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How to Recognize Ad Fraud in Digital Marketing Campaigns

May 13, 2020

It’s easy to point the finger at ad fraud in digital marketing when something goes wrong. For the most part, ad fraud is the culprit, but sometimes we jump the gun without taking a look at other possibilities.

Losing money elicits fear and causes panic. The faster we can find the issue, the faster we can put a stop to it. However, this reaction prevents us from looking at all angles of the problem.

Let’s take a look at some other problems potentially eating your ad spend and the difference when it truly is ad fraud at fault.

Misguided Audience

When It’s Not Fraud 

Sometimes we can be misguided in our thought process when outlining our ideal audience. Let’s say you recently opened a local boutique. When creating your boutique, you had high school aged girls in mind for your target audience.

You set up your parameters in Google AdWords to match this age group. Knowing a little about how digital marketing works, you expect to have results in no time. Yet, days goes by and the results you expected to gather are nowhere in sight.

Related Post: Marketers Admit They’re Clueless About Ad Fraud

Instead of the target audience you had in mind, you start to get an uptick in clicks and product purchases from mid-20 to 30-year-old females. Obviously, conversions are your main goal. Instead of looking at your results as a failure, you tailor your parameters to meet the ideal audience that appears to have chosen you.

It can take some time to determine your ideal audience and tailor to them. Setting up a digital marketing strategy takes a lot of testing. Whether you decide on Multivariate or A/B testing, make sure you’re targeting the audience who will be most interested in your product.

When It’s Fraud 

Now, let’s say you’re positive you have the correct ideal audience, or maybe you have the same problem as above - either would work. You outline your parameters in Google AdWords and start dishing out your ads.

Your engagement is outstanding. But your conversions are somehow still lacking. How could this be? The likely answer: ad fraud.

Related Post: Ad Fraud: The Most Deadly Types You Need to Know

Here, click fraud, which is a form of ad fraud, could be stealing your ad spend and leaving you high and dry. In this case, it’s time to get protected.


There’s a fine line between a targeting mistake and actual ad fraud; know the difference.

Wrong Location

When It’s Not Fraud

You’ve just opened up your new boutique in Wilmington, Delaware. You start your targeted Google ads within a 20-mile parameter.

You’re receiving a lot of engagement from your ads, but no conversions or walk-ins to your location. Of course, your mind initially goes to ad fraud. Normally, this would be the obvious issue, but you forgot to check one minuscule detail: Location.

There are a total of seven towns and four cities named Wilmington in the U.S. That’s a lot of opportunity to choose the wrong Wilmington. You check your parameters and realize you’ve set your ads to target consumers in Wilmington, North Carolina instead of Wilmington, Delaware.

Google Map Shot

Source: Google Maps

That’s a seven hour and 15-minute drive on a good day without traffic. No wonder you’re not receiving the results you had expected. Next time, make sure you have the correct locations set before making any drastic assumptions.

When It’s Fraud

Now, you’ve changed your location to the correct Wilmington, but you’re still receiving an uptick in the amount of clicks from odd locations: Montreal, Canada; San Antonio, Texas; and Savannah, Georgia.

Something’s not adding up. You’ve double, even triple checked your parameters, yet you’re still receiving traffic from locations you don’t target. This is a huge sign of potential ad fraud, especially, if this traffic is coming from different countries.

Related Post: 3 Signs You Have an Ad Fraud Problem

Your answer, for any type of fraud, is an ad fraud solution. Make sure you’re not putting all the blame on fraud before taking a look at the items you’re in control of. In general, you’re better safe than sorry. Filter all of your traffic with an ad fraud solution, it’s the only way to remain vigilant in knowing you have a real user engaging with your ads.