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What are you doing about ad fraud?

According to The Guardian, 60% of online advertising spending is going to fraudsters. Even if you don’t believe that (I do), suppose it was just 20%? Wouldn’t you want to do something about that? I mean, it’s as if I asked you if you would like a 20% budget increase. Yes, right?

Ad fraud is similar to a lot of problems out there. It’s human nature to ignore problems that we don’t know how to solve–after all, why upset yourself over problems beyond your control? I see this every day when marketers ignore their issues in site search. They know their site search is terrible, but they don’t dwell on it because they don’t think it can be fixed. When I explain to them that we know what to do, then they suddenly let down their guard and deal with it.

Ad fraud is similar. Most large advertisers have outsourced their advertising budget to ad exchanges or to agencies working with ad exchanges–they aren’t actively managing their campaigns. So they don’t want to hear it when you tell them there’s 60% ad fraud. Not because they actually don’t believe it, but because they don’t know what to do about it. They want to have confidence in the ad exchanges and they certainly want to believe in their agencies.

But the problem has to be solved by advertisers, because they are the ones getting scammed. The ad exchanges benefit from every fraudulent ad, because they take their cut. Same with the agencies. The person paying over twice as much for each meaningful ad impression is the advertiser. I spoke to Augustine Fou, my go-to person on this subject, an he shared some tips with me. He mentioned that most existing ad fraud technologies are being outflanked by scammers, but he provided some of the tips below.

So, what is an advertiser to do?

  • You can drop programmatic ads. This is not an option for most advertisers, because they need the traffic. But for some, they can re-invest the savings into tactics that drive a lot more traffic to their websites. But that isn’t very likely. Most need to continue programmatic, but without the fraud.
  • Examine your website metrics carefully. Look at traffic data hourly, not daily. Daily numbers might have been compiled in a few hours, rather than being distributed normally over the course of the day. Stay alert and spot the fraud.
  • Examine your analytics beyond traffic. Look for engagement, and especially conversion. Bots don’t actually buy anything.
  • Segment your conversions by ad exchange. The ones that are bringing you the most traffic are the ones that you need to take care of. Notice which ones are sending no converting traffic. They are the ones to blacklist from your campaign.

What’s stopping you from tackling head fraud head on? 60% is a lot.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing consultancy based in New York City. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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