are wasting your marketing dollars on fraudulent traffic.

4. Is Your Ad Fraud Solution Certified?

There are over 50 ad fraud detection companies claiming to solve your ad fraud problem.  However, only 9 of them are certified solutions. 

For example, the Trustworthy Accountability Group, or TAG, is the leading global initiative in its mission of eliminating fraudulent traffic, facilitating the sharing of threat intelligence, and promoting brand safety by connecting industry leaders, analyzing threats, and sharing best practices worldwide.  

In order to be TAG certified, a solution must complete a rigorous process to prove it is actively fighting fraudulent and criminal activity in the digital advertising industry.  Find out if your solution is certified, and if it's not, try a few that are.

5. Will an Ad Fraud Solution Reduce Ad Spend?

An ad fraud solution's job is to identify fraudulent visitors.
For example, Anura's dashboard summarizes data in a variety of ways so you can see where traffic is coming from. A client can use this data to optimize how they spend their ad dollars. They can use this information to reduce their overall ad spend if they choose, or ideally, move their ad spend from fraudulent traffic to real visitors, which will maintain their original budget, but increase their ROI. If they are managing campaigns for clients, they will most likely choose this option. As their clients see an improved ROI, they will likely want to increase their spend.
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. 

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This article was originally posted in July 2017 and has been republished in 2021 with new information.